Exploring Bergonzi Violins: Craftsmanship and Legacy

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Bergonzi Violins

The rare instruments Carlo Bergonzi made (less than 50 remain today) are extremely elegant due to their outstanding materials, exquisite varnish, and consummate execution. A master in his own right, he created an authentic style and craftsmanship in making his violins and is overshadowed only by his contemporaries Stradivari and Guarneri ‘del Gesù.’

The Bergonzi Family of Luthiers

Carlo Bergonzi’s contributions to the world of violin-making continue to be celebrated and revered. The Bergonzi family had a long tradition of crafting stringed instruments, and they are considered the last mastermakers of the golden period of violin making in Cremona. Bergonzi’s early violins closely resemble those of his master Rugeri, but the instruments he made later on show a considerable influence from Guarneri’ del Gesù’ and Antonio Stradivari. This is especially true after 1746 when the Bergonzi family resided in the Casa Stradivari in Cremona. During this period, Carlo Bergonzi devoted his skills to completing instruments left unfinished by Stradivari.

The Bergonzi Legacy

Born in Cremona in 1683, Carlo Bergonzi was the son of a baker with no obvious connection to violin making. It is believed that Bergonzi studied under the apprenticeship of Rugeri, although not much is known of his luthier beginnings. He eventually moved into Stradivari’s home after the master’s death and even completed some of his unfinished works. Bergonzi’s sons, Michele Angelo and Zosimo followed in his steps but were unable to have the same success as their father, partly due to the decrease in demand for stringed instruments in Cremona.

The contributions made by the Bergonzi family to the world of stringed instruments are extremely important as they coincide with the greatest season of Cremonese violin making. Carlo Bergonzi is the founder of the last dynasty of great luthiers of this period. Not only was he a master maker in his own right, refined, sensitive, and an intelligent experimenter and artist, but the fact that he and his sons completed many of Stradivari’s unfinished works makes their contributions even more important.

Bergonzi Violins: Craftsmanship

Although Carlo Bergonzi most likely studied in the workshop of Rugeri and was highly influenced by his style, some of his finest instruments coincide with a period described as the most artistically fruitful of Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ and the last years of the life of Antonio Stradivari. Nonetheless, his instruments retain a strong individuality as does the varnish applied to them, this can sometimes make them look darker than those of Stradivari and ‘del Gesù’. His instruments have a rich, beautiful tone as well as elegant and precise forms.

The Craftsmanship That Sets Bergonzi Violins Apart

Bergonzi’s unique style of violins features a long, slender body with a slightly flatter arching, which some believe contributes to the instrument’s powerful, focused, and resonant tone. Their characteristic response lies somewhere between a Stradivari and a ‘del Gesù’ by players. To this day, Bergonzi violins are highly regarded and sought-after by musicians and collectors alike, and his contributions definitely add to the rich heritage of Italian violin-making, emphasizing the uniqueness and timeless appeal of these masterpieces.

The Timeless Appeal of Fine Violins

These exceptional instruments are appealing to both musicians and collectors alike. Their sound is richer since it is already well developed from the time of playing, their varnish will have changed in appearance, a characteristic many historical enthusiasts appreciate, and their importance and historical significance will be very high. Not only will a musician produce an excellent sound on a Bergonzi violin, but they will also feel connected to the historical heritage of these instruments.

Owning one of these masterpieces is any player’s dream, but collectors and investors will also be attracted to Bergonzi violins. These instruments are an excellent investment as their value will only increase over time. Imagine these kinds of violins like a famous work of art because, by all means, they are one! Many antique violins are owned by museums or played by famous musicians; their value and importance are limitless.

Collecting Bergonzi Violins

If you are considering investing in a fine violin like a Bergonzi, you must keep in mind that these kinds of instruments are extremely rare and have been coveted by leading musicians and collectors for over two hundred years. These days, there is an increasing worldwide demand for fine instruments, with the trend of ownership shifting from musicians to collectors and investors, making the violin market more efficient than ever before.

When evaluating which fine violin is the best fit for you, consider that not all violins made by a particular maker command the same price. This will depend on the period of the maker’s career in which they were made, as well as any historical significance associated with them (if they were played by a famous musician, owned by a famous person, etc). Condition is another important factor, and skillful restoration may disguise flaws or underlying damage that may affect value. That is why an evaluation by an independent expert is advised. Finally, the sound of each instrument will vary, so make sure to test them out before buying them. If you are not an expert player, ask someone who is to test them for you.

Once you have found the perfect violin for you, you must make sure to take proper care of it. Older instruments may be more sensitive to weather changes, especially humidity. That is why it is very important to maintain appropriate humidity levels around these instruments between 50% and 60% to avoid damage. An antique violin will also need more regular checkups by an expert luthier. Just like an antique car, these kinds of instruments must be regularly checked to ensure they play at their best and do not get damaged.

Notable Bergonzi Violins

Some of Bergonzi’s most famous violins in history are:

  • The Baron Knoop violin, made in 1735

  • The Kreisler Bergonzi violin, made in 1733-35.

The Baron Knoop violin has a soundboard of spruce with a narrow vein, which widens towards the flanks. The back is made of  two pieces of curly maple with an irregular curl. The ribs are made of curly maple with a medium curl and it has a golden brown varnish. The violin is named after Baron Johann Knoop, a famous collector of musical instruments who possessed a total of 29 great violins, violas and cellos including several Stradivari’s.

The Kreisler violin is one of Bergonzi’s finest violins, which was initially attributed to Antonio Stradivari. It was made between 1733 and 1735 and can be traced back to the collection of Count Cozio di Salabue. It is one of the only two surviving Bergonzis that retains its original neck with abundant and unspoiled varnish. It was named after violinist Fritz Kreisler and was subsequently owned by Cuban violinist Angel Reyes.

Preserving the Bergonzi Legacy

In order to protect the heritage of fine violins crafted by the Bergonzi family, it is fundamental to educate people about the importance of buying and owning a traditional handcrafted instrument compared to an industrialized one. By making his exceptional instruments in Cremona, Carlo Bergonzi was part of a legacy that has made Cremona the capital of violin-making in the world. Nowadays, luthiers study, are inspired by and make copies of Bergonzi’s instruments. He put down techniques of Lutherie that are used to this day. Protecting instruments made by the Bergonzi family means protecting traditional handcrafted violin making.

In this photo, you see a contemporary inspiration of a violin by Carlo Bergonzi made by Luiz Amorim.

In conclusion, we can say that Bergonzi violins are considered some of the best and rarest violins in the world. The Bergonzi family founded a legacy of the last master makers of the golden period of violin making in Cremona. Their violins not only have extremely important historical significance, but they also sound and look beautiful. This makes them an excellent investment for any musical enthusiast, whether they plan on playing, reselling or just collecting this kind of violin, the value will only increase over time. However, the budget, time, and care necessary for owning one of these instruments is not available to everyone so an instrument made by Bergonzi may not be the best fit for some people.

If you’re interested in rare and historic violins, you should definitely check the fine instruments session. We have a wide selection of fine violins for sale, and it’s well worth browsing our collection to see what we have to offer. Check out our current options of fine violins, violas, and cellos available for sale.