This is a great violin from the Hill workshop – dating from 1904, it’s in a fine state of preservation and it has a concert sound.
WE Hill & Sons are better known for their bows than their violins, but they produced hundreds of violins with similar rigorous quality control and artistic flair. These instruments are highly prized by musicians, and what with the recent publication by John Basford and Tim Toft and the new violin-making workshop being run under the WE Hill & Sons brand by J&A Beare, the spotlight is truly on these violins now.
This is a very typical example of a Hill Strad copy from the turn of the century. Ironically it turns out that these most English of violins are also very French, since the majority of the makers in the shop were trained in Mirecourt – this example was probably made by Auguste Delunet. We see the French influence everywhere – in the corners, the flat scroll eyes, the varnish, even the choice of timber.
This instrument is visually quite superb – the sharp edges and corners are all beautifully preserved, the original varnish is lustrous and relatively unmarked. The only issues to report are a well-repaired crack in the lower bass rib (patched on the inside) and some pitting to the varnish in the centre of the back.
I’ve played a good few Hills, and they are by no means all created equal. Even in this “golden period” there are good violins and bad violins – however, I’m pleased to say that this instrument is outstanding.
It’s a very loud and powerful sound, but without sacrificing any quality of tone – something of a dream of a violin in that it combines an unusually sweet and zingy sound with real bite. Very articulate, super-responsive, and uniquely well balanced – the G has depth and fullness even in the high positions, the E is sugary and solistic, and everything in between is clear and telling yet full of character.
I can’t say I’ve ever played a violin quite like it – it has a youthful energy, a flavour of green apples and something of a racehorse temperament. Not a violin for the faint-hearted, easy to fall off, but a great instrument for an accomplished, extrovert and expressive performer.