Remembering Francis Kuttner

In light of our April T2 auction, which features a large collection of tonewood and books from Francis’s workshop, we had the pleasure of speaking to a handful of Francis’s many, many friends, who were all too willing to share their fond memories of his humor and warmth.

By Florence Haseler April 23, 2024
“Francis was born in 1951 and attended Antioch College. He gravitated to violin making, which brought him to Cremona in the early 1970s. He transitioned from the Cremona school and began studying with Francesco Bissolotti, who had worked for many years with Simone Fernando Sacconi. After moving to San Francisco in the late 1970s, Francis became a solid influence on those living and working in the San Francisco Bay area. However, following his heart, he spent more and more of his time back in Cremona, soaking up the rhythms and aromas of Italian life. A speaker of German, French, and Italian, he found ways to make acquaintances smile internationally. Francis introduced us to the Rivolta family, and I fondly remember choosing wood together. We went through hundreds and hundreds of cello tops; lifting them off a pile and rejecting ones that we were not interested in. Then, one would come off and an, “Ooooh” would issue from one of us. They would hand it to the other and, “Ahhh” would affirm interest. The grain run out would be scrutinized and then a pile would start. Twenty, then thirty, and forty tops would start to collect. Some I would like and he wouldn’t and vice-versa. For these, separate piles started. But what to do with the ones we liked in common? Here is where Francis from a family of nine siblings would intercede. Initially, I wondered what he was up to, but he would be finding two that were quite similar in grain, heft and likeness. Then, one of the twins on one pile and one on the other. It was so fair and evenhanded, like Francis always was with everything. Over the years, we exchanged gifts with Francis, from books to clever tools, and we always somehow kept a balance. Francis once told me, “When one of us dies, we will owe the other $40”. Sigrun and I owe him so, so much more but I think in the end, he owed me $40. Or maybe it’s the other way around.” — Joseph Grubaugh & Sigrun Seifert

To honor his legacy, Francis’s family, with the Violin Society of America, have established a memorial fund, dedicated to assisting violin-making students and apprentices in accessing the educational opportunities necessary to realize their dreams of becoming professional makers.

In May, Tarisio is delighted to be auctioning one of Francis’ violas, made in San Francisco in 1992, with all commissions from the sale to be donated to this memorial fund.

Click here to learn more and to make a contribution.

Photos courtesy of Itzel Ávila, Joanne Van Bosterhaut, Carla Shapreau and The Kuttner family.

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