Italy System-Parma School (Parma School)

Parma, located in central Italy, is a city approximately 20 kilometers south of Cremona, the holy city of violin making, and is famous for its food, such as Parmesan cheese and ham. During the Renaissance, the Ducato di Parma (1545-1859) was established in this area and continued to develop until the middle of the 19th century. When Italy was united in the 19th century, the transportation connecting with neighboring cities, such as Bologna and Piacenza, was greatly improved, which led to the emergence of the industries in Parma.

The city is also well-known for its music education. In 1769-1792, the Conservatorio Arrigo Boito di Parma was established, in which there were about 16 students admitted at its founding stage. Later, the first public music school was officially founded in 1825. In 1836, Paganini proposed to reform orchestral systems; in 1855 when the school was well developed, the curriculum, which originally included only voice performance, was expanded to more fields of instrumental and orchestral music.

In 1936, the public music school in Parma was temporarily closed due to the lack of funds. From 1937 to 1941, it was moved to Vicenza and, later in 1942, returned to Parma. In 1949, it was moved to Brescia and, in 1957, was again returned to Parma. The school made considerable contributions to passing on the tradition of contemporary Italian violin making and led to the founding of the Scuola Internazionale di Liuteria di Cremona (I.P.I.A.L.L.) in 1937.

The violin-making business in Parma grew at a relatively slow pace because the city was geographically close to Cremona. Andrea Gisalberti (1682-1767) was considered the first luthier based in this city. In addition, the luthier of the Piedmont school, Giovanni Battista Guadagnini (1711-1786), had resided in this city for 10 years from 1759 to 1771. Guadagnini’s works made in such years featured the Oppio maple from Northern and were mostly produced at a fast speed, which suggests that the market at that time was prosperous.

During the 19th century, very few luthiers were based in Parma. Among them were Felice Mori Costa (1753-1825), Domenico Corbucci (1829-1890), and Giuseppe Tarasconi (1851-1920). It was until 1926 when Gaetano Sgarabotto (1878-1959) moved to Parma and, together with his son Pietro Sgarabotto (1903-1990), founded the Parma School of Violin Making in 1929 that the violin-making field in this city began to thrive.

The works by the Sgarabottos, mostly based on the models of Amati and Stradivari, are well-known for the cautious handling of the materials, specifically the delicate craftsmanship which resulted in the exquisite curve of the bodies. Their works represent their artistic enthusiasm and have been the instruments that many performers dream to own. In addition, the Sgarabottos also specialized in making copies of the antique violins, the number of which, however, was relatively small. Both Gaetano Sgarabotto and Pietro Sgarabotto had made great impacts on the violin-making schools of Parma and Cremona and are viewed as the 20th-century master luthiers. Their pupils, such as Raffaele Vaccari (1908-1994) and Sesto Rocchi (1909-1991), inherited Sgarabottos’ superb techniques, creating excellent works.