Francesco Toto was born in Lecce in 1972. After taking a diploma at the Istituto Statale d’Arte G. Pellegrino, he moved to Cremona where, after a brief spell in Germany to attend a school of restoration, he completed his studies at the Scuola Internazionale di Liuteria.
His workshop, where he makes violins, violas and violoncellos, is located in the 16th-century Palazzo Barbò-Meroni: a historic space in the heart of the city that seems to have been frozen in time: the work table laden with the tools of the craft, gouges, cutters, pliers, files; templates of violins, violas and ’cellos on the walls; tubs of glue and tins of varnish, brushes. To build his violins the master luthier takes his inspiration from historic Guarneri and Stradivari models, while for the ’cellos he uses a model he has designed himself, a revised and amended version of a Ruggeri.
Francesco also constructs sets of instruments for string quartets, like the one ha made in 2016 for the great baritone Leo Nucci.
In 2018 he was invited to take part in the Tokyo Stradivarius Festival, the most important exhibition on Antonio Stradivari ever staged in the East, at which 21 of Stradivari’s instruments were on display, together with one of Toto’s violoncellos to represent contemporary Italian instrument making.
Francesco Toto also carries out an intense and significant teaching activity: it was with him that the talented young Korean Gawang Jung honed his knowledge of the luthier’s art, going on to win the ‘Premio Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte’, an award bestowed on the best luthier of foreign origin resident and working in Italy at the 15th International Competition of Stringed Instruments held in Cremona in 2018.
The craftsman has obtained many marks of recognition: these include the certificate of merit at the 15th International Competition of the Violin Society of America in 2002, the silver medal at the International Competition in Mittenwald, again in 2002, and first prize in the violoncello section at the 11th Triennial International Competition of Stringed Instruments in Cremona and the gold medal of the Centro di Musicologia ‘Walter Stauffer’, both in 2006.
He is currently president of the Unione Liutai CNA, national representative for musical instruments of CNA Artigianato Artistico and a member of the board of advisors of the Museo del Violino in Cremona.