This is quite an unusual violin, made loosely on a del Gesu model with a very high level of workmanship, yet by a maker who remains unidentified. The inner work and the rather dark varnish tell us that this violin was made somewhere between Prague and Vienna, and the sophistication of the work suggests a date around 1800. The short body length is surely inspired by the Cremonese violins of Ruggieri or del Gesu, yet the arching is very flat and more indebted to Stradivari.
I can’t claim any great expertise, but the violin may be a loose copy of a Cremonese instrument made by a member of the Geissenhof circle.
At any rate, it’s a highly professional and inspired piece of work with bold f-holes, great arching, sumptuous dark brown varnish and a very precise scroll.
The violin is very well preserved – there’s the inevitable invisible post crack in the table and another small repaired crack below the treble f-hole, otherwise no issues.
We love this kind of violin. It’s a true “campfire Strad”, an un-named instrument with a top level sound. Although it’s quite small and has a short stop, I find myself returning to it over and over again. It has that rare quality of sound that’s quite soft and friendly under the ear but which just kills at a distance.
Its overall character is quite dark – by that I don’t mean that it lacks sizzle or brightness, rather that it has a big fruity core, warm and enveloping. This quality can often get a bit out of hand on del Gesu models, but this violin has the flat arching to counteract it. The result is a smooth, effortless sort of nobility, full of overtones but still clear and articulate.
One of the greatest assets of this violin is the balance or even-ness of register. Wherever on the fingerboard you choose to play, it always offers a nuanced palette of beautiful rounded sound. There’s great sustain everywhere, and you don’t need a big bow to get a full tone – nonetheless, you can bow hard, there are no wolfs and the tone doesn’t break.
Obviously this violin is going to be more comfortable for a player with smaller hands, but aside from that it has no limitations.
I should point out that the tailpiece in the photos gave a rather short afterlength. The violin is currently fitted with a shorter Wittner composte tailpiece with integral fine-tuners. I loved the sound before changing tailpieces, but now that it has a better afterlength it’s really taken off.
This sort of violin presents something of a conundrum for a musician – get a fantastic sounding no-name instrument for an affordable price, or pay 6 figures for something that sounds almost as good but which has a nice certificate and a hollow promise of “investment potential”. Sadly the classical world puts too much emphasis on names, and too many orchestral pros spend their rehearsal breaks staring at labels – but if you have an open mind and want to invest in your musicality, this violin will knock the socks off many 18th century Italians costing 10 times the price.
Dimensions: length of back 35.05cm, stop 129/191mm
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