This is a violin which has so far resisted all attempts at identification. Made in the copy style, most likely by the Dollenz family in Trieste, it’s an outstanding concert instrument with a rich, complex, bright voice.
Sometimes you come across an instrument which just foxes everyone.This violin presents the trickiest kind of scenario for experts in that it’s a deliberate amalgam of styles, incorporating some archaic elements, made with old wood, and cleverly antiqued. It has been suspected of being anything from a 17th century Ruoff to a Mantegazza or a John Lott, but the strongest possibility is that it’s the work of the Dollenz family, who were known to make and circulate “old Italian violins” and to incorporate some of these techniques.
When it comes to pricing we just have to take such an instrument on its merits. Here we see a supremely educated and sophisticated piece of work made of first class materials with an opulent red craquelled varnish. The work is very fine – even the Brescian style scroll is cut beautifully. The arching is very flat and tonally successful, the f-holes elegantly cut too. Everything oozes quality.
The little patches in the maple of the back are a further enigma – impossible to say if they are nail-holes from reclaimed timber, or a clever piece of antiqueing.
There are some minor condition issues – the back seam has been reglued, there’s a button repair, and the table has a small post crack and a crack leading down from the bass f-hole. All repairs are professionally executed.
Everyone would like to believe that when it comes to violins, price follows quality. But deep down we all know it’s not true, and that many instruments by renowned makers are a disappointment. This violin proves the point well – it has a superb soloist sound, and yet this doesn’t help with identification one little bit.
While it doesn’t adhere to any particular model, its dimensions are classically Italian – back length 35.3cm (the sweet spot for solo instruments), wide upper and lower bouts and flat powerful arching. The resulting sound is quite remarkable.
The first thing to say is that it’s not discreet – it’s a loud instrument with a lot of projection, very bright and bold! I know these are qualities which are normally associated with harshness and a lack of subtlety, but this violin will confound your expectations. It has a very sophisticated tone, electric and full of life – an unusually wide range of colours, but always bristling with energy and always sweet and musical. It’s also a real workhorse – it will take any amount of bow pressure without choking. It really excels in the upper register, but the G is also full and throaty.
We don’t expect anyone to buy an instrument like this on the basis of our description alone – you need to play it yourself to understand what it can achieve. But if you’re looking for a strong voice for a big stage, at once expressive and highly individual, then you should definitely try this violin. We have been dealing in instruments for a good while now, and the one thing I can tell you for sure is that a violin with this quality of sound turns up once in a blue moon – whatever the price tag.