“A Vuillaume by any other name would smell as sweet …”! Here we have a superb sounding violin by Vuillaume’s right hand man, Charles Adolphe Maucotel. It is in almost all respects indistinguishable from a Vuillame, and it has a superb concert sound.
Few people have had such a profound effect on the world of violins as JB Vuillaume, myth-maker and salesman extraordinaire. To this day the violins made in his workshop fetch staggering prices, and yet they are in no way better than the independent work of the many talented luthiers who he emplyed – amongst them Hippolyte Silvestre, Honoré Derazey, Auguste Darte, and Charles Adolphe Maucotel. Maucotel had a short life, but in the brief period after he left the Vuillaume workshop he produced some spectacular instruments which are highly prized for their sound.
This example is typical of his work – a broad Stradivari model with very flat arching, a noble and very accomplished scroll, inked on the chamfers, back pins half under the purfling, and a dramatically flames one-piece back. The condition is relatively good – the back, ribs and scroll are perfect, but the table has a repaired crack leading down from the right f-hole and a very discreet patched post crack in the table. The dark streaks we see in the table are inherent in the wood, and quite characteristic of this maker.
This is a very big and bold violin, yet it doesn’t suffer from the unpleasant stridency of a lot of Vuillaumes. It is without doubt a soloist’s instrument, and if you have sensitive ears I don’t recommend it. But if you want to be heard then read on! The sound is clear and projecting, very open yet not in any way wild or ragged. The dynamics are consistent throughout the register – the E string is pretty stunning, the G is fruity and broad, and everything in between is strong, articulate, yet musical. For concerto repertoire it would be hard to beat – you can play in 10th position on the G, pretty much on the bridge, without any loss of quality. I have played dozens of Vuillaumes, and I would say this violin is equal to the best of them – all in all, an excellent choice for a serious conservatoire student or a cash-strapped pro who yearns for a Vuillaume!
Length of back 35.7cm, stop 130/195mm
JJ Rampal, Paris 2016
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