The Search for the Perfect Sound

by Georgi Licovski

Before he started making violins, Svetozar Bogdanovski had spent his whole life as a painter, and never had any intention of making the switch from brushes to bows.

It was only when he discovered his young son’s talent – and how Bogdanovski would be unable to afford an instrument that would allow Kostadin to follow his dreams and fulfill his potential – that he began learning how to make violins.

What began as a hobby and a way to provide cost-effective learning opportunities for his two children – his youngest, Frosina, would soon also want to take up the violin – over the years would grow into an obsessive search for the perfect sound.

“More and more I was moving away from painting and getting deeper into the secrets of making violins and the search for sound,” Bogdanovski tells EPA.

“Тhe sound became an obsession. What used to be paint on canvas became a search for the color of sound – the volume and strength of the sound became my daily occupation.”

Feeding that obsession required an insatiable determination to learn the craft and take on the vast knowledge and varied techniques required to produce an instrument of the highest quality.

“For many, it was illogical, but I didn’t think much about what I was getting myself into. I was determined to succeed,” he says.


Тhe sound became an obsession.'


Violin making is “very complex, delicate and requires substantial knowledge,” as well as specific tools and materials, Bogdanovski explains, pointing out that when he began his journey as a violin master, “there was no internet or YouTube, like today. The literature I had was very poor.”

One of the most important materials is “highly acoustic” wood such as spruce and maple, which, fortunately for Bogdanovski, is found nearby in the mountains of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Because he couldn’t rely on commercial suppliers to provide the quality of wood he required, Bogdanovski would travel to the forests to pick out the trees himself, some of which were up to 400 or 500 years old.

But he soon realized that traveling to choose the best raw materials was not enough to deliver the perfect sound.

“You need to immerse yourself in the profession itself, the construction of the instrument, the construction of the sound, harmonizing everything that makes the instrument play the best sound,” he says.

The last crucial element to making the violin sing is the bow, which Bogdanovski calls a “special chapter of its own” in the painstaking process of manufacturing a violin.

“It requires knowledge of the highest technology, resins, essential oils, and balms. These are found in different areas, they need to be procured, collected, their character studied so a bow can be made which is elastic, tough and durable,” he explains.

It is a “massive process of creating and working,” during which he has relied on the support of his wife – a professional violinist – and fellow artist Tanja Biseva.


As the quality of his craftsmanship improved and his children grew into master violinists playing their father’s handmade instruments, the word got out among leading musicians, who would travel from far and wide to come to his workshop, either to fix their own violins or to purchase one of Bogdanovski’s.

“The reason is the good sound, and the good word travels far,” he says.

His confidence in the quality of his instruments is not hubris – he has twice won prizes at the Violin Society of America (VSA) awards in the United States.

“Today my violins are compared with those of the best classical masters of the Italian Classical Era. It is a great pleasure that we have reached such a high level,” Bogdanovski says, who believes that much of his success has been down to his “artistic intuition”, unlike other luthiers who prefer a more technical approach.

“They use in their labs the most sophisticated technical aids, while I rely on my inner instinct, intuition and feel,” he says.

After more than 30 years on the job, Bogdanovski’s thirst for the perfect sound still has not been quenched.

“Where is the end of this search for the perfect tone? I think that there is no end because the tone is fluid, like the eternal search for the philosopher’s stone in the workshops of the alchemists,” he says.

Although his goal might be a pipe dream, Bogdanovski still feels “immense” pleasure and pride when he hears a violin produce the kind of note he had in mind.

And beyond the quest for tonal quality, new challenges are always presenting themselves to this master craftsman, whose 10-year-old grandson has also taken up the violin, giving Bogdanovski the chance to inspire another generation of musicians and bring joy to his family.

“This is a big reason why we move on,” Bogdanovski says. “I made him a violin and it sounds beautiful in his hands. As they grow, so will their needs and I hope that this story will last for a long time.” EPA

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