One of the best bits of news I received on my birthday was that my concert violin is fixed. Four cracks repaired, new bass bar, new end block – so it was fairly major. But worth it :-)
Let me tell you the story of this violin. In the early 1980s I was touring in the northwest of Western Australia, with the Mucky Duck Bush Band and we played a show at a mining town called Mount Newman. After the show a woman came up and said how she enjoyed my playing – and how it reminded her of her uncle who used to play. She then said that she had had her uncle’s violin for the past 20 years since he had passed away. And she said she’d like to give it to me so that it can be played again the way he played it. On one condition. I would need to have it rebuilt as the dry hot summers in Mt Newman had taken its toll and the plates had separated – it was in pieces!
I pointed out that I would be leaving for the next town early next day, but if she could bring it round I’d love to see it. And I thought nothing more about it.
The banging on my motel room door at 06:30AM woke me with a start and I quickly threw on jeans and tee-shirt and opened the door. And there was (as I recall her name) Mrs Richardson? Simpson? bearing a box. A quick glance at the double purfling and the inlay in the back convinced me that this could be something special. We shook hands warmly as I duly promised to have the violin rebuilt. I knew just the person – Scott Wise a then up and coming luthier – and very fine musician in his own right.
It was several weeks later that Scott phoned me and told me I’d better get down to his workshop. He wouldn’t say anything more. When I arrived he handed me a bow and the newly restored violin. I must’ve played it for an hour in his workshop before I could bring myself to put it down. The tone was amazing and very loud – as perhaps only a German violin could be.
It instantly became my concert violin – at least until the hardangerfiddle was built – but that’s another story – and from then on the concerts were shared between the two instruments.
The side decoration is consistent with 1870s-1890s (Arts and Crafts Movement), the single turn on the scroll is not characteristic of Maggini and there is a label on the inside of the top plate in German which doesn’t give a makers name, just a quote that translates loosely as: “joy comes to he who brings joy to others“. A delightful sentiment :-) The back is flamed maple, the front is spruce, and the belly swell is unusually deep, yielding a rich mellow tone. I’ll post an audio link soon so you can hear it too :-)
If anyone can shed any further light on the maker of this fine instrument, or if you have a similar one, I’d love to hear from you.
One possible clue is an uncertain dating by a US violin shop that lists a similar violin one as ca1930s from a ‘sears’ catalogue! Again if anyone has info on the maker I ‘d love to hear from you :-)