Gand & Bernardel were the pre-eminent French violin-makers of the late 19th century. Here we have a great sounding violin made by them in 1885 and still in outstanding condition.

There is no shortage of Gand & Bernardel violins in the world – the firm was very prolific for over 20 years. Not all sound good, in fact many a violinist’s derogatory remarks about “the French sound” probably derive from a bad experience with a Gand & Bernardel!

However, the workmanship is always remarkable, the materials are excellent, and every now and then you come across one like this which sounds tremendous. All the more surprising that it’s had so little use – there are no cracks or damages anywhere, and the original varnish is almost unblemished. There’s a small amount of chipping around the treble f-hole from post adjustment, there’s some player wear to the treble c-bout edge, and a small impact mark to the lower treble bout edge. Otherwise it’s in top condition, never opened, and it retains its original pegs.

This violin is pretty much the opposite of what you’d expect from a late 19th century French instrument – it’s warm, rich and open, definitely on the darker side of the spectrum but with excellent carrrying power. Its most obvious quality is a velvety smoothness which is present in the entire register, but there’s also quite an aggressive bite waiting to be called into action.

It’s one of those instruments that I find I don’t want to put down – it’s easy to travel into the sound and find its colours, it’s very adaptable, and it rewards effort.

Ultimately this violin has the character of the earlier 19th century pre-Vuillaume makers like Gand, Chanot and ASP Bernardel – a big, bold and fruity sound with a tremendous high register.

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