Italy System-Cremona School (Cremona School)

The Italian school of Cremona had a far-reaching influence on the industry and teaching of violin-making across the world. In the Renaissance, the increasingly active commerce carried on a considerable amount of violin selling and trading, which encouraged the emergence of various violin-making schools. Many of the schools during this period were family run. In Cremona, the industry of musical instrument manufacturing appeared in the 1520s. It is said that Giovanni Leonardo da Martinengo migrated from Brescia to Cremona together with his apprentice Andrea Amati (ca. 1505-1577) and established a workshop in Cremona, initiating the industry of violin-making in Cremona. The Cremonese market and industry drastically declined in the early 17th century because of wars and plague, but Nicola Amati later not only made a significant contribution to the revival of Cremona’s violin-making but also cultivated a number of important luthiers, such as Francesco Ruggieri (ca. 1620-1698) and Giovanni Battista Ruggeri (1653-1711).

After the death of the master violin-maker in Brescia, Giovanni Paolo Maggini (1580-1630/1631), Brescia lost its leading role in violin-making and was replaced by Cremona. Up to the middle of the 17th century, the violins made in Cremona were of higher value than those produced in Brescia. In the 18th century, Stradivari inherited more than 100 years of Cremonese violin-making tradition and brought the techniques and reputation of the school of Cremona to their peak.

Unfortunately, the violin-making industry and market in Cremona began to shrink in the 1760s after the death of Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù (1698-1744). This is possibly because the political situation in northern Italy remained unstable, the schools of violin-making lacked successors, and the violins made by Amati, Ruggieri, and Stradivari were over-supplied in the markets of the northern region in Italy, which decreased the need for newly-made violins. In addition, the instruments imported from Mittenwald, Germany were also responsible for the decline of the Italian hand-crafted violin-making tradition.

In the 1850s, there were only three luthiers active in Cremona: Enrico Ceruti (1806-1883), Pietro Grulli (1831-1898), and Giuseppe Beltrami (1889-1973). The violins of these three luthiers were mostly made for the purpose of commerce, rather than for art, and were rarely handcrafted. In 1937, the International Violin-Making School of Cremona was founded, which contributed to the revival of Cremona’s violin-making in the 1950s.

Since the early 19th century, a number of string instrumentalists discovered the potential and superiority of the violins by Stradivari and Guarneri, endowing these celebrated antique instruments with great value. Played by various musicians, these celebrated instruments have been layered with intriguing legends and anecdotes. In the middle of the 20th century, the handcrafted instruments were again beloved by contemporaries; a number of luthiers also advertised their violin-making as following the tradition of Cremona’s violin-making. After the emergence of the International Violin-Making School of Cremona, an increasing number of violin-making workshops have appeared in Cremona and Cremona has also regained its international leading role in violin-making.