Diego Bonato’s professional qualifications and training are essentially those of the autodidact. Born in Verona, Italy, in 1959, he began to study the piano at a very early age and attended the Verona Conservatorio where he studied the organ under Renzo Buja; at the same time he attended the Institute of Art where he studied in particular the history of art and design. He explored the technical, aesthetic and practical aspects as the basis for the creation of every type of manufactured artefact.
To satisfy an interest which very soon became a true passion he dedicated himself to the history of the organ and to acquiring a direct knowledge of the organ as a “machine”. He took part in the assembly of some instruments both in the city and the province of Verona, assiduously frequenting the workshops of artisans, learning how to work in wood under the guidance of a local craftsman with whom he completed the constructions of his first instrument in 1983: a double-stopped portable “positive” organ. Shortly afterwards he struck out on his own.
These three areas of study (music/art, design and manual dexterity) werw apparently explored not in a planned programme, and without doing a formal apprenticeship, or through a family tradition, which is usual for aspiring organ-builders.
This fact, that he does not come from a traditional “school” of organ-building, although he possesses the obviously necessary technical-artistic training, competence and knowledge, is perhaps the most important single characteristics of Diego Bonato.
It is this which has enabled him, courageously from the very beginning, and in contrast to the dominant practice, to conceive and build instruments which are different for both the original phonic and technical conception and to declare himself a convinced supporter of the idea that in the approach towards “restoration” and “the new” the organ-builder must tend towards a clear separation between two different ways of thinking, avoiding confusion of intent and mystification of ideals. It is also important to remember that he started working in a period (1970s and 80s) when the practice of restoration in Italy was at a very high qualitative and quantitative level and that in the construction of new instruments, which was also flourishing, the same technical and phonic principles of restoration were uncritically applied.
Helped and encouraged by his old teacher, fellow-students and other famous organists, he began, at first with modest works, then gradually with more and more ambitions ones, to create a career as an organ-builder.
In the course of the last 25 years he has built several new instruments with both mechanical and electric/electronic action, he has done innumerable restorations, restructuring and enlargements of instruments of various epochs and size and of different technical characteristics in both Italy and abroad.
If we consider the choices of organ-history in Italy in the last few decades and the consequent organ-building and playing tendencies, the philosophy which gives life to his work can be summed up as follows: he believes that it is impossible to reach the codification of a single ideal instrument on which to play appropriately every type of music from every organ-school and every epoch, but at the same time that it is useless and misleading simply to copy or imitate; he also believes organ-builders must take into consideration the requirements of ecclesiastical music. Given this, his work is a search for a synthesis of the experiences of the rest of Europe over the centuries, considering the Italian development already concluded. The tendency towards experimental practices and the attention paid to practical needs have always been clear and well-defined in is work.
From the technical/mechanical and phonic point of view all this is translated into the constant and tenacious desire to follow a path which is always aware of technical evolution in the modern sense of the organ as a machine. He has always tried (even in his vole of small artisan) to acquire and utilize avant-garde design and working techniques, and apply them in the construction of every part of the instrument, the uses, for example, computer aided design, serial electronic action, and various laser applications coupled with the use of high quality materials, carefully selected with regard to function, the environment and durability.
The artisan’s workshop, which has been in the village of Castel d’Azzano near Verona since 1984, hoses a design and administration centre, a complete carpenter’s shop, workshop, pipes department with a trial organ, warehouse and stores, and an assembly-room. At present Mr. Bonato has two permanent qualified assistants and also calls on external, independent suppliers and artisans where necessary.