As is well known there is only a frail link between the classical violin-making of the 17th and 18th centuries and the regional schools which have contributed to the richness of the 20th century.

Emilia-Romagna, together with nearby Lombardia, is certainly the region in which the approach to a classical conception and taste took the form of a renaissance of the profession; the ground lost was recovered, not only in the fields of technique and methods of construction, but also in the harmony and immediate warmth of the instruments.

In our region two traditions were active, which, although interacting, can still be distinguished. In Bologna Raffaele Fiorini founded a school which was original both with respect to the methods of construction and to the resulting style; the most important luthiers who represented and continued this tradition were the Carlettis, the Pollastris, Monterumici, Cesare Candi and Otello Bignami. Raffaele Fiorini's son, Giuseppe, on the contrary, gave birth to a different approach, aiming above all to recover the methods of classical violin-making, and was followed by Ansaldo Poggi, Simone Ferdinando Sacconi and Giancarlo Giucciardi.
In Parma the 20th century tradition commenced with Gaetano Sgarabotto, who served his apprenticeship in the workshop of the Bisiachs, and can therefore be traced back to a Milanese origin.

As is known, after the death of the last great Cremonese Masters after the middle of the 18th century, only the Cerutis remained in Cremona to prevent that memorable tradition from dying out completely. It was the Antoniazzis who undertook the task of transferring the scant knowledge saved from oblivion from Cremona to Milan.

However the most important event for the renaissance of violin-making in Lombardy was certainly the meeting between Riccardo Antoniazzi and Leandro Bisiach; the latter, thanks to his talent, his taste and his business ability succeded in founding, at the end of the 19th century, a workshop which soon gained international fame. Bisiach was an outstanding figure in the commerce of antique violins but above all had the merit of raising a generation of great luthiers, among whom for example Sderci, Borghi, Ornati and Garimberti come to mind.

Gaetano Sgarabotto, another of Leandro Bisiach's pupils was born in 1878 in Vicenza; while still very young he had demonstrated a talent for violin-making. After his experience in Milan, Gaetano moved to Parma in 1926 and two years later was given the task of directing the School of Violin-Making which had been annexed to the Conservatory of Music.

The School concluded its experience after nine years, in 1937, but in the meantime had distinguished itself for the quality of its teaching. The proof of this is that luthiers such as Sesto Rocchi, Raffaele Vaccari and of course Gaetano's son Pietro were among its pupils. Gaeatano was a most prolific and eclectic maker, and created instruments drawing inspiration from many different authors. Among this great variety of styles it is interesting to note his preference for the Amatis' models, as well as the rather frequent use of Guadagnini forms. After the closure of the School Gaetano lived in Parma for long periods, from 1942 'till 1948 and again from 1957 until his death in 1959.

His son Pietro, who was also a musician, lived and worked at length in Parma before being called to teach in the school of Cremona.
For almost half a century, this experience of the first public School of violin-making seemed to have died out forever. But evidently the memory of this tradition was still alive because in 1975 the School returned to its place in the Conservatory under the direction of Renato Scrollavezza.


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