Primo Pistoni is an expert and appreciated violinmaker; he has been making stringed instruments in Cremona since 1976. During his activity, he has made instruments for renowned musicians and has won important prizes. He has been a member of the International Violinmaking and Bowmaking Association (EILA) since 1995. I met him last year; I really enjoy talking to him as his language is always precise and full of historical references, which can be traced in his high-level production.
GENZINI: Tell me something about your beginnings, with reference to the Violinmaking School in the 70ies. What were you attracted by?
PISTONI: I arrived at the school after I got some violinmaking private lessons with the unforgettable and exceptional maestro Mario Maggi. He was a teacher at the Violinmaking School. I wanted to learn something more about the violin and above all to learn how to make it. I was attracted by the multiethnic aspect of the school, which was rather unusual at the time: in fact attending such a peculiar international school threw a window open onto the world. I was in class with students who were at least four years older than me, coming from the U.S.A, the UK, Japan, France and so on; it seemed to me as if I had more space, in comparison with schools only attended by local students. All of my friends went to traditional secondary schools and though I was fully aware of the fact that my school gave more importance to practice rather than academic learning, never had I thought of moving to a theoretically more complete, but ordinary school. Later on, I became fascinated by the smell of the wood, of the different types of glue and varnish.
GENZINI: So, your passion for music played a fundamental role in your decision; when you listen to some music, what affects you emotionally?
PISTONI: I am particularly excited by the air, the timbre, balance, dynamics and if the music is played by an orchestra, also by the sound mix of the different instruments.
GENZINI: What features should your instruments have?
PISTONI: An instrument of mine should show balance and modularity of emission, that is to say the executor's ability of modulating, through bow pressure and the use of all of its sections, the emission of neat sounds, both in pianissimo and in the pieces of music where more pressure is required, so that they can be heard everywhere, both in a theatre and in a concert hall. For this purpose, instrument and musician must have excellent qualities, of course. This happens with lots of ancient, classical stringed instruments played by talented musicians. These instruments enable a musician to express himself at his best, with “tinged” sound shades. A new instrument is a little bit more rigid and less sensitive. Time, of course, has played its role, but it is not only a question of time: in fact, not all the instruments made two or three centuries ago are top level and time has elapsed anyway. As a matter of fact, I strongly believe there is something special, but I still do not know how much depends on the violinmaker or is the combination of a series of factors. Finally, I am also interested in timbre and power.
GENZINI: What are your favourite pieces of music?
PISTONI: I particularly cherish J. S. Bach's Goldberg Variations played by cello player Gustav Lehonardt or its “modern” piano version played by Glenn Gould. Moreover, I like Bach's Brandenburg Concerts directed by Nicolaus Harmoncourt (whom I personally met) and Beethoven's concert for violin and orchestra in D major opus 61.
GENZINI: What instruments of the violinmaking tradition have been fundamental for your profession?
PISTONI: Luckily, I had the chance of observing and touching some of the most prestigious instruments, played by solo virtuosos; the following list mentions the historical instruments I could examine:  the 1701 Stradivari, which Uto Ughi played for a long time ( I even saw this instrument disassembled on an English restorer's workbench);  the 1710 or 1711 Stradivari cello played by Yo Yo Ma;  all instruments belonging to the Ralf Habiesreutinger's collection (made by Stradivari in his golden years), which was under the guardianship of restorer Roland Baumgartner, not only a friend of mine, but also a great expert;  all instruments belonging to the Peterlongo collection (now Pro-canale Foundation) and to the Costa collection in Genoa,when the two owners were still alive;  a very rare cello by Augusto Pollastri ( a great violinmaker from Bologna who is said to have made only two instruments in his lifetime), with a one-piece maple back;  a cello and a violin made by Davide Tecchler, a violinmaker of Swiss origin who lived at Stradivari's time and who was a Papal guard in Rome; one of the most beautiful violins by Mattheus Albanis (Mattia Albani), a Tyrolese violinmaker who influenced the Ventian school in the XVII-XVIII centuries; a remarkable violin made by Jacob Steiner, which I saw disassembled and so I could admire the original inside manufacturing; I also saw instruments made by some members of the Amati family, by Guarneri, Stradivari, Ruggeri, Bergonzi, Ceruti and Storioni, at least one instrument for every violinmaker who worked in Cremona. All of them have contributed to my training and professional growth.
GENZINI: What are your objectives?
PISTONI: One of my future projects is to improve and implement the quality of my instruments, which I have always been trying to carry out. In order to achieve my goal, I need study acoustic physics better.