Its rich vibrato filled the showroom at Studio City Music, otherwise known as Benning Violins. With his new fiddle fresh from the family workbench, Nathan was the fourth generation of the Benning family to craft a premium concert violin.
"I got it," declared Nathan, lowering his violin toward a green luthier's apron worn just like his father, grandfather, grandmother, great-grandfather and great uncle before him. "I'm happy with it. It's a Stradivarius model. It sounds like a Strad.
"I feel good about it."
As the morning sun cascaded across the 61-year-old Benning showroom this week, his father
And 16-year-old brother Garrett, an accomplished cellist, grinned from across the room alongside family shopkeepers
For in the center of the plate-glass showroom lined with strings dating back to the 17th century were two young hands clutching a spruce and maple instrument good enough to carry on the family's 113-year violin tradition.
"I'm intensely proud," said father
"He's a future master craftsman."
It was in 1901 that Nathan's great uncle
Toenniges then moved to
Their daughter Nancy, a master finisher, became the first woman ever to attend the prestigious school for violin making in Mittenwald,
For decades, the Benning family has unlocked their shop before dawn each day to sit down at two benches covered with clamps, scrapers, planers, bending irons and an arsenal of small cutting tools.
Along a back wall hang bundles of horsehair for making bows. Nearby stand decades of the world's best aged wood -- Bosnian tiger maple for the backs, Bavarian soft spruce for the tops, mountain mahogany for the fittings and pegs. Cutting, bending, joining, gluing, scraping, finishing and varnishing each instrument can take three months.
The Bennings now restore the world's finest instruments and build up to five Benning violins and cellos a year, each commanding roughly
It was there at the family shop that
He wanted his violin to sound deep, like the one his grandfather Hans made for his beloved Nancy. And he wanted it to be true in the template of a Stradivarius, in the Benning family for 70 years.
He carved the f-holes and top scroll by hand, applied the "secret" family varnish, fitted it with four obligato strings.
"I wanted a deeper sound -- thicker, rich, like
"Like dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate,"
Finally, the day came to play it. On
A fourth-generation Benning sang true. And it's not for sale.
"He did it," said
"He's got a good eye. He's got good hands. It looks like it's gonna keep going.
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