This is a superb example of the work of François Louis Pique – it’s a first-class concert violin in excellent condition, and one of the most attractive French violins we have ever seen.
Pique is an intriguing maker. He sits in the shadow of Nicolas Lupot, and yet the relationship between the two makers seems to have been one of equals. They worked together and collaborated informally over a long period of time, and while there are some stylistic differences, often we need an internal signature to know who made a particular violin.
Lupot is widely acknowledged to be the greatest French maker, and one of the few non-Italians to merit eye-watering prices, yet the adoption of the Stradivari model that brought him such fame was as much Pique’s initiative as Lupot’s.
We will probably never know the exact relationship between the two – all that we can say is that currenly a Pique can be had for less than half the price of a Lupot, yet the work is absolutely on the same level. Both makers are valued for exactly the same robust and colourful sound that can fill a concert hall.
This is the third Pique we have had for sale, and it’s a beauty – a lustrous orange-red varnish, very elegant arching and modelling, and a dramatically flamed one-piece back. The condition is outstanding – a small soundpost crack on the table, a coule of minor edge cracks, nothing else.
This violin was for a long time the working instrument of the concertmaster of the leading US opera company, and it exudes quality. It’s not an instrument for a shrinking violet – in the words of a well-loved Croatian folk song “I’m a violin – don’t try to play me if you don’t know what you’re doing …”.
I feel duty bound to say that it doesn’t allow for lazy playing – you only get out what you put in, but there are no limits to what it can do in the right hands.
Its qualities of projection are quite extraordinary – it takes a while to get used to the sheer power of the sound, but it also has subtlety and nuance. The sound is full spectrum, plenty of growl in the low register, a beautiful shimmer in the upper reaches, clarity and articulacy everywhere in between.
Perhaps the most notable quality in this violin is its freshness – for an instrument that was made 230 years ago, it sounds for all the world like a great modern. In this respect it’s very like a Stradivari, entirely lacking in weakness or idiosyncrasy, just 100% pure essence of violin.