This is a lovely French violin from the mid 19th century. It’s our favourite kind of violin – a ‘campfire Strad” offering an exceptional quality of sound at a modest price.
It’s strange how few Mirecourt trade violins one sees from 1850-1870 – perhaps this was a period of unrest in Alsace, or perhaps it just reflects the fact that industrialisation hadn’t quite got under way yet. Anyway, that’s what we have here, a superior French trade violin which bridges the gap between a Didier Nicolas and a JTL! It’s clearly informed by the style of Lupot, Aldric et al with a bold and broad-grained one-piece front, a well-rounded and rather monolithic scroll, and a great quality of “rugged elegance”. The one-piece back has a deep and dramatic flame, and the varnish is a dramatic fiery red.
The condition is good – there are two well-repaired cracks running down from the right f-hole, and there’s evidence of a repair to the right side of the button. There’s also a repaired tear to the bottom rib, most likely damaged by an over-tight chinrest. Otherwise there are just the normal signs of wear from a well-used violin.
Soundwise this violin is a stunner – very loud, very responsive, very easy to play, with a warm and creamy tone that doesn’t sacrifice edge and articulation. Overall it’s quite a dark instrument, but there’s plenty of grit if you play close to the bridge. It couldn’t be further in character from what people think of as a typical French violin, the sort of stiff and nasal “clarinet tone” we encounter in some Parisian trade instruments of the period. It’s very rewarding to play – lots of overtones and different colours to be found. It’s also one of the best violins I’ve come across for Irish music – it has that sticky and slightly mysterious midrange that makes all the difference in articulating dance tunes. However, it’s also a great instrument for classical repertoire, well balanced and versatile.
All in all, a great violin for the price, and guaranteed to improve the vibe in any musical setting!