Interview with Alessandro Visintini, Violoncello da Spalla Italian maker

Violoncello da Spalla was born in Italy, yet today an Italian instrument is very rare

This is the 37th issue of this newsletter. After nine months of articles in which we interviewed many outstanding people in the field of Violoncello da Spalla, let us tell a bit more about ourselves. So here is an interview with Alessandro Visintini, my husband and partner in business. We share many passions in everyday life, and we mutually support each other’s curiosity and growth. Alessandro is the piccolist and second flute of the Orchestra Haydn of Bolzano and Trento and has held this place since he was 17.

How did you get the desire to build musical instruments?

It was something born by imitation (and without clear expectations) of what you had undertaken with the lutherie courses. This intrigued me precisely because after so many years of flute I felt a bit limited and I wanted to discover something new.

Then I realised that it is a technical, psychological and moral path in which you strive for perfection through small but continuous improvements, knowing too well that you will never reach it. But research makes you grow from all points of view. Exactly like in the musician profession and like in the Judo path, another passion in my life.

Isn't that strange for a flutist?  Didn't you feel out of place?

I don't feel out of place when I decide to do something.  I start a journey, and I try to be carried away by the stimuli that arise and grow with them.  And anyway, I am a "flutist by chance".  When my parents thought that one of us three siblings could play a musical instrument, they asked for advice from an acquaintance, a pianist from the Conservatory who referred them to the flute teacher.  So, first a brother of mine started, but he had little interest and the first time he brought home the flute I asked him to show me how to play it and I could immediately do it.  At that point, I was the one who went to the flute teacher...

The cool part of the story is that that pianist is the only one who officially graduated studying with the legend of piano Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli when he was teaching in Bolzano, and also that I saw her yesterday night in the audience of a concert with the orchestra in which I have been playing for 44 years!

However, I have always wondered what I would have done if she had sent my parents, for example, to the cello teacher...

Why the violoncello da spalla?  What doubts did you have before starting this journey, and what did you get from it?

For us who have been musically educated and trained in the traditional school of Italian Conservatories, the Cello da Spalla is simply an instrument that shouldn't exist, outside of any pre-established scheme and without a sense or a role.

Huge were the amazement and the pleasure in discovering, piece by piece, that not only it existed for a long time but also that it still exists today, has a possible repertoire and a considerable and constantly growing range of use.

The single thing that strikes you about the Violoncello da spalla


Three things you prefer the cello da spalla to the violin for

As a non-instrumentalist, I would say the dark but bright sound, the remarkable adaptability depending on the setup you choose and a certain provocative sympathy.

Why should a violinist be interested in the shoulder cello?

I agree more than ever with Sigiswald Kuijken when he says that the violin is the prima donna and that as such, it also involves the stress and duties deriving from the role.

The violoncello da spalla allows you to play with more freedom and feel more yourself and the positive and personal relationship with the instrument.

What experiences have you gained the confidence to create customised models for the client?  (Design, research, being a musician first of all and therefore being able to speak the client's language, already knowing his professional needs and his fears).

When I posted on a social about my making of a violin on Stradivari Viotti model violin, I was scolded for setting up the millionth copy that nobody cares about. I still think that studying the masters is fundamental to rooting our development. However, the search for improvements and customisations is inherent in the human being, not to mention that the last customer specifically asked me to make the instrument more "Italian".  So I worked out some details (which are so important) inspired by the Brescian style, and the result seemed interesting to me, both in sound and look.  With the following instrument currently under construction, I will continue along this way with some further minor changes while maintaining the fundamental structure of the Badiarov model, which I believe to be the most credible, balanced and functional.

Projects for the future?

There are many projects, helped by the fact that I will soon retire from the orchestra and therefore I will be able to manage my day better.

For sure, research in museums to deepen the knowledge of the surviving instruments and elaborate personal ideas. And for sure the making of violas, starting studying Gasparo da Salò, particularly stimulating me, as mentioned above.

But also some pleasant holidays together, hoping that the current situation does not make things more and more difficult.

News from da Spalla world

On the Da Spalla Community Facebook group the recently introduced admin Patrick Crooke had a simple as well as effective idea: he added albums! So we now have albums of instruments making, albums of historical iconography and (this was my add 😜) also one with contemporary art featuring Violoncello da Spalla. You are all welcome to contribute, so we will all have a database to rely on!

Featured video of the week

Here an interview to Sigiswald Kuijken, courtesy of Dmitry Badiarov, withnitaoian subtitles. It's a moving document about his relationship with the Violoncello da Spalla, check-in out!