Rather like a number 51 bus, you can wait and wait for a Couturieux, and then two come along at once. Very little is known about this maker who worked briefly for JB Vuillaume – as far as I know he didn’t make instruments under his own label, and we know him mainly from his signature found inside this violin and a viola we also have for sale.
This is a grand French violin, quite reminiscent of the work of ASP Bernardel. It’s a big and bold instrument with a very dramatic varnish, red over a yellow ground. The one-piece back is a work of art in itself and too French for words! The quality of work is terrific – very sophisticated scroll, nice meaty edgework, excellent materials and varnish.
The condition is generally very good – there’s a post patch in the table, a wing crack to the right f-hole and an 11cm crack to the upper bass side of the table. The button has been grafted but otherwise the back is clean, as are the ribs and scroll.
If you’re a taller player and can handle the size, this violin is a lot of fun. Many French violins of the period are on the big side – this one is 36.2 in the back. Sometimes the size doesn’t match with the sound, but this one sounds huge! Great fun to play, very responsive, with unlimited reserves of power. I have even tried playing it with a cello bow but I can’t make it buckle! And yet the tone is very sophisticated, quite complex, capable of real delicacy. Quite rare to find a violin that’s charming at low volume and yet a real slugger if you push. It always sounds musical and is very well balanced and consistent throughout the register. All in all a fully realised piece of violin-making …
Dimensions: Length of back 36.2cm, stop 131/195mm
Certificate: JJ Rampal, Paris 2015
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