According to Grisales, the effects of this crisis on Cremonese violin making will be dramatic. “In the Consortium, which includes around 60 of the 160 luthiers in the city, one workshop out of two is struggling,” he says. Some already had difficulties in standing out from competition and placing orders before the pandemic. The Coronavirus-induced economic crisis further exacerbated their troubles. “I know luthiers who have not sold instruments since November,” Grisales says. “We’re talking about people who have children and a rent to pay, and can’t make the ends meet. Two craftsmen of the Consortium have not yet received the 600 euros (£550) that the government promised to the freelancers, and they had to borrow this money.”
Grisales looks to his left, towards the back of the shop, where his three young craftsmen are shaping, carving and varnishing precious pieces of wood. “I am in a privileged situation, all in all, I’m keeping afloat, and so do other colleagues. But try to think of a smaller workshop where there is a single craftsman, who was forced to stop his activities for three months.”
In this context, if the demand for violins drops – as it’s set to do due to the ongoing crisis – in Cremona there may not be room for everyone. “The Coronavirus will be a watershed for us,” says Trabucchi. Sitting on a stool, his craftsman Mario continues to work, impassive at the Maestro’s words. “The market seemed to have infinite potential,” Trabucchi says, “but it will no longer expand. Here in the city, dozens of workshops may have to shut down.”
At the same time, those who want to open their own workshop will have to wait, at least for now. “There couldn’t be a worse time to start,” says Trabucchi. Behind him, Mario is adjusting the strings of a violin. He gazes at his Maestro, as if he were asking tacit permission to speak. “I’m 37, I’ve been working here for 16 years and I’ve always enjoyed being part of this,” says Mario, putting the instrument down for a moment. “Of course, I dream of starting my own business. But then you have to face the reality. At the moment opening a workshop is simply unthinkable, and in the future the risks will be very high as well.” Mario looks back at the violin, gently turning the instrument in his hands. One day it will play, but not today. Today, there’s no music playing in the alleys of Cremona.
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