Saturday, December 8, 2007


When most 25-year-olds who have just landed their first full-time job start thinking big investment, they think house or condo.

For Jeffrey Beecher, now in his second season as principal bass player for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the decision came down to house or bass.

As of this fall, he is the proud – and deeply indebted – owner of a legendary musical instrument. It is, according to its fully documented history, the first double bass, made in 1690 by renowned luthier Vincenzo Ruggieri in Cremona, Italy.

"It is the first double bass that was not a violone," says the player of a split in the bowed-instrument family tree. Today, the double bass is the only one of the modern string instruments that is tuned in fourths rather than fifths.

Its previous owner was the former principal bass of the Minnesota Orchestra, who, on retirement, decided to sell it. By sheer coincidence, Beecher had called his dealer in Holland within hours of the previous owner putting it on the market.

The decision to buy was a foregone conclusion. "Through the kindness of a (TSO) board member, I had a guarantor for the loan," relates Beecher. He won't say how much he paid for it, other than comparing it to the price of a house. In Toronto, that's a substantial sum.

This was a very serious decision by a very serious musician. Although Beecher looks a fresh-faced 25, he has been playing with the pros since he was a teenager and has a matter-of-fact approach to life, career and the performing arts.

Born and raised in New York City, Beecher had started playing drums, "but thanks to the intervention of a middle-school teacher who needed a bass player, I came to play the bass."

Before he was hired by the TSO, Beecher worked freelance, usually as a substitute bass player for major orchestras. "Orchestral playing is something I feel quite passionate about, and it was also becoming my bread and butter."

Beecher's Toronto contract allows his time to continue working with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Project, which he has played and toured with for several years. The bassist says the TSO encourages this type of work as it renews its front ranks with players who can bring a wide range of experience and background to Roy Thomson Hall.

"It's a way to re-energize the orchestra," says Beecher, who sees the role of a principal – i.e. section leader – more as a cheerleader than as a police officer.

Between the TSO's 100-plus concert season and his numerous other gigs, "this is the busiest I've ever been in my life."

Beecher moved from the Queen West neighbourhood to an apartment near High Park last week. But he had Silk Road obligations at Harvard University in Boston, as well. So he had to hire people to do the moving and hope it would go well without his supervision.

When in Toronto, Beecher also teaches at the Royal Conservatory of Music and will be making his debut with the Amici Chamber Ensemble in their seasonally appropriate "Winds and Ice" program tomorrow afternoon at the Glenn Gould Studio.

Amici is built around a core that includes TSO members clarinet player Joaquin Valdepenas and cellist David Hetherington, and has a long history of creative programming.

Tomorrow's concert – the second in a four-concert season – is a chance to see Beecher in a much more intimate setting, playing the gorgeous "Serenade for Winds" by Antonin Dvorak. The program also includes music by Beethoven and a new piece for cello and piano written and performed by pianist Heather Schmidt, with Hetherington on cello.

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Please improve this article if you can. (November 2006)

An engraver's impression of Antonio Stradivari examining an instrument.A luthier (IPA: /ˈljuːtiɚ/) is someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments. The word luthier comes from the French word for lute, "luth".

The craft of lutherie is commonly divided into two main categories: stringed instruments that are plucked or strummed, and stringed instruments that are bowed. While there are a nearly limitless variety of stringed instruments both historic and modern, from many places and cultures—the following lists give some examples of instruments in each category still in use today.[1]

In the first category are the: autoharp, banjo, bouzouki, charango, cittern, dulcimer, guitar, harp, kantele, kithara, kora, koto, lute, theorbo, archlute, angelique, torban, kobza, bandura, lyre, mandolin, oud, shamisen, sitar, ukulele, and veena.

In the second category are the: cello, crwth, double bass, erhu, fiddle, mouthbow, nyckelharpa, hurdy gurdy, rabab, rebec, sarangi, viol, viola, viola da braccio, viola d'amore, viola da gamba and violin.

Since bowed stringed instruments require a bow, this second category of luthier contains a subtype known as an "archetier", which is a French word for one who makes bows.[2] While the division of luthiers into two categories may seem arbitrary, there are those who are passionate about the difference between these categories.[3][4] For this reason, the remainder of this article will use the division for clarity and convenience.

Workshop of a luthier in CremonaContents
1 Plucked strings
1.1 Lutes
1.2 Guitars
2 Bowed strings
3 Contemporary luthiers
3.1 20th century
3.2 21st century
4 References
5 Suggested reading
6 External links

[edit] Plucked strings

[edit] Lutes
Important luthiers who specialized in the instruments of the lute family (lutes, archlutes, theorbos, vihuelas etc.):

Martin Hoffmann
Joachim Tielke
Leopold Widhalm,

The varnishing of a violinand in our time:

Andrew Rutherford
Richard Berg
Stephen Gottlieb
Cezar Mateus inter alia

[edit] Guitars
Further information: Classical guitar making
Two important early luthiers in the guitar category are Antonio Torres Jurado of Spain, who is credited with developing the form of classical guitar that is still in use today, and Christian Frederick Martin of Germany who developed a form which later evolved into the steel-string acoustic guitar.

Orville Gibson was an American luthier who specialized in mandolins, and is credited with creating the archtop guitar.

John D'Angelico and Jimmy D'Aquisto were two important 20th century luthiers who worked with archtop guitars.

Lloyd Loar, worked briefly for the Gibson Guitar Corporation making mandolins and guitars. His designs for a family of archtop instruments (mandolin, mandola, guitar, et cetera) are held in high esteem by today's luthiers, who seek to reproduce their sound.

Paul Bigsby's innovation of the tremolo arm for archtop and electric guitars is still in use today and may have influenced Leo Fender's design for the Stratocaster solid body electric guitar, as well as the Jaguar and Jazzmaster.

Concurrent with Fender's work, guitarist Les Paul independently developed a solid body electric guitar. However both Fender and Paul were preceded by Adolph Rickenbacher's Bakelite "frying pan" solid body electric guitar developed with and patented by George Beauchamp.[5]

A company founded by luthier Friedrich Gretsch and continued by his son and grandson, Fred and Fred Jr., originally made banjos, but is more famous today for its electric guitars.

Bill and Reg May, two Australian brothers and luthiers, founded the Maton company which makes acoustic guitars.

The late Bernardo Chavez Rico began his career as a banjo and ukulele maker but went on to develop a distinctive line of electric guitars through his company, B.C. Rich.

Dana Bourgeois is a luthier who specializes in acoustic guitars; Jol Dantzig is an American luthier and one of the founders of Hamer Guitars; Paul Reed Smith, founder of PRS Guitars, makes electric guitars; and Dean Zalinsky is the founder of Dean Guitars.

Yuri Landman is an experimental luthier who builds electric guitars with 3rd bridges and other applications to enhance the colour of an electric guitar. in 2006 he built the Moodswinger.

Andrew Ellis is an Australian Luthier based in Perth. He is the founder of Ellis Guitars and has produced some innovative guitars such as the 8 String Tricone resonator guitar which is a world first guitar played by James michael thompson.

Other luthiers include John Bailey, Richard Echeverria, Del Langejans, Paul Languedoc, Linda Manzer, Godefroy Maruejouls, Neal Moser, Monty Novotny, Ned Steinberger, Bob Taylor, Carl Thompson, John Suhr, Mike Sabre (John MacLaughlin, Shakti), Tom Anderson, Kim Walker, and Rick Turner.

[edit] Bowed strings
Further information: Violin construction and mechanics
To put the bowed stringed luthiers into some sort of manageable order, it is prudent to begin with the purported "inventor" of the violin, Andrea Amati. Amati was originally a lute maker but turned to the new instrument form of violin in the mid 16th century. He was the progenator of the famous Amati family of luthiers active in Cremona, Italy until the 18th century. Andrea Amati's son, Nicolò, was himself an important master luthier who had several apprentices of note including Andrea Guarneri, Francesco Ruggieri, Antonio Stradivari, Giovanni Battista Rogeri, Matthias Klotz and possibly Jacob Stainer.

Two other important early luthiers of the violin family were Gasparo da Salò of Brescia, Italy and Gasparo Duiffopruggar of Austria who were each originally credited with invention of the first violin. However, this attribute has since been removed but is still often incorrectly cited. da Salò had at least one important apprentice--Giovanni Paolo Maggini who inherited da Salò's business in Brescia upon da Salò's death.

Of those luthiers born in the mid 17th century, there are Giovanni Grancino, Carlo Giuseppe Testore and son Carlo Antonio Testore, all from Milan. From Venice the luthiers Matteo Goffriller, Domenico Montagnana, Sanctus Seraphin and Carlo Annibale Tononi were principals in the Venetian school of violin making (although the latter began his career in Bologna).[6] The Bergonzi family of luthiers were the successors to the Amati family in Cremona. David Tecchler who was born in Austria later worked in both Venice and Rome.

Important luthiers from the early 18th century include Nicolò Gagliano of Naples, Italy, Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi of Milan and Giovanni Battista Guadagnini who roamed throughout Italy during his lifetime. From Austria originally, Leopold Widhalm later established himself in Nürnberg, Germany.

The early 19th century luthiers of the Mirecourt school of violin making in France were the Vuillaume family, Charles Jean Baptiste Collin-Mezin, and Collin-Mezin's son, Charles Collin-Mezin, Jr..

Jérôme-Thibouville-Lamy was the most important musical instrument maker in France. The firm started making wind instruments around 1730 at La Couture-Boussey then moved to Mirecourt around 1760 and started making violins, guitars, mandolins and musical accessories. It was very successful, and opened offices in Paris, then in London. It made thousands of quality instruments that were exported throughout the world.

[edit] Contemporary luthiers


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