WRTI Arts Desk
6:30 am
Mon January 19, 2015

That Charming Violin Shop Off Rittenhouse Square

In a quaint, historic building on Philadelphia’s Locust Street, just a few doors down from the Curtis Institute of Music, David Michie restores and sells violins and bows, drawing virtuoso musicians from far and wide. WRTI’s Meridee Duddleston paid a visit to this master craftsman.

Michie has much to say about the importance of a high-quality bow. "What the Italians were to string instruments, the French were to bows," he explains. In the 1800s, large blocks of wood from the pernambuco tree were used as ballast in ships making their way from Brazil to France.  And Francois Tourte, who developed the modern bow and is considered the “Stradavarius of bow makers,” took to the wood and started using it. Pernambuco is now an endangered species whose export is restricted. Although carbon fiber and other substitutes are now in the mix, Michie says nothing beats a bow made of pernambuco wood from Brazil.

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