This is a rare and very pretty violin by the 18th century Dutch maker Jacques Lefebvre – it’s a superb sounding instrument in good restored condition.

The makers of the Low Countries are well known for the exceptional tonal qualities of their instruments – from Kleynman onwards, their names are well known amongst musicians. Jacobs, Hofmanns, Cuypers, these are the principal makers of the school, but there are many more obscure makers. Lefebvre seems to have trained in France, and his particular style sits somewhere between Rombouts and the Vieux Paris makers like Guersan.

This lovely violin is quite late in his opus – the model harks back very much to Rombouts with its very swept f-holes and its very solid and rounded scroll, but the varnish is a warm orange of the type favoured in Paris at the time, and the arching seems more Vieux Paris than Amsterdam.

The condition is a bit of a mixed bag – the back, ribs and scroll are generally in excellent condition, but the table has various restorations mainly on the treble side, including a soundpost patch, 3 parallel cracks running down from the right f-hole, and a smaller crack in the upper right. There’s also a small insert to the outer edge of the bass f-hole, a small edge crack in the upper right back, and a bit of lateral damage to the back over the bottom block. All of these issues are well repaired.

The sound of this violin is exceptional. I wouldn’t claim that it’s appropriate for a Russian power player slugging through the Romantic concertos on a big stage, but for most other purposes it would be hard to beat. It has a refined and sweet sound, rich in harmonics but still clear and sophisticated. The response is very lively and unusually uniform throughout the register, with outstanding articulacy on every note. The G string is full, the middle strings are crisp and open, and the E string really blossoms. There’s not much sludge to hide behind, but this is a violin which will give back anything you put into it, and always with an emotive and strangely more-ish quality.

This would be an outstanding instrument for chamber music – worthy of a serious performer, with a beautiful, distinctive and carrying voice.

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