A ‘Haddock’ copy for Ruggiero Ricci

featured in May 2014 New York Fine Instruments & Bows

By Joseph Curtin

A Fine Contemporary American Violin by Joseph Curtin & Gregg Alf, Ann Arbor, 1985

In 1985, when Gregg Alf and I moved to Ann Arbor and established Curtin & Alf, Ruggiero Ricci was teaching violin at the University of Michigan. He lived with his wife, Julia, in a large home on the Huron River, and not long after we met, he invited us over for a visit. Somewhat in awe of one of the greatest players of the 20th century, we sat listening on the couch as he explained an idea for a bow with a moveable weight on its shaft. The he stopped and said with complete sincerity, “I hope I’m not taking too much of your time?” No. We would have listened all day. In truth, Ricci loved everything to do with violins, old and new. He was a positive force in the lives of many makers, and certainly helped Gregg and me in many ways over the years.

Curtin & Alf’s copy of my del Gesú is a beauty. It sounds terrific, the sort of fiddle you can’t put down. - Ruggiero Ricci, 1985

Ricci commissioned a copy of the ‘Huberman’ Guarneri that year, and later his Lorenzo Storioni. When in 1993 he asked for another violin, we suggested basing it on the ‘Haddock’ Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ of 1734. Made available by its then-owner, David Fulton, the ‘Haddock’ has compact dimensions (350mm body length), graceful f-holes and beautifully conceived archings. Studying the instrument was another education in classical violin making.

Though we later worked on two detailed copies of the ‘Haddock’, the instrument for Ricci was freely done. It adheres to the measurements of the original but features strongly flamed maple and somewhat wider-grained spruce that we selected from a log with remarkable acoustical characteristics. Though there was no attempt at the visual fidelity of our ‘Huberman’ copy, we did feel we’d captured the tonal depth and brilliance of the original.

Read about a 1985 Curtin & Alf violin made especially for Ruggiero Ricci >>

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