Jan Baptist Havelka and his brother Simon Joannes Havelka (or Havelar) worked in Linz, Austria in the latter part of the 18th century. Their work is very fine, entirely in the Prague/Vienna tradition but somehow more refined and artistic than for example Thir or even Strnad at this time. This violin has some restoration but the sound is superb.
As time passes I find myself gravitating more and more towards particular schools of making, and for me the Prague/Vienna makers deserve a lot more attention than they get. After all, this part of the world had one of the most developed musical cultures, as well as great woodworking and craft traditions.
Taking this violin an example, we see all the classic traits – a pronounced S shape to the scroll, a narrow and feminine model, a restrained but well composed one-piece back, and a thick nut-brown varnish. On this violin the arching and the f-holes are unusually fine, and the overall effect is quite beautiful.
It’s been through the wars (probably literally) and there are a number of repairs, all solid and well executed. The back has cracks top right and on the left side of the upper bouts. The table has cracks below each f-hole, wing cracks, a post patch, and various other minor edge cracks. However, nothing jumps out and all repairs are sound.
This is one of those instruments that you can fall in love with. As with many great Cremonese violins, the sound is not assertive or strident, but there’s a huge variety of available colours. It also has the ability of fine Italians to be at once clear and focused yet full of musical personality. It’s very rich harmonically, and the tone carries more through seduction than raw power.
A very mature sounding instrument, best suited to a player who has something to say – ideally suited to recital or any kind of chamber music.
Dimensions: length of back 35.7cm, stop 131/193mm
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