Monday, March 05, 2007

Oh Fiddlesticks!

The Chinese juggernaut rolls over Cremona's master violinmakers:

For a professional musician, a violin or cello made in Cremona is the ultimate status symbol. Prices can run as high as £14,000 for a violin and twice that for a cello. "A violin from here is like a Ferrari," said one luthier, or maker of stringed instruments.

However, lutherie, like many of Europe's historic crafts, is coming under threat from cheap Chinese products.

"Lots of workshops have closed down," said Stefano Conia, 61, a master violin maker who has been working in the town for 44 years.

But in Xiqiao, a town in south-east China, more than 40 companies have sprung up turning out cheap violins.

....Now the Chinese are moving upmarket. Last year, Zhu Ming-Jiang from Beijing won the gold medal at the Violin Society of America awards.

The silver also went to a Chinese contestant, and four of the 12 competitors given certificates of merit were Chinese. Chinese luthiers have dominated the event since 2004.

Mr Conia's small workshop is one of more than 130 in Cremona. He is only allowed by law to craft 15 instruments a year and he has to keep his leftover shavings of maple and spruce fir to prove he is not overworking.

Might that not be the problem?

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