Biografical picture book

How I came to build keyboard instruments, a retrospective

I went to high school in Wernigerode (Harz), a school specialized for music education, where I sang at the former radio youth choir. It was a boarding school, we did not see our parents very often. Afterwords I studied Music and German language for two years at the University “Martin Luther” in Halle/ Saale. My former piano teacher suggested that I should go and see the collection of musical instruments at the Händel-Haus (Handel's birth place). I was so impressed by that visit that only a few years later I would return there to work. During an apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker specialized in inlay work my love for wood as a material was awakened. I began to be interested in all kinds of woodworking.

When I was 22 years old I got a job as musical instrument restorer at the Händel-Haus in Halle. The job was connected with a training course at the Deutsches Museum in Berlin and later at the University of Applied Science in Berlin, finishing with a degree as musical instrument restorer in 1996.

The first seven years at the museum in Halle were very formative for me and for the way I work. Having financial security and with the help of many colleagues I learned how to restore keyboard musical instruments, I began to take an interest in the history of the piano, I learned how to tune early keyboard instruments, I visited many musical instrument museums, I met many colleagues from all over Europe and the United States and I began to do research on Bartolomeo Cristofori's instruments at the Grassi-Museum in Leipzig. Cristofori's piano and his hammer action were so inspiring for me that I began to build a copy of that instrument.

The years in the museum in Halle coincided with the big political changes after the unification of Germany. I used the new possibilities to travel for my unconventional Wanderjahre (to work with other colleagues as a sort of apprenticeship) which occupied many years of my life.

Interest, openness, thirst for knowledge and adventurousness took me to colleagues in Germany and abroad, who welcomed me for shorter or longer periods. In 1993 I spent three weeks in the workshop and in the house of Mimi Waitzman and Donald Mackinnon in London. In 1996 I stayed for three weeks with the Cristofori piano in construction in the workshop and the house of William Jurgenson in Lauffen/ Neckar and in the same year for two months in the restoration workshop of the Grassi-Museum in Leipzig. In 1997 Donatella Degiampietro, Antonella Conti and Barbara Mingazini welcomed me together with my Cristofori piano, still in construction, for half a year in their restoration workshop at the Accademia Bartolomeo Cristofori in Florence. Here in December of the same year the inaugural concert of my first instrument, the Cristofori piano, took place. I worked and lived for 17 years in the workshop and house of the English harpsichord maker Tony Chinnery

In Italy, apart from the fruitful collaboration with Tony Chinnery, an active cooperation with the Galleria dell'Accademia developed. In 2001 the Florentine musical instrument collection of the conservatory „Luigi Cherubini“ reopened in two new restored halls of the Galleria thanks to the initiative of the former director of the Galleria Franca Falletti (active until 2013). Here I carried out interesting restoration and copy building projects and here I was invited to do projects far from my actual profession, leading to new prospectives like giving guided tours through the collection and producing some CD's.

In 2008 I founded my own firm with its name ANIMUS CRISTOPHORI (in the spirit of Cristofori)

In 2015, after many years in Italy, I came back to my home town Zerbst in Sachsen/ Anhalt (Germany). I am happy to work in my own workshop now.