This is an unusually refined violin by George Craske, dated by the Hill firm around 1865. It’s in fabulous condition and the sound is as honeyed as the varnish.

George Craske is a maddening maker. He started out alright, working for William Forster and Thomas Dodd, but then he went a bit rogue – he worked tirelessly and in complete isolation, following his own unique aesthetic, producing a phenomenal number of instruments over a long working life, many of which he never sold.

After his death his inventory passed to the Hill firm – they labelled his instruments, finished those that weren’t finished, and made him into a bit of a phenomenon.

Craske’s work is woefully inconsistent both in aesthetics and in tonal quality, but every now and then you come across a gem such as this. The materials are first class – the ribs are very dramatic with a strong diagonal flame travelling around the violin without interruption, the table is of a lovely rustic broad-grained spruce, and the back is very oppio-like. The varnish is a lustrous gold with a hint of red – in fact we could be looking at a Grancino.

The condition is excellent – there’s a bit of retouch here and there but there are no cracks or repairs other than one over-bent flame in the lower bass rib. The neck has been grafted by Hills and the fingerboard carries the Hill number G736.

As with Tubbs bows, some Craske violins are very unsatisfactory, but the good ones are worth the wait! This is a lovely violin – lightly built, very responsive and sugary sweet. Not one for crushing out the Sibelius in front of the Berlin Phil, but a lyrical and refined sound well suited to chamber music.

The balance is excellent, and all parts of the register have the same character, clear but complex, quite playful, and with a good dynamic range.

One of the nicest looking and best sounding Craskes we have come across, and a very collectable example from this most enigmatic of English makers.

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