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San Francisco-based Luthier Francis Kuttner has Died 

Kuttner was a leading American luthier and was awarded many honors for his instruments 


Born in Washington D.C., Francis Max Kuttner studied violin making at Cremona, Italy’s Scuola Internazionale di Liuteria between 1974 and 1978. He also studied privately with Francesco Bissolotti — an early advocate for the traditional Cremonese methods of violin making.

After three years studying violins made by Antonio Stradivari at the Museo Civico di Cremona in Italy, Kuttner returned to San Francisco in 1978, supplied with techniques used by classic Italian luthiers.

Many of his violins were based on Stradivari’s designs. For his violins and violas, he was awarded several gold and silver medals across the late 1990s at international competitions in New York City, Ottawa, Cremona, Manchester, and Paris.

Additionally, he received the prestigious “Hors Concours” designation by the Violin Society Of America, served as a judge for various international violin-making competitions, and divided his time between workshops in San Francisco and Cremona.

He was a member of the American Federation Of Violin And Bow Makers, the Violin Society Of America, and the Entente Internationale des Maîtres Luthiers et Archetiers d’Art (International Accord of Master Luthiers and Artistic Bow Makers).

His instruments are notably played by the Alexander String Quartet (ASQ), which chose Kuttner’s Ellen M. Egger quartet set, crafted around 20 years ago “for their superb sound qualities.” The Ellen Egger Quartet also performed on his instruments.

“Recording a Beethoven cycle puts a tremendous strain on the physical instrumental resource, the fiddles and bows. In this case, playing this extraordinary set of fiddles by Francis Kuttner made the process so much easier,” explained ASQ cellist Sandy Wilson.

“Though the instruments were not built to ‘match’ sound, per se, they are all of the same two woods from the same two trees, aged exactly the same and able to resonate in a manner quite unlike almost any combination of instruments we could imagine playing on. As we went from work to work, the use of these gorgeous instruments yielded a consistent and ever growing spectrum of color and depth which I can still feel in my bones as I gradually listen to the finished cycle.”

Our condolences to Mr. Kuttner’s family, friends, and colleagues.

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