On-pitch reporting documents an inspiring craft.



Reporting on the construction of one particular instrument, musician and journalist Marchese (Renovations, 2001) investigates how a box with strings attached can make such astonishingly beautiful sounds.

Before the eyes of the reporter, Brooklyn-based fiddle-maker Sam Zygmuntowicz, on a commission from violinist Eugene Drucker, fabricates a musical instrument out of spruce, maple, glue and varnish. Tradition is the keynote. Zygmuntowicz works in the centuries-old mode of Cremona’s skilled luthiers, who made the finest stringed instruments of all time. Master Stradivari, it is generally agreed, made the best of them, though to this day, no one seems to know exactly how. His ghost inhabits the workshops of the world’s luthiers. Craftsman Sam competes with old masters in his creation of a violin for Drucker. The author follows him on an edifying adventure from hewn log to work of art. Though Sam adds just a bit of innovation, the construction of the classic sound box, with its bass-bar and bridge, f-holes, fingerboard, scroll, ribs and, of course, its purfling of three layers of wood, has survived industrial revolution essentially unchanged. From start to final coat of varnish, there is no assembly line for the artisans whose professional lives are bounded by legend, myth and politics as much as by acoustic science. Marchese illustrates them all as Master Zygmuntowicz makes Drucker’s violin. Readers will be as eager as the author and the luthier to know if it satisfied the violinist.

On-pitch reporting documents an inspiring craft.

Pub Date: April 2, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-001267-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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