Vladimir Pilar belonged to one of the great Czech violin-making dynasties – members of this family are still active today. This is a very fine example of his best work – it’s in near mint condition and it has a tremendous solistic sound.

Vladimir Pilar quite literally wrote the book on Czech violin-making and we are greatly indebted to him for much of our knowledge of the Czech makers. He grew up in a traditional violin-making environment, but he was also a keen musician who studied violin at conservatoire level. He was obsessed with tonal quality, and experimented with many modern concepts of plate tuning etc. His particular combination of skills led him to make some truly great violins.

This example is made on his regular del Gesu pattern – the workmanship is exquisite and the materials are first class, particularly the very evenly grained low altitude spruce used for the table. Like most of the leading makers of this time, Pilar regarded antiqueing as the vice of an insecure maker, and his varnish is bold and uncompromising.

The condition is exemplary – some signs of use but no cracks or damages anywhere.

The violin comes with its original certificate of sale from the maker.

It’s a constant source of amazement to me that the violins of Pilar, Vávra and Spidlen have fallen through the net to the extent that they have – they represent a real high point in modern violin-making yet they are laughably affordable. What a pity that more contemporary makers busy re-inventing the wheel aren’t made familiar with the incredible standard of their work.

Here we have a maker who reached the summit of the mountain. Why does he make it look so easy? It would seem that there’s just no substitute for apprenticeship, tradition and family culture. Sadly this kind of tradition has largely died out, and it seems that violin-making schools aren’t able to foster this kind of talent.

This violin would wipe the floor with the majority of violins made in the 20th century or since – it has power, brilliance, depth, responsiveness and musicality. There are no weak points, it’s supremely even and well-balanced, yet it also has charm and character. It’s not a modest instrument – the slightest touch of the bow gives a definite response – but it is sophisticated and full of nuance. It’s a very bright violin, but in the way that a Strad is bright – full of light but devoid of harshness.

This would be a great choice for a young aspiring soloist or for any open-minded virtuoso on a budget.

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