Gaetano and Pietro Sgarabotto

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Father and Son 1926


Gaetano Sgarabotto 1878 - 1959 was born in Vicenza, Italy. He devoted his entire career to violin making. Gaetano was a very prolific violin maker making more than 700 instruments including violas & cellos.

His son Pietro Sgarabotto 1903–1990 born in Milan, retired 1971, but still produced masterworks as late as 1979; both worked for their whole life in Italy as master violinmakers.[1]

Gaetano S. worked initially in the city of Vicenza for many years before moving to Milan in 1901 to work for Leandro Bisiach. He moved to Parma in 1926, where he stayed almost without interruptions until his death in 1959.

His son, Pietro, continued in his father’s profession and also became a master violinmaker in his own right. Today one speaks within initiated circles with the utmost admiration of the brief, but prestigious dynasty of violinmakers Sgarabotti. This refers to the historical presence of both these masters who, apart from creating their own master instruments, spent much of their time passing on experience to young violin makers.[2]

Indeed the activity of the Sgarabotto makers was very influential in the violin making school of Parma, Cremona and elsewhere. Much could be said about their combined influence on the cultural heritage within the musical world of string instruments, and of the enormous regard and esteem with which all their students and musicians held the masters. The greatest interest by posterity, of course, centers on their combined oeuvre, on the set of master violins from their hand left for us to play and admire.

The works of both the Sgarabotto makers can be readily identified by their meticulous choice of materials, the workmanship always being exquisitely “manual” in every phase of the making of each instrument, and showing extreme precision and loving care to detail.

The violin making of the Sgarabotto makers is always graceful, that of the father Gaetano said to be presenting a lighter touch whilst the graduation used by Pietro is more consistent. The sonority and general musical quality of these master violins of course shall forever be residing in their handling by the musicians and experts who are fortunate enough to play a Sgarabotto violin, viola, violoncello….


Gaetano Sgarabotto in his workshop 1929


Liuteria Parmense - In Parma, the 20th century tradition (of violin making) commenced with Gaetano Sgarabotto, who served his apprenticeship in the workshop of the Bisiachs, and can therefore be traced back to a Milanese origin.

As is known, after the death of the last great Cremonese Masters after the middle of the 18th century, only the Cerutis remained in Cremona to prevent that memorable tradition from dying out completely. It was the Antoniazzis who undertook the task of transferring the scant knowledge saved from oblivion from Cremona to Milan.

However the most important event for the renaissance of violin-making in Lombardy was certainly the meeting between Riccardo Antoniazzi and Leandro Bisiach; the latter, thanks to his talent, his taste and his business ability succeeded in founding, at the end of the 19th century, a workshop which soon gained international fame. Bisiach was an outstanding figure in the commerce of antique violins but above all had the merit of raising a generation of great luthiers, among whom for example Sderci, Borghi, Ornati and Garimberti come to mind.

Gaetano Sgarabotto, another of Leandro Bisiach's pupils was born in 1878 in Vicenza; while still very young he had demonstrated a talent for violin-making. After his experience in Milan, Gaetano moved to Parma in 1926 and two years later was given the task of directing the School of Violin-Making which had been annexed to the Conservatory of Music.

The School concluded its experience after nine years, in 1937, but in the meantime had distinguished itself for the quality of its teaching. The proof of this is that luthiers such as Sesto Rocchi, Raffaele Vaccari and of course Gaetano's son Pietro were among its pupils. Gaeatano was a most prolific and eclectic maker, and created instruments drawing inspiration from many different authors. Among this great variety of styles it is interesting to note his preference for the Amatis' models, as well as the rather frequent use of Guadagnini forms. After the closure of the School Gaetano lived in Parma for long periods, from 1942 to 1948 and again from 1957 until his death in 1959.

His son Pietro, who was also a musician, lived and worked at length in Parma before being called to teach in the school of Cremona. For almost half a century, this experience of the first public School of violin-making seemed to have died out forever. But evidently the memory of this tradition was still alive because in 1975 the School returned to its place in the Conservatory under the direction of Renato Scrollavezza." Liuteria Parmense


Gaetano e Pietro Sgarabotto-Liutai Violin Makers 1878-1990 Editrice TURRIS 1991 ISBN 88-7929-000-2


  • Philip J. Kass (1983). "Bisiach Family" (PDF). William Moening & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  • Gaetano e Pietro Sgarabotto-Liutai Violin Makers 1878-1990 Editrice TURRIS 1991 ISBN 88-7929-000-2
  • Jost Thoene, Italian & French Makers (2006)
  • Marlin Brinser, Dictionary of 20th Century Italian Violin Makers (1978)
  • Carlo Vettori, I Maestri Del Novecento (1992)
  • Vannes, Rene (1985) [1951]. Dictionnaire Universel del Luthiers (vol.3). Bruxelles: Les Amis de la musique. OCLC 53749830. 
  • William, Henley (1969). Universal Dictionary of Violin & Bow Makers. Brighton; England: Amati. ISBN 0-901424-00-5. 
  • Blot, Eric (1994). "Emilia e Romagna I". Un secolo di liuteria italiana, 1860-1960 - A century of Italian violin making. Cremona: Turris. ISBN 88-7929-026-6. 
  • Versari Artemio, Modern Violin Making in the Emilia-Romagna Region (2002)
  • Liuteria Parmense

External sources[edit]

Bisiach Family Heritage. by Philip J. Kass[4][5]

  1. ^ Philip J. Kass (1983). "Bisiach Family" (PDF). William Moening & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  2. ^ Liuteria Parmense
  3. ^ Gaetano e Pietro Sgarabotto-Liutai Violin Makers 1878-1990 Editrice TURRIS 1991 ISBN 88-7929-000-2
  4. ^ Philip J. Kass (1983). "Bisiach Family" (PDF). William Moening & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 
  5. ^ Philip J. Kass (1982). "Selected World of Strings Newsletters". William Moening & Sons Ltd. Retrieved 2007-04-05. 

Liuteria Parmense

Pietro Sgarabotto & David Oistrakh photo [1]