Every morning, soon after dawn, Gaspar Borchardt rides his bike through the quiet streets of Cremona. He reaches the Piazza del Duomo where pigeons perch the ledges of the cathedral and swifts spin double helixes around the mighty bell tower. Gaspar takes his coffee in the café among the cloisters facing the cathedral. Then he walks twenty metres and enters the adjacent building, which is centuries old. And Gaspar is no younger. That is to say: he belongs to a different time. With his snow-white linen shirt, his brown apron, bronzed face and aristocratic nose, he looks like he has stepped straight out of a renaissance painting.
In the workshop rows of casts and mounted tools line the walls, along with some simple shelves and a few photographs. The workbenches are well worn. Like the handles of the tools, the wood gleams from oil and resin and the burnishing from years of use by human hands. Outside the sun is beating down, making the piazza sizzle. But the room is cool with its thick stone walls. Sawdust swirls in the air and twinkles in the rays of sun. It is an enchanted space, this workshop, a place of quiet awareness, and a place of the senses; smelling beautifully of wood and resin; sounding of music both latent and real. –And of Gaspar’s voice when he demonstrates the different sonic characters a violin can take on.
–Stradivari would listen to his client’s voice, says Gaspar. He knew that the most cherished and liberating timbre for any musician is the sound of their own voice. All music is about reiterating the voice in your own body. The violin is an extension of the soul. So Stradivari would listen to the distinct tonality of the client’s voice, and consider the language –a German sounds different, musically, than an Italian– and make an instrument that emulated the timbre. That is also what I want to do, when I start the work on the violin of my dreams.
On the wall he has a picture. He is young, in front of the same church we see outside. He has dreams and determination in his eyes.
Many years have past since then. His knowledge is deeper, but the same dreams live on, still unfulfilled. Gaspar walks out of the workshop, across the inner courtyard and into his storage space. Piles of wood are stacked in there. They glow like bullion in the scant rays of light that permeate the shutters. A motorbike stands between the neatly stacked piles. An old BMW.
–When I was twenty years old I drove through Bosnia on this bike, says Gaspar. And in some remote valley –it was then Yugoslavia– I found the most perfect tree that I have ever seen. That area was magical, like discovering Eldorado. I could not bring any wood on my bike. But I have been dreaming of that tree ever since. It was the most perfect flamed maple, the unicorn of the forest. With such a tree I think could build the perfect violin.