Antonín Pilaš belonged to one of the great Czech violin-making dynasties, members of which are still active today. This is a very well preserved example of his wartime production – it’s a great sounding instrument with a big bright sound.

Although based for most of his career in Berlin, Antonín Pilaš spent the war years with his family in a small cottage in the village of Stará Paka. he had a small workshop there with basic tools and materials taken from his shop in Berlin.

This violin shows no loss in quality for being made under the constraints of wartime. It’s a lovely personal model, the work is first class and the materials too – very fine-grained spruce with a distinct fleck to the table, and a dramatically flamed one-piece back. The scroll is beautifully proportioned and perfectly executed.

Overall this violin is in excellent condition – there’s a small edge crack to the right of the chinrest but there are no other cracks or repairs. All edges and corners are sharp and unworn, and the original varnish is remarkabley well preserved apart from a small dunt below the treble f-hole.

Like other Pilaš violins we have sold, this instrument has a vibrant, bright and solistic tone. It’s a superb violin all round – I know I sound like a broken record, but the Czech makers of the 20th century really pulled everything together, and from my point of view theirs is the best making of the period.

But back to this example …

Above all it has a great combination of clarity and character – it feels very articulate and quite surgical, yet it’s also always musical and charming. It’s not a shy instrument – it’s capable of some serious volume and would cope with a big stage, but it can also be played intimately. The action is very comfortable, and the playing experience is excellent – great response, consistent in attack and tonal colour throughout the register.

Very much a Strad sound, silvery, projecting, refined yet robust, and a great violin for a budding soloist.

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