A passion for music led German-born artisan Karl Till Riecke to choose an unusual occupation: rebuilding musical instruments from the baroque period in the hills of Tuscany.
Till started playing the cello at 10, and after leaving his studies at a musical academy, he decided to dedicate his time to the reconstruction of antique instruments, using the same methods as Stradivarius, Amati and other famous violinmakers who lived in Italy between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
His goal is to provide musicians with instruments that reproduce exactly the same sounds of the baroque music from centuries past.
In 1997, after a brief period of training in Cremona, the Italian city of violinmakers par excellence, Till moved to Vinci, where he opened his workshop (http://violin-maker.net). He chose Tuscany and Vinci as his new home because of his wonderful childhood memories, having holidayed in Vinci as a child.
In Italy, Till also finds the special wood needed to build his instruments. Every winter, he travels to the Alps, in Val di Fiemme, where, accompanied by an expert forester, he chooses the spruce that is best suited to his needs. Once felled, the spruce he selects are left on the ground with the branches pointing downwards to drain the sap for at least two months, a process that makes the wood lighter as needed for his instruments.
Rebuilding antique instruments is extremely complicated, and it is extremely difficult to find instruments that have not been restored or modified at some point over the centuries.
Nonetheless, after much research using ancient manuscripts, paintings and illustrated scores, Till often manages to recreate these violins, violas and cellos and their sounds. Restoring an instrument can take up to 250 hours, but Till’s work is so esteemed that he counts clients from both Italy and abroad.
A good way to meet Till and see him at work is at the annual Artigianato e Palazzo Fair in Florence. Now in its 19th year, the fair will be held from May 16 to 19, 2013, in the Corsini Garden.
This article is published in collaboration with Artigianato e Palazzo (www.artigianatoepalazzo.it)