Point Lookout, Long Island
February 29, 1984
I still live on Point Lookout, on the shores of the Atlantic about forty miles from New York, in the same house in which Fernando spent so many years of his life with me. I never liked living here. I preferred New York, where we lived at the beginning when we first arrived in America from Italy. But he was happy here. He had his laboratory – it's still here, intact – and his fishing boat. He didn't mind having to get to New York every morning by seven and not getting home until 7:30 in the evening. He had all his satisfaction here, and that was enough for me.
Of course, at the beginning our life was pretty hard; when we arrived from Italy we thought things were going to be easier. But our love for each other and his great love for his work, his real passion for violins, helped us over so many difficulties.
We arrived in America in 1931, after having spent a few years in Rome (we got married in 1925 and our son, Gaspare, was born in 1926). Fernando had opened his own shop in Rome, and it was there that Emil Herrmann met him. Having admired his work, he first called him to Berlin, and subsequently asked him to come to America. “Teresita, I hate to leave the country and everything,” Fernando kept saying, “but, you know, Herrmann gives me so much. Within a few years we'll make a small fortune and we'll come back.” He would have liked to go back, not to Rome, but to Cremona, to Stradivarius's town. Then he found himself better off in New York than he had expected, also because at Herrmann's he had the possibility of seeing all the antique instruments.
We were supposed to leave Italy in December of 1930. We had sold the laboratory and had gone to Naples to take the ship, but at the Consulate they told us. “We're sorry, Mr. Sacconi, but there's too much unemployment in America, and you can't go. We won't give you a visa.” And he explained, “But I've been invited.” They answered, “We're sorry.” Then we had to go back to Rome as guests of my mother. Maestro Bernardino Molinari [the conductor Bernardino Molinari, Teresita's brother-in-law] was here in America waiting for us. We sent him a telegram saying they hadn't given us a visa, and Molinari went to the Embassy in Washington. He knew a lot of people, because he came to America a couple of times a year to conduct. He told them, “You can't refuse him a visa, because he is a type of artist that we don't have here, and he absolutely must come.” In conclusion, instead of arriving in December, we got here on the 21st of April. As you can imagine, it wasn't easy to stay in Italy as guests of my mother while we waited for the visa. He didn't have a laboratory – he didn't have anything, and there was no way he could work. Finally, they gave us the visa, but then they told us as we were going down the stair at the Consulate, “Sacconi, the Consul wants to see you.” I said, “Oh God, now they're going to take the visa away again.” The Consul received us saying “You're Maestro Sacconi? I have to congratulate you, because we haven't given anyone a visa for seven years, and they're waiting for you in America” and he shook hands with him.
And that's how we arrived in New York, on the steamship, carrying with us all the wood for violins and the tools for his work. The apartment at the Midtown Hotel where we stayed just for a while wasn't very big, so Fernando piled up all the wood behind the sofa in the living room. After a few months we found a five-room apartment for rent where he had his own workshop, in which I couldn't touch anything. I said, “But Fernando, why don't you keep things a little neat?” And he said, “Don't touch anything, because I find everything in my disorder.” So many times, though, he called me while I was cooking to come help him, and I tightened the pegs for him. I was more or less his assistant. And then for the colors of the varnishes he would ask me, “Does this seem a little redder to you?” In short, I helped him out the best I could.
He began working at Herrmann's, but Herrmann wasn't there in that period, just Oden, the secretary, and Max Möller; then Herrmann arrived. The Herrmann Company was one of the biggest at the time that dealt with violins, and very important both in the United States and abroad. Fernando worked there until 1951, when Herrmann decided to close. A month before, he said “Sacconi, I'm going to close. Go to Wurlitzer.” (The two of them were already in agreement.) If we had known in time, I might have been able to persuade Fernando to go on his own, to open his own shop. He wasn't cut out for that, though, because he really enjoyed working, but didn't want other responsibilities, other problems. He was a great artist, but the worst of businessmen. He was too generous and didn't know how to say «no». And then, money wasn't the most important thing for him. One time he had a Stradivarius in his hands, and someone asked him, “God, a Stradivarius! Sacconi, which would you rather have, the Stradivarius, or a million dollars?” And be said, “The Stradivarius.” He was crazy about Stradivarius.
And that's how he went to Wurlitzer. Wurlitzer was an angel. And with Wurlitzer things looked up for us economically, too. He paid a salary, but also a percentage.
In 1942 we rented a house here on Point Lookout, not this one where I live now (which was built in 1946), but the one next door. We rented it for two years, and then managed to buy it. We came here only on week-ends. Then in 1954, we moved here definitively. We had gotten tired of paying the rent in New York, the rent and taxes here, two telephones, and going back and forth every week-end. He slept upstairs, and I, downstairs, because he went to bed and read. He read until very late, and then got up every morning at 5:00 to go to New York. He left the house at 7:00 and took the car to the train; it took him two hours to go and two to get back. He got up at 5:00 because first thing be would come down, fix himself some coffee, and go to the laboratory; he'd stay there looking at things, studying. Then at 6:30 he'd take a shower and be off. He was happy that way.
After the death of Rembert Wurlitzer, things changed little by little. Dario D'Attili had become the manager of the shop at a certain point, and they began telling Fernando that, because of his high blood pressure, it would be better if he didn't come in every day any more. So he went only three times a week. Then, during the last period of time, he went only when he was called. He picked up the work and did it here at home. But at the store the clients wanted to see him, they wanted Sacconi... He suffered so much because of this situation, but didn't accuse anyone; he just said, “That's the way life goes.” Now he isn't suffering any more, thank God. And I feel him so close. So many times I put something away and then I can't find it. I look and look for it; where could it be? and I say to myself, “Oh my Fernando, help me look for it.” I do that, and I find it. We have such an intense rapport that even if he has disappeared, it is as if he were still here. He really loved me. And he was also very fond of David [David Segal, violinmaker in New York]. He'd met David in Cremona in Francesco Bissolotti's shop, where Fernando spent a lot of time working every time he went to Italy between 1962 and 1972. He was terribly fond of Francesco, too, because he had his same character, his same love for violinmaking. There was a great understanding between them. Everything Fernando said, Francesco assimilated immediately. Fernando was very open with him, as he was with everyone; be had no secrets or jealousy, he taught everything he knew, and continued to study, to try to understand things, to make experiments.
He adored Cremona. In fact, he was there in 1937 in charge of the preparation of the Stradivarian Bicentennial Exhibition, while I was in Rome with Gaspare. (I went to Cremona only at the end of the exhibition.) Then we returned to Italy in 1955; I stayed in Rome with my mother, and Fernando went around Europe with Wurlitzer looking for instruments. Then we got together again in Paris. In 1958 and 1962 he went back to Cremona, and we both went in the years that followed. In Cremona Fernando met often with Puerari [Alfredo Puerari, then the President of the Provincial Tourist Office]. And it was Puerari who suggested to him the idea of gathering into a book all his studies and the results of his research on Stradivarius, and then encouraged him to do it. With the help of Puerari and Dordoni, the book (The 'Secrets' of Stradivarius) came out in 1972, and it was very successful, even though once it was printed Fernando found certain imperfections that he never had the time to correct. He would have liked to come out with a second edition, with many things added, but he didn't have the time...
In 1972, while we were in Cremona and I was recovered in the hospital for an operation, the City of Cremona granted Fernando honorary citizenship. In the hospital they had put a bed beside mine, and he came every day. As soon as he arrived, all the doctors came around to talk with him. I told jokes and kept them laughing. But the day of the honorary citizenship, I put on a serious face, and they all asked me, “What's the matter, Teresita? They've made your Fernando an honorary citizen, and you're pensive instead of being happy. Why?” they asked me. And I answered, “You've made him an honorary citizen, but I'm more Cremonese than he is.” “Why?” they asked me, and I answered, “You've made him an honorary citizen, but they've given me seven pints of blood, of Cremonese blood.” And everyone burst out laughing...
I lived a beautiful life with my Fernando. I was happy. His kindness had no limits. I want to honor his memory with one last fact: for two years he sacrificed all his week-ends to go to a hospital with our son to teach violinmaking to three paralyzed veterans of the Second World War. He taught violinmaking, and our son helped the veterans play ball. And that's why Wrona [Anthony Wrona, paraplegic, and violinmaker in Buffalo] recalling Fernando one day, said to me, “Sacconi gave me back my life.”
Point Lookout, February 29, 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 16-23 - Italian / English).
From the left in the photo:
His wife Teresita Pacini, his son Gaspare and Maestro Sacconi in the house of Point Lookout in Long Island.
© 2023 - In memory of Simone Fernando Sacconi in the 50th Anniversary of his death