Patrick Robin’s violin making blends the fruits of excellent training and abundant experience with perennial openness. A portrait by Corilon violins
The seeds of great art flourish in the relationship between teachers and students, and like most sophisticated forms of craftsmanship, the art of violin making has survived because practical knowledge has been passed down in good faith from master to journeyman since the Renaissance. Master luthier Patrick Robin is also profoundly convinced of this principle, not least because he himself has enjoyed the privilege of receiving magnificent training. As the esteemed award-winning maker of premium stringed instruments, he traditionally shares his expert knowledge within the quiet rooms of his atelier, although he also teaches at workshops and conferences held at highly respected teaching institutes such as Oberlin College or the violin-making school in Santiago de Querétaro, Mexico.
In 2000, the French ministry of culture bestowed the honour of a “maître d’art” upon Patrick Robin for the perfection of his work and for his expertise as an instructor. The fact that Robin has fully earned this title can be seen in the fruits of his students’ labour, such as Antoine Cauche, who himself is now a sought-after and distinguished luthier. Cauche describes his former master as an exceedingly patient teacher who provided thorough instruction yet allowed his students a certain degree of artistic liberty — a man who motivated students and cared about having a trusting working relationship with them. At the same time, Patrick Robin has emphatically stated that he in turn also benefits from working with his assistants. Having confidence the growing skills of his students and gradually giving them more and more responsibilities in the course of their education is something he regards as positive, and so is having to find answers to their demanding questions.
Patrick Robin’s own path began at the violin-making school in Newark, New Jersey, where he completed his training with honours in 1984. Roger Hargrave, once an instructor in Newark and a violin-making expert of worldwide acclaim, then invited him to join an international team of restorers which specialized in valuable stringed instruments from the historic Italian schools. Patrick Robin’s intense focus on these pieces helped him learn to create excellent replicas. To this day he crafts his own richly expressive instruments in the spirit of their historic predecessors, even though they still retain their own stylistic distinction.
In a series of influential violin-making competitions – in Concours Vatelot, Paris, Mittenwald violin making competition, Manchester, and other contests to name a few – he earned gold medals for his violins, violas and celli, and he himself was also asked to serve as a juror at multiple international competitions. In 1988 Patrick Robin settled in Les Ponts-de-Cé, France, south of Angers, where he initially shared an atelier with Andrea Frandsen. In 2006 he established his current atelier in a villa on the banks of the Loire. There he receives an international clientele which includes members of widely esteemed European orchestras and chamber ensembles, such as the Aron Quartet from Vienna or the Zehetmair Quartet. This very fruitful exchange of ideas with top-ranking musicians is what allows Patrick Robin to keep expanding his knowledge – the solid cornerstone of tomorrow’s highly esteemed works of art.
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