Humanist mind, artisan hands. Body and soul come together in the modelling of four-stringed works of art.
David Bagué is one of the most celebrated luthiers in the world, and his exquisite work is promoted by the greatest masters such as Ruggiero Ricci, Leonidas Kavakos and Jordi Savall, who treasure his instruments.
Nostalgia from other eras, passion for the profession, absolute dedication and inflexible discipline are the virtues that make up his introverted and perfectionist character, that is later imprinted upon each instrument. An authentic sculptor of sound who is neither altered with the passage of time nor does he let new technologies change his rhythm of life.
A master of the past in today’s world.
Isn’t it overwhelming to be one of the most talented luthiers in the world?
I’d have to agree with this statement! The problem is when the person believes more in what they say about him than in himself. Since I was a child, I have passionately defended my profession because I believe in what I do.
Have you been able to reach the transcendence that the celebrated Stradivarius name has achieved?
What obsession and delirium with this name! The attitude, yes, but we work in another era that is very different from the one from a few centuries ago with different values and incentives, but here we are, admiring it with great respect.
In fact, your work has been esteemed by all of the great performers, such as the Master Ruggiero Ricci, Leonidas Kavakos, Abel Tomàs (Casals Quartet), Sophie Enrich (Concertmaster Komische Oper Berlin), Wilfried Hedenborg (Wienner Philharmoniker), etc.
Every time a musician asks me to make an instrument, it feels like a miracle because this person is trusting me and my work. Obviously it fills me with satisfaction to have great performers as clients, but it also fills me with admiration to see that a family makes this physical, mental and spiritual investment of pleasure so their child can play the violin. In this regard, I make instruments for everyone who wants them and believes in my dream. So, the appreciation is absolutely transversal for everyone.
A dream that you’ve had since childhood... In fact, what is the first sound that you remember?
The sound of my mother’s piano. She is a piano teacher and my earliest memories are of that instrument, which is still in her house. Also the violin that my father bought for me or one of my brothers to play.
They say that hearing is the sense that is most difficult to remember; is that true?
In the case of instruments, the first sense is the visual or aesthetic; a string instrument must have an appeal that captivates you with its presence. Once you have perceived it through sight and it has fascinated you on the aesthetic level, the sense of touch intervenes. Smell comes immediately after. Lastly is the sound. If the instrument has not gone through the previous three senses – sight, touch and smell – the hearing test won’t pass because the sound will not captivate you or transport you because there are no expectations. The instrument is conceived as a jewel and it must attract all of the senses.
And it started at 12 years old…
When I was 12, I decided to make my first instrument after watching a television show. From there, I took the violin from my house and disassembled it so I could later tell my parents that I was going to devote myself to this. They were the key. Nothing happened. They were delighted, and they let me be what I wanted to be. I’ve was lucky enough to live in the Gracia district of Barcelona, which is the area of the city where the largest number of artisans came together.
A 100% handcrafted conscience…
For me, it is much more interesting to be an intellectual of the hands and know where you conduct them and how you conduct them. The origin of humans is much more visceral and artisanal than intellectual. Thought and reasoning come after emotion and from the necessity to create something, whether to eat, to protect yourself or to distract yourself. Certainly the artisan trade is much more organic and transcendental than we often think…
Who have your idols been?
My teacher, luthier Mathys Adriaan Heyliger (Cremona). They always end up being the same ones. I admire people who have devoted their lives to their cause or who love what they do. I have had the pleasure and the honour of being the luthier of Maestro Ruggiero Ricci (1918–2012), an Italian-American violinist. What a luxury! What charisma! A grand master of life. He was a clear example of the most absolute dedication, along with all of its consequences. In general, I admire people who truly devote their lives to what they’re passionate about and who accompany me in this project.
I can sense your emotion
If we don’t get excited, we don’t learn. We have to get excited to be able to do things well.
Hands and mind go together…
That is the virtue of the artisan. The hands are the extension of thought, and if you want to make a good product, it has to be well thought-out and well executed, whether it’s a violin or a shoe.
What is your method of production?
I have tried to use an old way of thinking, an attitude towards the profession and a way of doing things as they were done before. In this regard, I have marked a difference without thinking of it as a trend and by putting my work at the forefront.
Now there is a new resurgence of the handcrafted tradition and its values in an oversaturated market of homogeneous products. What are your thoughts?
I am very critical of the current craftsmanship, which is full of non-authenticity. For me, the word craftsmanship is very serious when it’s at the service of a profession. Craftsmanship is a true profession and in all regards: it’s not the same to make a curtain or a pair of earrings from a coconut palm just to put them on the market on Sunday. This is very hippy and cool, but without transcendence.
All of that is not craftsmanship how I understand it, simply an evolution of simple work with your hands. Authentic professions have a basis of ideas, thought and technique that you must know, and a generational transfer from artisanal masters. A transfer of knowledge to know the materials and the processes to make better products that are inherited from the renaissance to our time. I’m talking about great craftsmanship.
The artisan is an artist…
I’ve always thought about it like that. The true work of art is that which makes you forget about the substance from which it’s made, and the artisan is the executor that manipulates the substance to create that piece. That’s what I admire about the artisans of the past, that absolute dedication.
There are artisans who are not artists, and artists who are not artisans. Technique is the craftsmanship that makes you free to be an artist.
Do you have any particular anecdotes?
Well, yes; after finishing a concert of (Radio-Sinfonie-Orchester Frankfurt), the concertmaster Ulrich Edelmann asked the master violinist Leonidas Kavakos which Stradivarius he had played with, and he confirmed that his Stradivarius had been put away, and that he had played the concert with a new violin made in Barcelona. About a week later, the concertmaster showed up at my workshop to order an instrument from me.