The Violinmaker’s Dilemma

The Violinmaker’s Dilemma : antiquing reconsidered

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, June 2010

One morning last winter, violist Yizhak Schotten left his Francesco Linarol viola at my shop for a few days for some routine maintenance. Originally built as a Lira da Braccia, the Linarol is one of those loosely built Old Italians, where all symmetries are aproximate, and each square inch is ...Read more


Carleen Hutchins, 1911-2009

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, November 2009

When I met Carleen Hutchins in the mid-eighties, she was already something of a legend, having co-founded the Catgut Acoustical Society, developed a system for tuning violin plates, invented a new family of stringed instruments, and published a Scientific American cover story on the physics of the violin. Like many ...Read more


Scent of a Violin : Signature modes of Old Italian violins & violas - part 1

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, June 2009

A perfume, like a violin, is designed to evoke an emotional response. Though the response may vary wildly from one person to the next, the perfume itself can be fully characterised by the essential oils from which it is made. Provided these are known, the perfume – along with its ...Read more


The Strad: ‘My Space’ feature

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, Nov. 2008

My wife and I live on six acres of beautiful land just outside Ann Arbor, Michigan. When the lease expired on my downtown workshop five years ago, we decided to build a studio near our home. Though it’s primarily a violin shop, the large upstairs room in the picture doubles ...Read more


Double Acts

By Nick Shave, The Strad, Dec. 2007

In 1984 Gregg Alf and I visited Ann Arbor, Michigan, with thoughts of setting up shop there. A University of Michigan professor took us to the laboratory of his colleague Gabriel Weinreich, a physicist who was researching violin acoustics. I’d only recently become interested in the subject, and I had ...Read more


Building Ultralight Violins

By Joseph Curtin, VSA, Fall 2007

Before talking about the possibilities for building ultra-light violins, we should first ask: Why would anyone want to build a lighter violin? I remember my teacher Otto Erdesz saying, “I don’t like light violins. They’re like light cameras – they feel cheap.” He was probably only half serious. He often ...Read more


Joseph Curtin: Innovation and Creation in the Violin-Making World : a Q & A with Violonetto

By Joseph Curtin, VIOLONetto, February 2007

How did you get started making violins and violas? I was trying to be a violinist and then a violist, I had given up violin, I’d been very discouraged, and it was a difficult time. Then I met a violist in Toronto, her name is Rivka Golani, a wonderful violist ...Read more


Man With a Van : Profile of Oliver Rodgers

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, November 2006

One Saturday morning in the 1994, retired engineer and violin acoustics researcher Oliver Rodgers parked his Ford pickup outside the renowned Philadelphia firm of William Moennig & Son. The shop was closed that day, but a violinmaker friend, Pamela Anderson, had spoken about Rodgers with Moennig salesman Phillip Kass. Kass ...Read more


Sounding Out the Establishment : Profile of Martin Schleske

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, May 2001

Early in the winter of 1999, I climb the four flights of stairs to violinmaker Martin Schleske’s workshop, atop an elegant building in Munich’s historic center. Schleske is a tall, handsome man with green eyes, brown hair, and a broad smile. His assistant Georg Gerl laughs after hearing him speak ...Read more


Otto Erdesz Remembered

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, November 2000

Late one afternoon in the summer of 1975, I cycled from the restaurant where I worked to an address in Toronto’s newly fashionable Yorkville area. A beautiful woman with an Israeli accent greeted me from the top of the stairs. She told me her name was Rivka, and that  Otto ...Read more


Space Age Stradivari : Building graphite instruments with Charles Besnainou

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, April 1999

New Directions in Violinmaking On the fourth floor of a remarkably ugly building in an otherwise beautiful section of Paris, ...Read more


Innovation in Violinmaking

By Joseph Curtin, Proceedings, International Symposium of Musical Acoustics (ISMA), July 1998

Abstract: The violin is a cultural icon as well as a working tool, and departures from its traditional form have been variously regarded as impossible (it would no longer be a violin), unnecessary (the violin is already perfect), and unacceptable (players would not play it). Is it possible to change, ...Read more


Prepare to Meet the Maker: Joseph Curtin

By Tim Olsen, American Lutherie Journal, Summer 1998

On Main Street in the college town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, there is a drum shop with brightly colored signs and flashy percussion gear in the windows. Next to the drum shop is a plain green locked door. I rang the bell and was admitted to a flight of stairs ...Read more


The Art of a Commission : Patience, Perseverance and Lots of Long-Distance Phone Calls

By Jana Luckey, Strings Magazine, November 1997

In this era of fax, phone, and FedEx, a commission can originate across the miles with surprising success. So it did with Michael Heifetz, a business consultant and writer in Olympia, Washington, and Joseph Curtin, a violin maker based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As a dedicated amateur violinist who frequently ...Read more


In Focus: Brescia Revisited

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, November 1995

This viola by Curtin & Alf, Ann Arbor 1992, is the only replica of a viola they have made to date. It reproduces the ‘ex-Nathan Gordon’ Gasparo da Salo, a remarkable example of the Brescian master’s work. Despite its size (17 3/16 inches, even after being cut down slightly), the ...Read more


Curtins for Cremona

By Stewart Pollens, The Strad, November 1995

Stewart Pollens talks with Joseph Curtin and Gregg Alf, violinmakers famed for their uncannily convincing copies of classic Cremonese instruments. Though artistic endeavours are most often undertaken independently, collaboration is not a rare phenomenon in the world of violin making. Violins have been made with the assistance of apprentices, journeymen ...Read more


The Violin’s Genius and Mystery : Nation's top maker discusses the science of his craft

By Bill Dietrich, The Seattle Times, March 12, 1995

In an age of constant computer upgrades, annual car restylings and gimmick gadgets, the violin is an invention that has persisted almost unchanged for more than 300 years. Assembled from up to 108 individual pieces of wood plus hide glue, sheep gut for strings and a horse-hair bow coated with ...Read more


Violin hits the high notes

By Joseph Curtin, The Strad, January 1994

A world record auction price for a violin by a living maker was set on 2 November at Sotheby’s in London. The violin, by Michigan violin makers Joseph Curtin and Gregg T. Alf, reached a hammer price of £19,000 (£25,670 including buyers premium and taxes), bids having started at £10,000. ...Read more