RICCARDO BERGONZI is a well thought-of professional man. He has been making violins, violas and cellos since 1980, when he opened his workshop at 45, Garibaldi Street in Cremona. He had a thorough education and training and has always been interested in the set-up of instruments. This aspect and the shared passion both for music and accurate sound reproduction, enabled to create an immediate understanding between us. As a matter of fact, the first instrument played by Wim Janssen for houseofviolin.com was a Bergonzi viola. As far as I am concerned, it has been a real pleasure to talk to Riccardo Bergonzi “full-scale” . The following interview is a summary of a long conversation we had on a lovely afternoon at the beginning of March.
Genzini: Please tell us something about your violinmaking education.
Bergonzi:  The four years I spent at the International Violinmaking School as a student were really interesting. The place was unique, as foreign students from all over the world attended the school... all of them were older than me and much more experienced.... many of them were real flower children, who considered manual work as a way to reach self-awareness and stand out; it was pleasant to face people who were so different but at the same time united by the same interests. About violinmaking learning, I had four different teachers, in this order: Piergiuseppe Esposti, Alceste Bulfari, Francesco Bissolotti and Gio Batta Morassi; each of them was peculiar, even if the first three belonged to the same tradition. Finally, master Morassi was able to convey an incredible productive energy; I thought I could solve all problems easily, maybe also thanks to the “hard work” my first three teachers made me do concerning accuracy while working. At the end of these four years I became a teacher too. My first pupils were 14 years old and , with them, I lived my initial difficulties over again. At the time there was a standard curriculum and one of the first tasks consisted in squaring a wooden parallelepiped and carving it geometrically, which was rather difficult. The kids asked themselves whether they would overcome those difficulties and so I started thinking about alternative carving works. Opposite the school there was (and there still is) a baker's. I remember buying some bread and, once back to the classroom, we started to reproduce it on wood. Suddenly the class became more lively: the pupils' smiles replaced their worries and I discovered that doing things while having fun helps grow up and overcome difficulties... after this experience, my students improved steadily. This is more or less the spirit of my work. Violins have to comply with some rules, but I also like to find space for my own fancy and amusement so that the ensuing object will be more spontaneous, less blocked by the fear of making mistakes.... Symmetries are not relevant, but it is the overall result which matters. When you observe antique instruments, you are fascinated by their faults, which actually are not faults but the evidence of manual gestures.... for me it is more fascinating to look at a man's gesture, which becomes evidence of his own history. 
Genzini: Is this vision of yours reflected in the sound of your instruments? 
Bergonzi: The acoustic aspect is certainly the most delicate and difficult side to define; if you have a disenchanted approach to your work, even sound acquires its own personality... those who play my instruments say they find the same feature; this is a very distinctive aspect, which is connected to how you make your instrument: tensions, thicknesses and roundness inserted in a “perfect” fitting. 
Genzini: What about wood? 
Bergonzi: I like using Italian spruce with slightly large veining.... I have the impression that these boards are free to play and, as a consequence, they allow me to keep thicknesses a bit higher. The sound obtained is characterized by a good presence of harmonic progressions.
Genzini: Do you have any plans for the future?
Bergonzi: Besides workshop activity, I am holding two concerts with my big band “The Swingers”; moreover, I have been invited to the festival “Le Corde dell' Anima” (The Strings of the Soul) and so I am having an artistic performance together with my friends belonging to the group “Sound and Art”.