Bela Szepessy came to London in 1881 becoming one of the most influential London makers of his time. His apprenticeship had taken him through the great workshops of central Europe – Engleder in Munich, Nemessanyi in Budapest and Zach in Vienna. His most celebrated violins are finely observed interpretations of Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu, of which this is an example, and retains many of the characteristics of the finest central European craftsmanship. A very fine and clear sounding violin in excellent condition.
In 1998 Yehudi Menuhin consigned the fabled 1742 “Lord Wilton” del Gesu for sale with Hug & Co in Zurich. Whilst it was for sale, the company invited the Swiss maker Andreas Hellinge to produce two ‘bench copies’ of the violin. This is one of those copes and was intended for presentation to Menuhin as a memento of the sale. However, Menuhin died before the violin was finished so that paradoxically as a precise copy of the “Lord Wilton”, it is arguably amongst the most important contemporary violins commissioned for Menuhin, but also one that he neither saw nor knew of. The violin has superb playing qualities, and is both musically and technically one of the best modern del Gesu copies I have come across.
Amongst connoisseurs of Cremonese violins, Peter Guarneri ‘of Mantua’ is spoken about as the one violin maker who excelled above Stradivari. The only problem is that he was called to the ducal court at Mantua for his skills as a musician in 1685, and was able to make few violins after that point. I’ve had the pleasure of handling several original instruments by this maker, and Neil’s copy, based on a violin of 1704 proves to be a masterly interpretation of the key points of Guarneri’s style. The violin has had a distinguished playing history since it was made and has come to us as the last owner was looking to upgrade. My experience of instruments of this bolder pattern is that they tend to give a slightly more mature sound than a straightforward flat-arched Stradivari or del Gesu copy.
George Wulme Hudson used the pseudonym Giovanni Baptista Pallencia for violins made as an amalgam of different styles. In this example, the fictional Pallencia is stated to be a pupil of Gagliano working in Milan. The violin takes it’s inspiration from Nicolo Gagliano’s work, especially in respect of the soundholes and overall boldness of the arching, but he appears to have opted for a Guadagnini (though probably of the Turin period, not from Milan) to inspire the edgework, choice of wood and overall form. The result is a violin that sits between different schools, and to an extent is the ‘perfect fake’ because it is plausibly Italian without requiring too much comparison with any particular maker. However, it is signed inside, and discretely on the label. An exceptional English violin with a powerful projecting sound.
An Extraordinary English violin by Jack Lott, after del Gesu.