This is a very fine del Gesu copy by Paul Blanchard from around 1910. It’s in mint condition and the sound is first class – a highly collectable example of this maker’s best work.
Paul Blanchard is perhaps the most respected maker of the Lyon school, and he is best known for his excellent del Gesu copies, which are always exquisitely made and tonally outstanding.
Although it bears multiple brands and signatures inside, this violin remains unlabelled – according to Jean-Jacques Rampal, this indicates that it was unsold during the maker’s lifetime, putting its date of manufacture in the last two years of his life.
It’s very rare to find any hundred year old violin in this condition – apart from a couple of very small dunts to the varnish it remains as it was when it left the Blanchard shop.
Let’s not engage in any silly discussion of “the French sound” – there is no such thing. French making covers a very broad range of techniques and tonal objectives, there are great makers, good makers, bad makers…
For me, and from a musician’s perspective, Blanchard is one of the most consistent of French makers – Blanchard violins are always responsive and generous in sound, never wiry or stiff in the way a Gand & Bernardel or even a Vuillaume can be.
This violin is one of the best sounding French violins we have had, and that’s a very high recommendation – the last time I said that was about another Blanchard del Gesu copy. It’s big, lyrical and sumptuous but still edgy and exciting. Plenty enough power for any serious professional scenario, and yet still friendly under the ear and unusually companionable.
When a violin is this good it’s hard to say much about it, so let’s just say it’s a terrific violin – great high register, great low register, great everything in between…!