Francesco Toto ‘il Salentino’ was born in 1972 in Lecce, a beautiful baroque town in the south of Italy from which he has got his nickname. Being interested in music and in guitar playing since his early teens, he decided at the age of 18 to move to Cremona seeking his fortune in lutherie. His experience at the Violinmaking school was quite short: ‘I consider myself as a selftaught maker: the real school for me was (and is) the town of Cremona itself with its numerous violinmaking shops, with its environment of students, teachers, musicians: one can find so many people to learn from and I was helped during the years by some first class makers that were particoularly generous with me’.
Toto opened his own workshop in 1997 in Cremona in piazza Lodi and soon after he received his first acknowledgments in international competions: he earned bronze medal in Mittenwald 2001, 4th prize in Cremona’s Triennale of 2003 and silver medal in Mittenwald 2005. ‘Competitions are for me the best way today to improve my work: I always prefere those who allows judges to meet the competitors after the prizegiving.It is extremely important to know the opinions of the judges as well as to learn from them the way to improve the style and the making technique; it is also very stimulating to compare my own work with the ones’ of collegues from all around the world. In this sense I can say that competitions are still a further kind of school for me.’ Francesco’s customers are both dealers and musicians and he mostly dedicate himself to violin and cello making with a particoular predilection on the second: his preferred models for violins are the Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ of 1740 ‘Yasye’ and the Antonio Stradivari ‘Lady Blunt’ of 1721 and for cellos he use the 1710 Antonio Stradivari ‘Gore Booth’ and a 1675 Francesco Ruggeri detto ‘Il Per’. As for the materials he not only rely on the best dealers since he was able to buy very good and seasoned wood from deceased or retired violinmakers: ‘Wood is certainly very important: when I make a cello I like very much the use of poplar wood that gives a warm and deep sound and a more ‘antique’ look to the instrument’.
Like many other modern makers Francesco Toto is divided between the modern and the antiqued work: ‘making the antiqued work is always challanging because you have to stay close to the style of one maker’s work, but that should be done with the original instrument on the bench and this is rarely possible for a young maker.
On the other side when I make the ‘new’ instrument I feel more free to follow my instinct’. When not on the working bench Francesco Toto practice the ‘triathlon’, a sport that involve swimming, running and biking. The name of his team? Antonio Stradivari….
The Strad, may 2006 – in Focus on