From the beginning of my violinmaking studies, I read about the incredible violin that the equally incredible Niccolò Paganini left in his will to the city of Genoa.
I had as my source of information a copy of the Hill brothers' book, published in 1931 on the violinmakers of the Guarneri family. The part of this monumental publication about illustrious musicians and instruments paid special attention to both Niccolò Paganini and his violin, the 'Cannone'.
I had already heard his compositions through concerts and recordings, but my real desire, as a student of violin making, was to see the violin.
My studies took me to Italy, where I enrolled at the International Violinmaking School in Cremona, the birthplace of the man who had created the 'Cannon': Giuseppe Guarneri 'del Gesù'. On one of my first trips away from the school, I went to Genoa. Finding the Genoa City Hall was easy, but seeing the violin was much more difficult. After some time and several attempts in my stunted Italian, I managed to convince one of the ushers to take me to the room where the violin is kept, and where I was allowed to admire it, if only for a few minutes. I even managed to take a souvenir photograph of this extraordinary violin. At that time, I certainly could not have imagined that in the year 2000, I would be appointed to replace Maestro Renato Scrollavezza, luthier and conservator of the precious instrument, who had retired.
The violin inspires admiration, as does the character of its maker, in every detail. The acoustic qualities are equally great, considering that it was the medium through which Paganini mesmerised the whole of Europe with his revolutionary and original compositions and playing technique.
Having become the conservator luthier, my job, as the word itself indicates, leads me to take care of the health and safety of the violin. It is, without a doubt, the best preserved example of a Guarneri to date and this is what it must remain for future generations, a treasure to be admired visually and acoustically. Finding the right balance between using and resting the instrument requires a lot of care. The violin is very strong and healthy, partly because it has been played relatively little. The violin, however, is not like a painting, to be hung on a wall and admired. It is a musical instrument and to be perfect, it must be listened to. It is our responsibility to ensure that this violin remains the joy of both violin and music lovers.
To have been entrusted with this task was an honour for me.
Master Bruce Carlson, violin maker conservator of historic violins