Tuesday, December 18, 2012


We recently returned from Italy where we took in Mondomusica, an annual exhibition featuring handmade string instruments, wood and tools for makers, bows, cases and accessories from nearly four hundred exhibitors.  There were also many lecture and discussion sessions (mostly in Italian) and some very fine concert performances.  All of this takes place in Cremona, hometown of Stradivari and the "mecca" of violinmaking, with nearly two hundred makers working in and around the city.

This was our fourth visit to Cremona. Every time there is something new, but many things stay the same, so visiting Cremona is a lot like visiting an old friend. In fact, we relish renewing the Cremonese friendships we have made over the years. Cremona is a small city and very walkable. It's not on the "tourist radar" at all, but there are many interesting shops and stores, wonderful restaurants and some very good museums, not all of which are related to violins. While I spend most of the daylight hours at the exhibition, Marj covers the town shopping and exploring.

I think every string player should visit Cremona at least once, and Mondomusica is a great excuse to go; to be able to look at, handle, and play on so many fine instruments in one place, as well as to meet and talk with the makers and dealers.  One can learn much and make many contacts with like-minded people from around the world.  Probably 90% of the exhibitors are European: mostly from Italy, France and Germany. There is an increasing presence of eastern European (Bulgarian, Romanian, Hungarian and Polish) makers who offer some very nice instruments at believable prices, as opposed to the unbelievable prices of many of the French and Italian makers.  The number of Asian exhibitors has decreased over the past few years, perhaps due to the growth of Asian shows like the one in Shanghai.  I saw no American makers, and the reason is probably economic--costs of exhibiting and transporting along with the sorry state of our dollar.  However, Mondomusica is mounting a show in New York City in January, and I'm betting most of the instruments there will be American.

Trips like this are renewing for me, much as attendance at music educator conferences has always "jacked me up." In many ways, my beliefs have been reaffirmed, but I always come away with new ideas, contacts and information to share.  In my next post, I'll share some instrument findings with you.