There’s a new podcast for everyone who loves violins. Time to duck and run for cover…. Benjamin Hebbert confesses:
Believe the legend or not, poor Omobono Stradivari is celebrated as the most hapless of all violin makers. A failed business venture in Naples led him to being disinherited by his father, or so the evidence leads. Somehow, as historic records of his unfortunate life emerged in recent years, he became a kind of talisman for violin makers and dealers. Reflective of the humility of their trade.
This is curious, because in turn he was christened after Saint Homobonus (latin for Omobono), the medieval Patron Saint of Cremona; of clothworkers, tailors, shoemakers, and if you read into it, of just about any other craft produce of Cremona. Here too, he forms a reputation as a figure whose deeds speak well of the aspirations shared by many a violin maker in today’s world. Homobonus, after all means ‘good man’, something worth aspiring to.
This saint, is still like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in our time.
Pope Innocent III
When he was canonised in 1199 at the urgent request of the citizens of Cremona, Pope Innocent III declared of him “this saint, is still like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in our time.” Maybe he meant the ‘oppio’ Italian field maple from the banks of the river Po, out of which his namesake fashioned a few violins in the 1730s.
A 1735 violin by Omobono Stradivari (Chi Mei foundation), showing none of that pretty wood that his father went for. Like all his works, a shabby, understated violin made from maple collected from the riverside rather than the striking imported wood that helped build Cremona’s violin making reputation. It reflects a kind of humility that goes against the heady days of Cremonese bluster. Glorious nonetheless. His Patron Saint would be pleased, and I’d lust for a violin this good.
So that’s enough soggy nostalgia and romanticism. American violin makers and restorers Christopher Jacoby, Rozie DeLoach and Jerry Lynn have got together to wreak havoc. If you are someone inside the trade, you’ll have someone to laugh with. If you are a musician looking in on the mystifying world of the violin, armed with many of the very serious questions about the reputation of the violin trade, take note from some very passionate discussions by people who have put their life’s work into the violin world with a good heart and the same worries that you have.
We cover the lives of violin makers, their best parts and worst parts, yesterday and today. Historical stories, interviews with experts and makers in the field. Omobono Stradivari was the least liked son of his father, Antonio, he was remembered in Antonio’s will as a screw up. He is our north star. We are all part of this. We all belong exactly here.
I’m lucky to be making a few guest appearances on the podcast. If they haven’t been swept onto the cutting room floor already, look out for me, and enjoy the sheer passion that comes from a bunch of clowns who represent the best virtues of St Homobonus and share a deeply passionate regard for this abstract corner of the music world.
Visit Omopod.com unless you have secrets to hide. If you do, your ears will be burning.