The violin making tradition of Bologna has its origins in the Early Middle Ages although it is documented from the end of the 15th century. The construction of viole da braccio and lutes in town had always been connected with a high local demand for musical instruments. In the beginning, this was due, in particular, to the presence of a large number of students from all over Europe and, later on, to the presence of several theatres as well as institutions promoting erudite music.
In the early 16th century, the extensive migration of skilled carvers and lute-makers from South Bavaria laid the basis for the art of violin making that, in the Italian language, still keeps its original name, “liuteria”, even when it refers to the construction of instruments which are very much different from the lute.
In Bologna, lutherie has always been characterized by creativity and innovation. Laux Maler, known as Luca de’ leuti (lutes), is an outstanding example: the new shape he designed for Renaissance lutes made him famous all over the world in his time.
It is easy to understand why, in this context, with the rise of the violin the city had been able to meet effortlessly a new kind of demand and new requirements in musical instrument making; indeed, it can be said that the local Choir of San Petronio had an important role in the origin of the modern orchestra and that the fertile Bolognese environment also contributed to the invention and development of both wound metal strings and the cello. After a fairly continuous tradition of plucked string instruments making, the Bolognese School went through a period of change in the mid 19th century focusing on the instruments of the modern violin family with the work of Raffaele Fiorini and his pupils. The importance of this School extends to present times with its contribution to the revival of Italian violin making.
(written by Roberto Regazzi)