Laying on the banks of the river Po, Cremona has been playing a leading role in the Italian history and culture since the Roman times .
Its central position in the Po floodplain and the presence of the great river made it a main junction for trade and commerce.
As was customary in the past, important cities for trade were destined to become ideal places for the development of art and culture.
In this way Cremona , rich in works of art, became a perfect cultural capital for arts and music.
Thanks to music and in particular to the art of making stringed instruments, Cremona is a unique place in the world.
It's the hometown to renowned musicians and composers like Claudio Monteverdi and Amilcare Ponchielli , after whom the theatre has been named.
The theatre is important from a historical, architectural and artistic point of view and offers both Cremona's citizens and tourists a wide range of musical performances throughout the year., among which the concert, opera and dancing seasons at the Ponchielli Theatre, the Midsummer Festival- with drama, dancing, music performances, the Monteverdi Festival, the Strings of the Soul Festival- literature and music performances-, the Festival of Stringed Instruments, the extraordinary musical events taking place during the Summer Thursdays and those at Christmas.
In winter, the Municipal Museum offers classical music lovers special matinée performances every second and fourth Sunday.
In the spring and summer, in its magnificent courtyard/garden the Municipal Museum changes kinds of music with the stringed instruments involved in performing jazz ,folk , tango and the manifold expressions of traditional music.
Cremona is above all a city in violin clef : the tie with the art of making stringed instruments is very old and inseparable from it.
Therefore, passion, interest and curiosity can be the hint to an unusual visit following the echo of the notes.
This special journey , historical and sentimental at the same time, enables you to come to know Cremona through the quality of its emotions, which here have a particularly fine and fair hue, though pervading and intimately enthralling.
The rhythm of the city, then, flows in the sign of continuity, of the artistic wealth that is always slightly secret : you can easily find it in the work of the violin makers, which repeats itself in the line of the classical tradition, but which is also able to bring out an always new search of perfection, as you can perceive in the notes coming from the many shops ( about 140) and often from the houses too, as if the walls themselves could softly vibrate.
The Town Hall is, together with the Torrazzo, the symbol of the city.
It has been the centre of the civic functions since the beginning of the 12th century; today it keeps the prestigious collection of stringed instruments , through which you can rediscover a unique tradition , of artistic skills and sensitiveness.
The violin named ? Charles the ninth of France? witnesses the modernity of Andrea Amati's work, who, at the end of the 16th century, had been able to define geometries and techniques arrived almost unchanged to present times.
Thanks to his zeal for research today we can claim that the violin was born in Cremona five centuries ago.
Antonio Stradivari takes the Amati family's models and develops them to adapt the sound of the instruments to the changed technical and functional needs , since those instruments left the nobles' sitting rooms to enter the theatres to play a solo role more and more.
From the ?Clisbee? violin of 1669 to the cello ? ex-Cristiani? of 1700, from the ?Cremonese 1700? to the ?Vesuvius? of 1724-1728 we have a clear sight of the artistic course of the cleverest among the violin makers.
However, each of them shows the affinities that link these masterpieces to great composers and cheered performers.
Finally, a powerful resonant presence characterizes the Guarneri family's instruments. They talk about the peerless excellence of Cremona violin maker masters of the first half of the 18th century.
At the Stradivari Museum you can, really and directly , enter Antonio Stradivari's shop to worm his secrets out of it . In fact, in the rooms of Affaitati Palace , in Via Ugolani Dati, there is the exhibition of most models, moulds and tools used by the master and sold by the heirs to Ignazio Alessandro Cozio Count of Salabue (1755-1840), then esteemed as the greatest stringed instruments collector.
Eventually in 1920 , the violin maker Giuseppe Fiorini from Bologna, bought them at the price of a hundred thousand lire and, ten years later , he donated them to the Municipal Museum, where they were added to the core of the finds collected by Giovanni Battista Cerani , who gave them to the Town Council in 1893.
In the exhibition you can see more than 60 violins, violas, cellos, contrabasses mostly made by the Italian violin makers starting from the second half of the 19th century to the first half of the 20th century.
The instruments of the ?Friends of Stradivari? network deserve a special mention as they are masterpieces by Stradivari, Amati, Guarneri, Guadagnini and Gagliano, which were lent by the world most important collectors and displayed at Affaitati Palace.
Their heirs are the present time masters. The collection of the Antonio Stradivari Foundation, at Pallavicino Ariguzzi Palace, gathers all the instruments rewarded with a golden medal at the International Triennial Competition ,which has been a privileged occasion for comparison among the main violin makers in the world since 1976 , so that it has been defined ? not by chance- the art of violin making Olympic games.
Here you can admire the magnificent works of artisans who are appreciated today, but who ,just after the success at the Competition, started a bright career and of young people too, who have been able to reach interesting levels of manufacturing mastery.
As a matter of fact, after twelve editions the competition and the city itself have become a unique place for relationships among the musicians and the violin makers, a place where it is possible to study the tradition of violin making or suggest innovating courses, talk about and draw hints for reflection from the comparison.
The musical and artistic past of Cremona has left important marks in the city to be looked for in the small streets , rich in history, and the medieval buildings , in red bricks, which turn bright golden orange at dusk, like the violins themselves. Starting from those linked to the life of the great Antonio Stradivari: the bridal house in Garibaldi Avenue, where he lived and worked since 1667, or the copy of his grave stone , today in the public gardens in Piazza Roma; all these houses were built in 1870 on the place where there had been the church and the convent of the Dominican Friars, which had received his remains.
Quite close to the gardens, in Stradivari Square, a modern statue celebrates the figure of the great master and another one welcomes the visitors at the entrance of the Town Hall. Moreover, the International School for the art of making stringed instruments, at Raimondi Palace, has been named after him, thus uniting to the celebration a wish to all the students ,who come to Cremona from all over the world to follow the courses, so that one day they too can equal his skill.
Past and present, tradition and research, artisan skill and artistic sensitiveness then intertwine in a harmonious intermittence strengthening one another and being enriched by new colours , just as it happens to the sound in the sound box of a violin. For this reason, five hundred years after Andrea Amati and three centuries after the golden age of Stradivari, Guarneri and Bergonzi, in Cremona the art of making stringed instruments is livelier than ever.
Shortly Cremona will have its own Museum of the Violin: a further element in the complex jigsaw puzzle rotating around the art of making stringed instruments.