The Brilliance & Beauty, Artistry & Chaos, of Guarneri del Gesù’s Instruments

From the January/February 2020 issue of Strings Magazine

We asked luthier Alex Louis Reza which historical maker’s work is closest to his heart and why. Here’s what he had to say.

“Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ is the historical maker that is closest to my heart and inspires the work that I do. It is hard to know what he really might have been like; we can only go by some of the lore and legend that has been passed down through the ages. I would like to think that his work was a family affair. 


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“Like the stages in our lives, del Gesù had stages in the making of his instruments. He started with the precision and beauty of his early work, mimicking the youthfulness of life and trying to fit in, then went on to the growth that led to his individualism and artistry as he came fully into his own. His final stage shows the hand of another present in his work, his wife’s, coming in when together they had to be as one. From the “imperfections” of some of his instruments comes perfection in individuality. In everyday life, not all is neat and orderly in the journey to a goal, but when it comes to fruition, it can be beautiful. 

“Every violin has its way of making a connection to the player, who in turn makes a connection with the audience. In del Gesù’s work, there were periods of brilliance and beauty, and there were periods of artistry, individuality, and chaos. Like the human experience that shapes us, those violins by del Gesù were shaped by the moments unfolding before him, defining his life. In those instruments, their lives carry on, continuing to evoke emotions in the music they help to create.”

—Alex Louis Reza, luthier