Even towards the end of his life, at a time when the depth of his knowledge about stringed instruments was legendary, Fernando Sacconi was almost like a child in his inquisitiveness and his constant enthusiasm. I remember introducing him to a young friend of mine who was studying painting restoration. Mr. Sacconi's eyes lit up, and he began to question my friend in the hopes that he could learn about some recent discovery concerning pigments or varnish. Anyone at all who showed genuine interest in anything related to fiddles had an automatic ear with Mr. Sacconi – he was actually incapable of holding his knowledge in reserve. I believe that more than any other quality, this generosity of mind and selfless giving of his knowledge and energy made him a great teacher. Everyone always had access to Mr. Sacconi's best. I cannot remember ever seeing him give anything less, and if he showed a moment of impatience it was always brief and only because his own insistence on perfection for his own work naturally carried over to his students.
Mr. Sacconi's giving of himself was not reserved for his colleagues and students. I remember one Saturday morning when a little girl came in just before her violin lesson at Juilliard. She was crying because her half-size bow was broken. Mr. Sacconi came out to console her, patiently explaning that the screw and eyelet simply needed changing and that then everything would be all right. The shop was officially closed that day and no other workers were present. He took the child back into the shop, and she watched as he hunted for 45 minutes until he found just the right eyelet and screw to fit her small bow. Of course, the bow wasn't even worth the time it took to fix! Mr. Sacconi never analysed the situation – a problem had to be solved, and solved correctly. It was as simple as that. One of the qualities of his genius was exactly this simplicity and unobstructed view of life.
Mr. Sacconi's life revolved around stringed instruments and the study of Stradivari in particular, fishing, mushrooms, vegetable, gardening, photography and his wonderful wife Teresita.
Mr. Sacconi's attention to detail never ceased to impress me, especially the enthusiasm he brought to minor problems. He would spend substantial periods of time trying different strings on an instrument and testing them, having carefully gauged them himself. He would pore over abalone shells, envisioning the portions that would make particularly beautiful slides, muttering that the only really quality shells came from the coast of France north of Bordeaux. He developed an arch support for the protection of spruce tops in our humid summers – a marvellously simple and effective device made out of milk cartons. He found their waxed surface fine for the job and instructed everyone to bring all their milk cartons into the shop!
Among the memories I have of this great man was one small moment towards the end of his life, after he had a minor attack of glaucoma. Frustrated that he might lose any of his skills or that anyone would think he had, he grabbed a knife and in a flash made an absolutely perfect circle in a piece of wood! “You see, I'm-a not so bad,” he said. Moments later, he was again totally absorbed in repairing a violin.
The world of strings, and thus music, owes Fernando Sacconi a tremendous debt. Even more important than being a fine maker himself, he developed the art of preservation and restoration of stringed instruments to a level previously unknown in the United States: he taught and inspired an impressive number of students, and a legion of musicians are grateful to him. And many, many individuals are more than grateful just tor the privilege of having known him.
New York, July 11, 1985
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 121-123 - Italian / English).
© 2023 - In memory of Simone Fernando Sacconi in the 50th Anniversary of his death