The Albani family played a huge role in the development of violin-making, and yet their instruments are rarely seen. This violin is a very interesting example, following very closely on the work of Matthias but made by his son Michael. Always more successful tonally than Stainer (the other Tyrolean), this violin is no exception.

At first glance you would be forgiven for thinking this violin was Venetian, and in fact the early Venetian makers – Gofriller, Montagnana etc- were the direct inheritors of the Albani style. Where Stainer’s influence spread north, the Albani tradition moved south (or east to be pedantic). Quite literally, violins travelled along the south slopes of the Alps, and there was an intimate day to day connetion between Bolzano and Venice.

The deep fiery red varnish, the beautifully swept lower f-hole tongues, and the flat arching across the corners, these are all traits that we associate with Venice. The table arch is also long and full with a heavy crosswise dome.

Very beautiful work, with an exquisite scroll that at one time sported a couple of gemstones.

This is quite a heavily restored violin – there are various well-repaired cracks to the table and an invisibly repaired crack half the length of the back (on the right side). Also the bottom sixth of the back has been replaced entirely – an astounding piece of work, which you can only really detect by examining the inner back. All these repairs are executed to a very high standard, and the violin is sound. The varnish is spectacular, with a typical craquelure in the thickest areas around the corners and in the scroll fluting.

It’s very hard to know how to price a violin like this. Good Matthias Albanis sell for over 6 figures now, and while this example is a bit tatty and by the son, it’s also quite majestic and it plays beautifully.

The sound is unique – it’s very clean and precise yet also resonant and full of depth. I was in a room a few months ago with two well-known players and one of the world’s finest restorers, and I was playing through a few violins – when I picked this one up they all stopped what they were doing. All had immediately felt this violin had something special.

Although it has a free and musical voice, it responds unusually well to nuances of bow control – it’s also quite resistant, and its essential clarity remains, however hard you press with the bow.

Ideal for Classical repertoire (by that I mean pre-Romantic), it will do Brahms, but really it’s Mozart and Baroque repertoire that reveal its true beauty.

If you are prepared to live with a few condition issues, this is an exceptional very early violin at a silly price.

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