The Maestro Sacconi
in the testimony of the cellist
Leonard Rose

New York, January 19, 1984

There is no doubt that Simone Fernando Sacconi was a very great instrument maker, and any restoration performed by him was in itself a masterpiece. His sensitivity and admiration for the magnificent instruments which passed through his hands was marked by such reverence. How he studied and measured the great Strads, Amatis, and Guarneris! It became a «love affair».

«Fernando», as a few privileged friends were allowed the liberty, was a legend in his time. Every string player knew that Sacconi was THE master. I first learned his name and reputation as a young student in the mid-1930's, from my teacher, Felix Salmond.

I shall never forget our first meeting in the beautiful shop of Emil Herrmann, on West 57th Street in New York City. The year must have been around 1940. I was 22 years old, and solo cellist of The Cleveland Orchestra. My cello in those years, was a rather early David Tecchler, which in the dry, cold winter of Cleveland, developed a chronic buzz. I consulted a violinmaker in Cleveland, who promptly diagnosed a loose patch under the top. In desperation, I permitted the top to be removed. The Tecchler top was no sooner closed when the buzz returned with a vengeance. As soon as I had a few free days, I drove my Tecchler to New York, some 535 miles, to consult Mr. Sacconi the master. I no sooner related my story and woes to Mr. Sacconi, and after a rather quick inspection by the master, he said in his most charming Italian accented English, “Datsa no loose patch, datsa loose purfling.” Whereupon he worked a little warmed glue into a particular area of purfling, and the buzz simply disappeared, never to return. It took him about five minutes to repair my buzz – and this was after the luthier in Cleveland removed the top. When I inquired as to his fee, Sacconi said, “Oh datsa nothing.” Needless to say, I was taken with his warmth, charm, knowledge, and humanity. It was the beginning of a lovely and valued friendship.

As I recall, in those years his two assistants were Erwin Hertel, (soon to become one of my closest friends), and Hans Weisshaar. Both Hertel and Weisshaar have gone on to great careers.

In 1943, I became solo cellist of the New York Philharmonic, and living in the New York area, I availed myself of the mastery of Sacconi and Hertel. In 1945, I bought a 1711 Gofriller and in 1952 acquired my beloved 1662 Niccolò Amati. The Amati was bought from Emil Herrmann and Rembert Wurlitzer, who had brought the cello to this country jointly. Fernando made a new magnificent neck, which he had advised, and it became a provision of the sale. The bridges he fashioned seemed to be as beautiful as those great instruments deserved. They fit so well and sounded (and still sound) so magnificently! He was very sensitive to sound and it was uncanny how he managed by the smallest manipulation of the sound post, to get the ultimate out of each individual instrument.

Fernando, Erwin and I spent some very happy hours together. Sacconi loved the sea, and boats, and lived very near Long Island Sound. We had some joyful times fishing from his boat, and of course, the marvelous food and drink we shared. I learned so much about the great art of these gentlemen. I believe it was Sacconi who devised and innovated so many restoring principals. The use of heated sand bags to gradually restore the original arching of tops that had sunken over the years, really ingenious and relatively simple in concept. His feeling for wood was incredible. How he was able to match new wood to fit uneven and sometimes S shaped cracks, so the final repair was almost impossible to detect. He was a great artist.

Without doubt, Simone Fernando Sacconi left the world a legacy of great violin making and instrument restoration. His former assistants and students are today some of the finest luthiers in the world: René Morel, Erwin Hertel, Hans Weisshaar, and Dario D'Attili, and I'm certain there are others, but these four gentlemen have become the Sacconis of today, and carry on his great art and the care of most of the great instruments in the world. The string players of today owe Simone F. Sacconi an enormous debt of gratitude.

New York, January 19, 1984

Taken from the book: «From Violinmaking to Music: The Life and Works of Simone Fernando Sacconi», presented on December 17, 1985 at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. (Cremona, ACLAP, first edition 1985, second edition 1986, pages 239-240 - Italian / English).