Bela Szepessy

A fine Anglo-Hungarian violin by Szepessy Bela, London 1889

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.

 

Gareth Ballard

A fine contemporary violin by Gareth Ballard after Giuseppe Guarneri 'del Gesu', London 2010.

The “Ole Bull” of 1744 is one of the most characteristic of ‘del Gesu’s’ late violins, made in his last year. There is some speculation that it was made – at least in part – by his wife, Katarina owing to elements of style shared with a small number of instruments from the end of “del Gesu’s” lifetime including the posthumously dated 1745 “Leduc”. Whilst the eccentric-shaped sound-holes provide the violin with an instantly familiar form, the overall architecture is restrained and well controlled. Violins to this model tend to produce an even tone moving towards a seductive dark intensity in the lower registers. Gareth’s violin is not a literal copy of the “Ole Bull”, forfeiting the wildly idiosyncratic nature of the original for a more controlled and artistic approach to the underlying design, with excellent results.

 

Steffen Nowak

A fine contemporary violin by Steffen Nowak, Bristol, 2014.

I’ve known Steffen since my first days in the violin trade, and have admired the respect that he has earned for his instruments. Steffen’s work is certainly amongst the cleanest that I have seen, and his aim is always to make instruments to look as they would have appeared when they were first made. His attention to craftsmanship, and especially his passion for sound produce some very enjoyable instruments to play. This viola is based on an original, made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu around 1735. As his instruments age naturally over time, I think they will come to be considered amongst the classics of contemporary British making.

 

Andreas Hellinge

A fine contemporary violin by Andreas Hellinge, Geneva, 1998.

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.

 

Neil Ertz

A fine contemporary violin by Neil Ertz, after Peter Guarneri of Mantua, Cambridge 2008.

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

A fine English violin by George Wulme Hudson, Chessington, circa 1900 ascribed to Giovanni Baptista Pallencia.

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.