Enrico Rocca was the son of Giuseppe Antonio (1807–1865), one of the greatest violin makers of the 19th century. He himself ranks among the finest modern Italian violin makers. Yet both Roccas began their working life in fields other than the profession that would eventually bring them fame but, alas, not fortune.
Giuseppe was originally a pasticciere - a baker and pasta seller - in Alba, but by the time Enrico was born in 1847 he had become a fine violin maker in Turin, having worked for Giovanni Francesco Pressenda. Although it would have been logical for Enrico to follow his father into violin making from a young age, his career was delayed due to his father's turbulent life and sudden death.
The second half of the 19th century was perhaps the poorest period in the history of Italian violin making, with few makers able to sustain a living exclusively through their profession. One of the reasons behind their plight was the steady ascent of the Parisian school during the early 19th century, with dozens of fine craftsmen including J.B. Vuillaume, as well as members of the Gand, Bernardel, Silvestre and Chanot families, producing beautiful instruments. The French capital had gradually taken over Italy's position as the 'mecca of the violin', with the emergence of its fine school of violin playing and composition, led by Viotti and his pupils such as Rode, Baillot and Kreutzer. At the same time the aesthetics of the Lupot and Vuillaume schools began to outshine those of their Italian contemporaries in the context of the rich musical environment of French Romanticism. To make matters more difficult for the Italians, this period coincided with the disruption and uncertainty of the Italian Unification (Risorgimento), followed by further unrest caused by the Wars of Independence from the Austrian Empire.
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