Grown up on the Slovenian coast of Istra, in simple and serene sorrundings where active music making played an important role, I received my first musical fundaments at the age of eight, when I started to learn the clarinet. I was ten and a half years old when I had to move to Italy, in the Florentine province, where the general level of music making did not go much further than ringing the doorbell. Not to be discouraged, stealing time from scholastic learning and engaging in all sorts of jobs in order to scratch together the necessary pennies, I bought my first guitar and at sixteen, and as an autodidact, I started to learn the classical guitar, a passion which was to accompany me for the next twenty years. With twentytwo years of age and a completely useless diploma in economics and accounting in the wastepaper bin, I started to roam around the world, carrying an Irish tinwhistle in my pocket when the guitar became too cumbersome.
Between Manchester and Rome I had the good luck of learning the fundaments of woodworking from an Irish carpenter and, more or less at the same time, began to discover the modern guitar trascriptions of music originally written for the lute. Within a short time, lute making, at first just a passionate hobby, became the natural development of such a fortunate coincidence.
(Well, come to think of instrument making: as far back as I can remember, already as a child I started carrying a penknife in my pockets, most likely as soon as I started to wear pockets (it was a present from my older cousin Mario, I’m told, son to one of the two smith uncles in my family: may you keep forging beauty for ever, mate!), a penknife with which I used to make myself simple reed kazoos and somewhat more refined slide whistles, well before I knew how to spell musical instrument).
Lute making as a hobby was the best precondition for leisurely and serious study and research on original instruments from various collections, and for experimenting with models and materials, free from marketing pressure. The result was that, when hobby finally turned to profession at the beginning of the 80s, my instruments were satisfactory enough to grant steady work ever since. After good ten years activity in Rome I moved to Bremen, only to close the circle for good, after seventeen fruitful years, retiring to Dekani, on the Slovenian coast, in the summer of 2009.
Several of the instruments I built are regularly to be heard in concert, and in many recordings in the hands of artists like Pascale Boquet and Lynda Sayce, Stephen Player, Andrea Damiani, Stephen Stubbs, Lee Santana and Paul O’Dette, among many others, and under the quill of Claudia Caffagni (La Reverdie) in the magical world of medieval music. One particular honour was having my own version of the 11 course lute by Andreas Berr (Vienna, 1694), in the Ptuj museum in Slovenia, keeping company to the original by the great master, which served as model and inspiration.
I’m getting OLD.
Nothing really new here, of course, I’ve been aware of it for the last thirty years or so; but what is new is that, having reached an age where most normal people keep their grey cells fit feeding squirrels on a pond from a park bench or something like that, I decided to change my ways. Only, considering my zoological prowess, I shall rather put my idle time into building the odd lute or two, or whatever may come with strings on, for the sheer pleasure of it and free from whatever marketing pressure that comes with the profession.
This means no waiting list, for one – at least not in the traditional sense: if you have any projects you’d like to discuss you are welcome at all times, it will keep at least my old grey cells alive. For the rest, I am going to dig into projects that I still find particularly attractive. Be it a copy of a giant theorbo by Venere, another of those 97 cm monsters that was recently restored by my friend Gerardo Parrinello in Rome, which will be accompanied by my second and last tiorbino to match; or a five course mandolin that will be ready soon, followed by a couple of bordelletti.
At some point it is going to be my first and last 12-course lute, an animal I never had the opportunity to put my teeth into. Then, sooner or later, I’ll have a last go at a gothic harp, the little jewel in the Rome museum. A favourite of mine, which I had to put aside after a couple of attempts in the very early days. For whatever reason, people started to ask me would I build one and another for them, and I just had to decline, since I really wanted to become a lute, not a harp, maker. But I never forgot that early love of mine.
More, if at all, to follow.