In a crowded lecture at the General Society of Mechanics and Trandesmen's New York City library this week, violin maker Lukas Wronski explained the process of making a great violin.
A craft that has changed very little in the past 500 years, Wranski uses the same tools and materials as the master violin makers of the 17th century, many of whom came from Cremona, in Italy, including Stradivari (1644-1737). Wronski, who started playing the violin in his native Poland at age 8 and made his first violin when he was 13, explained that the quality of a great violin lies in the wood used. His own violins are made with maple and spruce, gathered from high altitude locations in the Carpathian mountains in Eastern Europe and seasoned for many years. His violins are frequently made to order for musicians and are designed to fit them perfectly. A "Lukas" violin costs upwards of $25,000.
For the second part of the lecture, Wranski was joined by violinist Kinga Augustyn, who played three unaccompanied pieces, one on a violin by Wronski and two on a violin made by Antonio Zanotti (1710-1740). While the Wronski violin had an original appearance and a fine tone, the sound of the Zanotti was really magnificent.
Many of the great violins of the past are still being played today, according to Wronski, and frequently need repair and maintenance to retain their excellent tone, something he is often called upon to do. Others are housed in museum collections around the world, occasionally played but mostly treasured from a distance. His own custom-made violins, many with distinctive carving, will be heard in concert halls and recital rooms for many years to come.
Lady Liberty violin by Lukas Violins NYC