This year’s Oberlin Workshop attracted the usual team of outstanding violin makers from around the world, plus some new remarkable colleagues we were very pleased to welcome.
These workshops are a well established tradition since 1997, ever since under the direction of Christopher Germain.
In addition to daily lectures, meetings with the Acoustics Group, exchanges with the bowmakers team and concerts, this Workshop’s edition orbited around two enlightening projects.
The Doyen Project
Conducted by Gabor Draskóczy and Philip Ihle, this project undertook the construction of the violin "Doyen" Guarneri Del Gesu. Applying, in 2018, the tools, techniques and philosophy used by Guarnerius himself in the 18th century, Gabor and Philip made a copy of this heritage instrument. It was an impressive work of hands-on historical reconstruction and skill development, informed by exhaustive research and documentation.
Meanwhile, the rest of the participants worked collaboratively in the execution of a second copy with Benjamin Ruth as lead of the group. We managed to finish both instruments in time for a demonstration in which I played with Hans Pluhar Bach’s double Concerto, Rebeca Elliot at the piano, bringing these two copies to life.
The collaborative construction of the Obialto Viola we undertook together last year, came to a conclusion in this edition of the workshop. Raymond Schyer and Bill Scott walked us step by step through the varnishing process presenting their leading research on varnishes and techniques.
Glass Scrapping Tools
Amongst the most remarkable lectures and demonstrations, Sofia Vittori from Florence shared with us how a scrapping technique and tools were developed by his family of violin makers generations ago during the steel shortages of the Second World War. The tools are glass scrappers made from different glass objects, such as glasses, bottles, pieces of windows, etc. Her grand father started making them to keep going instrument production when steel accessories became scarce. These scrappers are cut in a wide variety of shapes and sizes according to the area or piece to be scrapped.
The lecture actually turned into a workshop in which we learned how to cut the glass from whatever glass we had available, and to try scrapping instruments we were making at the time. Some of us found useful the precision and finesse of a glass edge for these jobs.
This was another experience filled with history.
I can barely express how enriching and enlightening are these workshops every year, and how much I am looking forward to meeting again next year with such an exceptional team of violin makers.