Violin #358, 1998 — The “Hobart” 1743
In March of 1998 Max Hobart, former BSO player and Boston area conductor, was looking for a violin that would be as comfortable for him as his early Guad, but with more depth and projection. Always looking for opportunities to learn, I suggested that one approach would be to copy his instrument, making adjustments in materials and graduation to see if we could do better than the original.
I built a pair of violins, which I usually do with a new model to get to know how it works. The results were superb in terms of learning, but not sufficient in terms of sound quality of the violin. I have not gone back to this pattern, until the “Franzetti” which was built on the same form with slight modifications.
The design and modeling of this violin is not much like Guad’s later work. He had to start somewhere, and he was a good learner. The form is narrow and the arching pinched. The edging is much lighter with the purfling set close to the edge, and the outline is not very elegant.
Of note is the exaggerated ratio of small to large eyes of the f-holes and the blockiness of the scroll, characteristics Guad would tend toward through his life.
Violin #505, 2003 — The “Kripps” 1760
I got to know Alfred Kripps quite well toward the end of his Boston Symphony career as his violin was in poor condition and in frequent need of gluing and other attention to keep it going. When Alfred retired he entrusted the violin to J. Bradley Taylor, Inc. where I ran the shop, for a full restoration. This was the first large restoration of a classic Italian violin I was called on to undertake and was an opportunity for lots of leaning and growth.
During the last two years of my employment with Brad, I spent one day a week building new instruments, and two violins on this pattern, my opus 14 and 16, were built in 1981. #505 is the ninth and most recent copy I have built.
This Parma period model shows more robust workmanship than earlier, but with cleanliness and grace of execution. The form has the heavy, blocky feel that seems to be Guad’s nature. The scroll is exceptional in this respect.
Violin #767, 2012 — The “Andreasson” 1779
Bjorn Andreasson brought the prototype of this violin into my studio for some gluing in the early 1990’s. Bjorn had retired to Brattleboro sometime earlier from the New York Philharmonic and brought with him the Guadagnini violin that his father had used before him. He graciously allowed me to study and photograph the violin and make copies. I frequently visited the violin to refresh my eye and to hear more of Bjorn’s stories. #767 is the tenth copy I have built of this violin, which was sold by Chris Reuning after Bjorn’s death.
The two-piece slab back and heavy edges and modeling give this violin the typical Guad blocky look.
Of note is the Turin label on which Guad claims to be a student of Stradivari. There is no historical evidence that Guad every worked in Strad’s studio, but he certainly learned as much as anyone of his generation from the instruments, tools, forms, and other documents in the possession of Count Cozio di Salabue. Guad had a long relationship with the Count during his later Turin period doing repairs and likely building on commission to the Count’s specifications.
Also of note is the very thick back button. My theory is that Guad was having problems with his buttons breaking and the necks collapsing. At the time this violin was built, makers were still gluing necks on the surface of the ribs and securing them with nails. The development and adoption of metal-wound strings, with their higher tension to produce more sound, was causing this joint to fail. Adding strength to the button was one response to this problem - I have also seen Guads where the purfling does not go through the button, making the area stronger, but not thicker. By the turn of the century the modern system of mortising the neck into the upper block became standard and shops became busy putting neck grafts into all the older violins.
Violin #803, 2013 — The Franzetti 1742
This violin is part of the trio of violins which I made as a survey of Guad’s evolution, inspired by the large-scale book edited by Andrea Zanré: Joannes Baptista Guadagnini, Masterpieces from the Parma 2011 Galleria Nazionale Exhibition, published by Elisa Scrollavezza and Andrea Zanré. It was an easy choice as it is the earliest example in the book, and shares much in common with the “Hobart” that I had good information on, but had not used as a model for 15 years.
In comparing with the “Hobart” there is much that is the same, but also some differences of execution that demonstrate either lack of experience, experimentation, or haste of construction, and likely all three.
In considering a model to work from, the choice of wood is often an early consideration. Do I like the wood in this instrument? Do I have wood at hand that will capture the feel of the original?
The decision to use the top with the knot, which I had not expected to be so prominent, is based on the consistency with the overall lack of refinement. I imagine Guad as a young, mostly self-taught maker, making use of materials at hand, in order to get some experience.
Violin #804, 2013 — “The Burmester” 1758
I was attracted to the “Burmester” because of its refinement and elegance, particularly of the scroll, which is much better balanced and graceful than most of Guad’s work.
Its similarity to the “Kripps” in date, model, and styling gave me a good starting point in understanding how the violin worked and helped it “reach out to me”.
Working only from photographs can be problematic as the lens distorts proportions and printing techniques produce colors that can never be the same as the object itself. The standard to which recent photography and printing have risen makes these discrepancies slight, but still significant. There is no complete substitute for direct access to an original instrument in good light, and thus the term “Bench Copy” to denote an instrument made with the original at hand during construction.
Fortunately, lessons learned from other copying projects can be applied to the images, resources and information available for a particular instrument. Ultimately the original serves as inspiration as much as a blueprint.
Violin #805, 2013 — The “Nebel” 1785
The “Nebel” is renowned in the violinmaker world as its owner, Hans Nebel, colleague of Simone Sacconi in the Wurlitzer shop in New York, often takes this violin to classes in restoration and repair he teaches, showing it as an example of classical Italian violinmaking.
This remarkable example of an accomplished and prolific maker in his 74th year brings to mind the adage that the older we get, the more we become ourselves. The strength of character is clear and one sees the lessons of a lifetime finding a balance of execution.
I have brought experience and insight from the Andreasson Guadagnini (see violin #767) to this reproduction. The choice of a two-piece back was simply based on the wood I had at hand, still trying to keep the spirit of the original in my work.
Viola #814, 2013 — The “Salabue” 1774
Viola #815, 2013 — The “Wurlitzer” 1780
In making these copies I enlarged Guad’s pattern from 15¾” to 16” to better fit my family of viola patterns and to more successfully meet the needs of players as I currently experience them. I think the slightly larger size works better with Guad’s robust modeling.
The two original Guad violas were built on the same pattern, as are the copies, and show some evolution of style, though the difference in wear and state of preservation make comparisons difficult.
Given Guad’s tendency for broad, blocky modeling in his violins, it is interesting that his violas are a bit slender. It is quite possible that the influence of Count Cozio can be seen in this model choice, thought the styling still shows Guad’s personality and aesthetic tastes.
Since the scroll on the Salabue is a replacement and not photographed in this collection, my scroll for the copy is patterned on the Wurlitzer with the addition of wear in keeping with the Salabue.
The Wurlitzer is noteworthy for its condition and the insight it gives to what these instruments looked like when new. That freshness accentuates the extent to which my copy is only half the product of Guad’s work, and half my own personality and a product of the way I see and the way I work.