The Incredible Journey: Luthier Massimiliano Muti describes his journey into lutherie
Born in L’Aquila, close to Rome, luthier Massimiliano grew up with a great passion for music and travel, a combination which has led him to his current role as one of the restorers at Bridgewood and Neitzert. I met him at his bench in the top floor workshop to find out more about his journey.
Massimiliano first came to London twenty-four years ago for the baptism of his niece and decided to stay. Passionate about Indian music, for 6 years he split his time between London where he worked on a range of jobs to earn money, and India, where he travelled and learnt Indian classical music. He first fell in love with this music on his first trip to India where one of the houses that he stayed in was a meeting point for musicians to come together and jam.
His passion for music led him to want to learn the violin and while in India he managed to get a cheap instrument and practised for many hours a day. As he improved and came in to contact with better instruments, he realised that he would never be able to afford the violin of his dreams so decided to make one!
In a story very reminiscent of his colleagues featured in our other blogs, Massimiliano got hold of a book about violin making and decided to give it his best shot. He very quickly realised however that the process was a lot more complicated than he initially thought and decided that he needed to find out about courses that could teach him the skills he wanted.
Massimiliano soon discovered the Newark violin making course and applied. The application process required him to provide an example of a dove tailed joint that he had made, alongside a book that detailed his experience in wood working. Massimiliano included in this details of stained glass that he had made in his workshop in Blackhorse Road. On the strength of this experience, he had an interview and a practical test – making another dove tailed joint under test conditions. He passed and was offered a place.
The violin making course was a four-year course. In the foundation year students made an instrument ‘in the white’ – without varnish followed by a first year making two more. In the second year, tutor Peter Smith taught the students how to make and apply varnishes and began teaching the finer details of restoration. At that time the Newark course allowed students to take a break and Massimiliano took this opportunity to work and earn money to see him though the final year. For his fourth and final year he made two violas.
His relationship with Bridgewood and Neitzert started here. Massimiliano called owner and founder Gary and asked his advice on drilling the holes in the peg box of one of his violins. Gary offered Massimiliano use of the workshop to improve his violins so that they could go on sale in the shop. Under Gary’s expert eye Massimiliano fine-tuned his skills and finally was offered a position within the workshop.
A year and a half later and Massimiliano is really enjoying the various challenges that a busy workshop brings. He is currently working on a major restoration of a bass. The bass came in with a ‘slipper block’ attaching the neck to the body. This was a common way of making right up to the beginning of the 20th century. It was called a ‘slipper block’ because it slips into the body easily, but it is attached to the neck, so it makes repairs very difficult and makes the neck vulnerable to damage. Massimiliano is removing the neck with its Slipper Block, making a new separate top block and will put the instrument back together.
Massimiliano’s skills have come a long way since he tried to figure out how to make a violin while on his travels. Not only did he make his own violin, he has also made and sold others and brought back to life many beautiful instruments that come through the workshop.