This is a very fine mid/20th century violin by one of the great Czech makers, Karel Pilar. It’s a beautiful looking instrument in near mint condition, with a very responsive and engaging concert sound.
For some reason the West has still to wake up to the extraordinary qualities of Czech violins. Maybe it’s to do with associations of communism, maybe it’s the funny accents on the names, or maybe it’s more to do with the inordinate number of fakes. But when you see the genuine article there’s no mistaking it, and the quality is undeniable. And why wouldn’t it be? Prague is one of the great European capitals – you have only to wander the streets to see the level of architectural sophistication and opulence.
Here we have another superb mid-20th century Czech violin – not strictly a Prague maker, though Pilar started his career in Prague. The workmanship is of the highest order, the varnish too. And with wood this beautiful, why would anyone bother with antiqueing? The model is based on Guarneri with rather open and sloping c-bouts, otherwise the work is very distinctive to the maker, with tightly carved edges, subtle fluting to the f-holes and a gorgeous golden red varnish.
The condition is perfect – no cracks or damages, and very little edge wear. Very nice to have a certificate of authenticity from the maker’s grandson Vladimir Pilar, also a talented violin maker.
With all the problems associated with antique instruments (restoration, instability, authenticity) it’s understandable that many players gravitate towards new instruments. But a violin of this age seems to me to offer the best of all possible worlds, still in perfect condition yet with some maturity of sound and individuality in the building.
It’s a great violin – powerful and articulate but also very responsive. The dimensions and archings are designed for maximum projection or soloist edge, but it’s not harsh or overly bright in sound. Rather it has great clarity and precision – very solid in the lower register, and an outstanding breadth of tone on the E string right into the dusty reaches of the fingerboard.
This would be an ideal instrument for a serious conservatoire student or budding soloist, and it will play the socks off pretty much any Italian instrument costing 5 times the price.
Dimensions: length of back 35.3 cm, stop 131/195 mm
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