Classical Music

Japanese Luthier Tetsuo Matsuda has Died, Aged 77

The master maker, who trained in Cremona, worked in Chicago for much of his career


The Japanese luthier Tetsuo Matsuda, whose instruments were known and loved by players all over the world, has passed away at aged 77.

Born and raised in the small village of Akita, Matsuda fell in love with classical music upon moving to Tokyo as a young adult, where he worked in a guitar shop. Despite not having taken formal lessons as a child, he began to learn both the guitar and the violin more seriously to gain a better understanding of sound production.

In 1977, Matsuda moved to Cremona, Italy, to focus exclusively on violin-making. His reputation grew quickly, and he won fifth place at the 1981 Wieniawski Competition and second place at the 1982 Cremona Competition.

A move to Chicago followed, where Matsuda worked for a time in another luthier’s workshop before setting out on his own. He became widely acknowledged as a master craftsman and received the Gold Medal of the Violin Society of America in 1984.

Matsuda firmly believed that much of his journey into violin making could be traced back to his childhood.

“With my eyes closed, whenever I mused over what violin sound is, my uncle’s singing voice, not too strong yet tenacious and far reaching, started resounding through my head and I felt that I heard his voice overlapped with the sound of the famous Italian violins,” he said.

“Thinking about colors of varnish reminds me of splendidly colored leaves in autumn in the country mountains,” he added. “Looking back upon my past, I say to myself that though I was brought up in an environment without a history of instrument manufacture, my instincts were fostered in that mountain village of mine.”

“We already miss him, and know that this loss is deeply felt by many — but knowing that his instruments will continue to bring pleasure to those creating and enjoying music helps to fill that emptiness,” wrote Matsuda’s son on social media.

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

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