"Music and instruments are like twins...
Violin making is a wonderful gift of God and nature is the greatest master!
The inspiration I get to make my instruments come from the arts, the ancient temples and churches of Greece. Also inspiring for me are the big geniuses: Rostropovich, Oistrach, Kogan, Bron, Vengerov, Bashmet, Geringas, Maisky and others. These musicians heal people like doctors. They are the cure for the soul of humanity."
Welcome to Cremona, Capital of Violin Making!
Creating an instrument with a depth of character relies on centuries of tradition - most of which belongs to Cremona, a town in Northern Italy, the most famous centre for the production of stringed instruments in the world. Cremona claims to be the birthplace of the violin when Andrea Amati, invented the prototype modern violin from the viol - the Medieval fiddle. Almost a hundred years later, the most famous of the violin-makers, Antonio Stradivari, began to work in Cremona. Rich in his predecessors’ experience, he developed the research in the art of making stringed instruments in order to obtain instruments which could meet with the requirements of the music of his time. The greatest masterpieces, the history of the art of making stringed instruments ever knew, were thus born...
Today one of the most well known violin-makers in Cremona is Leonidas Rafaelian where for many years now, he has been operating a workshop (Cremona, Capital of Violin Making) in the historic center of the town.
EARLY YEARS AND MUSIC
Born in Athens, he began playing violin at the age of seven. He graduated from viola at the Conservatory of Yerevan, Armenia. First, he performed in the Radio Television Orchestra in Yerevan and later from the 70s in the Miskolc Symphonic Orchestra and in the Avas Folkloric Group in Hungary.
In 1990 he moved to Italy and became an apprentice of Maestro Gio Batta Morassi at his workshop. Leonidas received his diploma as violinmaker in 1995 and since then has participated in various Violinmaking competitions and won prestigious prizes (including the 1998 International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow and in 1999 and 2001 at the National competition in Baveno (Italy) with silver medals). Also he has been a member of ALI (Italian Violin Makers' Association) and the Consorzio Liutai A. Stradivari.
INSTRUMENTS AND WORLD FAMOUS ARTISTS
As a musician and violin maker he has collaborated with world famous musicians (like Maestro Rostropovich, M. Bashmet, M. Bron, M. Maisky, M. Vengerov, M. Kavakos, M. Rachlin, M. Rossi, M. Tomaszewski and many others) in order to make better and better instruments listening carefully to their needs. A connection between the player and the maker is something, which differentiates him from others.
Thus he bulit several instruments for world famous artists like Maestro Mstislav Rostropovich, for whom he built a cello modelled on the "Storioni 1760". For Maestro Zakhar Bron, a violin modelled on Guarneri 1739, for Maestro Maxim Vengerov and Maestro Shlomo Minz, he made two violins, modelled on Stradivari "Kreutzer 1727" and Guarneri del Gesu "Vieuxtemps 1741" and for Maestro Yuri Bashmet a viola modelled on "Testore 1756". His instruments can also be found in the Berlin Philharmonic, Germany, the RTVE Symphony Orchestra in Madrid, Spain and the Lithuanian National Symphony Orchestra in Vilnius.
Great moments in a violin-maker's life are when he sees a big musician playing on his instrument. It was on his cello that Maestro Rostropovich performed Joseph Haydn's C-major concerto in Cremona's Teatro Ponchielli on 9th October 2004 and in Bari on 11th October 2004. The Maestro also played on the Rafaelian 15 times on his world tour in the United Stated, Japan and Europe.
Recently Maestro Roby Lakatos plays on his violin.
PHILANTROPHY - HELPING PEOPLE
Beside his career as a musician and violin maker Leonidas is also active in philanthropic work. To mention but a few here: collecting food and cargo - between the Caritas charity of Cremona and the Hungarian Charity Service of the order of Malta since 1992, aid for the building of Miskolc Children's Hospital, 1983. Organizing concerts - Greek National Evening with the participation of artists from the Miskolc National Theatre and Symphonic Orchestra in Hungary, 1981, aid concert for the handicapped, Soviet House of Culture, 1983, also for the the victims of the Earthquake in Armenia, 1989. Promoting the cooperation of cultural institutions - exchange between Music Schools Egressy in Miskolc, Hungary and Neo Odeio in Thessaloniki, Greece, 1989. Also helping other violin makers - exhibition of contemporary Italian violin makers in Budapest, Hungary, 1992 and also in Vienna, Austria, 2000.
With his day to day work as a violin maker he continues to support important issues that serve the local community and the humanity of our world.