Cremona has long been considered the musical capital of Italy. Violin doing here better than anywhere else. If the names of Amati and Guarneri is known mostly specialists, the masterpieces of Antonio Stradivari heard round the world. It is a symbol of skill, grace and divine sound. But after the outbreak of the epidemic of the coronavirus Italian city has gone from string center to center spread of the infection. Artisans are unemployed, workshops suffer huge losses. In Cremona is no longer the music.

the city, located on the southern boundary of Lombardy, is home to about 73,000 people. In February it became the epicenter of the virus, when Europe experienced the first outbreak of the disease. According to official data, only in Cremona discovered 6600 infections, and 1,000 people have already died from COVID-19. The pandemic weighs on the economy, and hence threatens the main heritage of the city — violin mastery. Since ancient times, it was a historic engine of industrial and Cremona’s workshops made it famous throughout the world. But now the city is also interesting in another context. This is a microcosmic reflection of how the pandemic threatens the culture as a whole.

Bowed string instruments are made here from the XVI century. It is the Cremona — the birthplace of Antonio Stradivari, perhaps the greatest violin makers in history. Although his shop was destroyed in 1934, every corner of the city continues to talk about national treasure. Schools, hotels, sports centers, restaurants and cafes named after Stradivari, who in his life has created 960 violins. But now his legacy is fighting for survival.

Cremona violin manufacturing is included in the cultural heritage list of UNESCO. His masters manually create each instrument, using more than 70 pieces of wood without any industrial materials. And the centralization of the craft attracts and foreign masters, better known as luthiery.

a Native of Argentina, Pablo Farias graduated from the International school of violin craftsmanship in Cremona and is among the 160 Lutheran living and working in the town. In his small workshop from raw boards of maple and spruce, they produce musical instruments worth thousands of euros. “Prices vary depending on the name of the master and of the market in which they are sold. The average is about 10 000, but some go up to 20,000,” says Stefano Trabucchi, establishing his Studio in 1992.

According to the latest data from the world Bank, the annual export of Italian stringed stringed instruments is 6.6 million dollars, mainly in Japan (2.2 million), United States (709 600), Hong Kong (645 000) and China (286 800). Only one Cremona fills about 80% of the market. Masters take orders from two categories of clients: private individuals and dealers usually resell them in their stores twice the price of conservatories and musicians around the world.

the Violin, made in Cremona, can be either “Stradivarius”, inspired by the design of Antonio Stradivari, or “Guarneri del gesù”, the rival of the great master Giuseppe Guarneri. In both cases, the process takes at least six weeks. As a result, most individual artists do not usually more than 10 violins a year.

Since pandemic closed some stores, many dealers have been frozen or even canceled their orders. “The coronavirus has forced me to stop working. But if the order is not executed, the luthier is not paid for his violin,” says Pablo. Farias have no employees. “Usually I work on the tool two to three months. The cancellation deprives me of money. During the siege Lutheran was not even allowed to visit their workshops and to work behind closed shutters. It is unfair because we are there, absolutely alone,” he says.

Now, in mid-July, the city is still empty, although restrictions were lifted for 2 months. Cremona luthiery trying to raise the case, which nearly destroyed the coronavirus. But there is another problem — a glut of the market. At the dawn of the 1990-ies in the city was about 60 artists. Now they are almost three times more. “Violin lives over 200 years. Sometimes longer. Therefore, the market is saturated pretty quickly,” says Giorgio Grisales, a native of Colombia and President of the municipal Consortium of violin manufacturers “Antonio Stradivari”.

Coronavirus has exacerbated the specific situation of artists. Classical music was among the most affected by COVID-19. Concerts are canceled, the musicians retire, incomes fall. New tools not just no need, they even cease to export in large stores.

“Musicians — our end-users. And at the moment they are in deep mud. Over the past few years I’ve sold four of its tool the musicians of the NHK Symphony orchestra, the largest orchestra in Japan. And now he is losing millions yen. What can we say about us?” says Simeone Morassi, the owner of one of the oldest workshops in town.

If demand falls and this will happen due to the ongoing crisis, Cremona may go blank. “Dozens of workshops already closed. This is not the limit,” says Stefano Trabucchi. On the table in his workshop lies unfinished violin. Someday she will play, but not today. Today in the streets of Cremona does not play music.