The Tuscan school in the 20th century
Tuscan violin making between the 19th and 20th centuries was marked by two important figures. In 1866, Giuseppe Scarampella (Brescia 1838 – Varese 1902) moved to Florence. Well-prepared after a highly qualified training in Paris with Nicolò Bianchi, he had a significant influence on Tuscan violin making raising the quality of bowed instrument restoration up to international standards. He only made a few though extremely fine instruments. In 1880 Valentino De Zorzi (Vittorio Veneto 1837 – Firenze 1916) moved to Pistoia and later, in 1885, to Florence. His work, inspired by the old Tuscan masters, was much appreciated and his individual style had an influence on many violin makers of the 20th century.
However, the Tuscan school is not only charaterized by the work of makers coming from other Italian regions: starting from Fernando Del Perugia (1857 – 1931), there was also a group of more properly local makers who were able to construct instruments of exquisite craftsmanship, “working tools” that served perfectly generations of performers. Among them, Serafino and Lapo Casini, Alfio Batelli, Fernando Ferroni, Giuseppe and Alfredo Del Lungo, Dario Vettori, Giuseppe Bargelli, Edoardo Martini. All these makers lived and worked in Florence or in its surroundings, but it is also interesting to mention, for the number and quality of their instruments, the luthiers who worked in other Tuscan towns: Luigi and Oreste Cavallini in Arezzo; Stelio Rossi in Siena, Loris Lanini at Pontedera, Cesare Maggiali in Carrara; Guido Maraviglia in Pistoia.
Yet the more renowned “branch” is no doubt the one started by Leandro Bisiach. When he was in Siena helping Count Chigi to gather an important collection of musical instruments, Bisiach met Igino Sderci (Gaiole in Chianti 1884 – Firenze 1983). He noticed the talent of this young carver and amateur violin maker and trained him in his workshop in Milan. Sderci was also influenced by Simone Sacconi whom he met in later years. In 1939 Sderci made his famous viola later played by Piero Farulli with the Italian Quartet. Sderci, a simple and reserved man, worked with both Sacconi and Bisiach. Furthermore, one of Leandro’s sons, Carlo Bisiach (Milano 1892 – Firenze 1968), settled in Florence after his training in France and there he regularly collaborated with Sderci. Also, Piero Badalassi (Pisa 1915 – 1991), a promising self-taught craftsman, obtained important awards for his work also thanks to Sderci’s advice. Among the master’s pupils, his son Luciano (Firenze 1917 – 1986) who worked with him all his life, and Mitsumasa Usui who died prematurely in Florence in 1987.
(text by Paolo Sorgentone)