Paul Bailly

Paul Bailly made this viola around 1890 during one of his short visits to London, where he worked on Wardour Street amongst the hive of violin dealers and makers, but established his own workshop in Surrey Street in Battersea. The instrument is a departure from his routine making, and gives a first impression of being an interpretation of Guarneri del Gesu’s work in the form of a viola. With a little more considered view, it is actually a very refined Brescian model adopting much of the characteristic and style of the highly refined Maggini-inspired work of Giovanni Baptista Rogeri. Whether or not either maker made a perfect 16inch viola or not is quite another matter.

The resulting instrument, made in London by a French pupil of J.B. Vuillaume rather unexpectedly prefigures some of the better Italian work of the early twentieth century. It is easy to make (albeit coincidental comparisons) with Neapolitan makers such as Alfredo Contino in the overall concept and appearance of the viola.

Strung with Evah Pirazzi strings, the viola is incredibly strong and vibrant in sound. An extremely versatile instrument with plenty of character.

William Taylor

William Taylor’s address is given as Princes Street, Drury Lane, and he was active in the late eighteenth-century and up until around 1820. His work, as we have got to know it better, follows the various patterns of the London trade around 1800, but the most distinguished examples adopt a good golden-period Stradivari model, of which this is a good specimen. There is considerable speculation that he was a pupil of Vincenzo Panormo. Certainly the use of locating pins on the back – normally ostentatiously darkened for extra effect – places his work close to that of Panormo, although his work rarely comes up to the standard of the best of Panormo’s work or that of Henry Lockey Hill and whilst it is good professional workmanship for the period, the quality of materials and the thin spirit varnish are in keeping with many of the second-tier of makers of the period including the Furber family and the majority of output from the Kennedy workshop. Nevertheless, this is a very charming example of early 19th century English work inspired by Stradivari’s best period.

With Obligato strings, the violin pulls a rich and dark sound with plenty of power. A good strong violin reflective of more prized work by Henry Lockey Hill and the Panormo family but at an accordingly reduced price.

Benjamin Banks

The majority of Benjamin Bank’s cellos follow a reduced Amati form, but from as early as the 1760s he made at least three copies of Stradivari’s narrow B-piccola forma (the same form on which the 1730 DeMunck was made). This is one of two known instruments from 1785 made to an embellished B-piccola form, widened by about an inch in the waist and the widths of the upper and lower bouts, creating an extremely successful and important model.

This instrument was noted by W.E. Hill & Sons for it’s extraordinary qualities in the early 20th century. It remains preserved in almost perfect condition. A highly important example of the maker’s work.

Circle of Wilhelm Azan

A very early and rare French seventeenth-century viola approximating the Haute-Contre size found in orchestras of the seventeenth century. The outline, general form and varnish are strikingly simiar to a bass violin by Wilhelm Azan in the Musee de la Musique, Paris, and the partly illegible label gives a clear date for 1668, supported by dendrochronology. Very fine sounding, with considerable Brescian influence, resembling the work of Gaspar da Salo.

Later scroll, and priced with respect to condition.

Ateliers de la Dyle

We have been looking for the ideal professional ‘second’ cello on the market for under £5000 and instruments by Les Ateliers de la Dyle is the best cello we’ve found for the price, making it a fabulous intermediate instrument to take students all the way through grade 8, and into university or amateur orchestras.

Les Ateliers de la Dyle instruments are handmade in Europe, finished in the Meteny workshops in Brussels and setup to our exacting standards for sale in London. In my opinion, probably the best handmade cellos available. We are exclusive London importers of these instruments and normally have one or two available to try.

Gagliano Family

This composite violin may have been put together in the W.E. Hill & Sons workshop around 1900 since it completed with a very fine head by Charles Francois Langonet, the foreman of the workshop. The back and ribs come from a late Gagliano violin probably by Giovanni and Antonio made shortly after 1800, but the front is a very good and typical example from the middle of the eighteenth-century with a strong dendrochronological cross-match to other violins of the Gagliano family and stylistically closest to Giuseppe Gagliano from about 1770.

The violin is recently restored, and very fine sounding with a clear and direct tone that is very typical for instruments of this calibre, but a real “player’s instrument” affording an excellent opportunity to own an example of classical period Italian making at a fraction of the normal cost.

Rüdolf Hös

Rüdolf Hös was born to an important family of instrument makers in Füssen in 1640, but was sent away to apprentice in Rome sometime around 1663. His application for citizenship of the city of Munich states that he spent 19 years in Italy, working in Bologna and Venice before his return to Germany. Here he worked briefly in Munich, then Augsburg, and returned to Munich to become instrument maker to the Ducal Court, probably in response to the death of Jacob Stainer, who had been supplying the court with instruments up to at least 1680.

The viola is a direct response to Stainer’s large violas, with a similar rib depth and scale, but it is somewhat narrower, making it an eminently more playable instrument. There are sound Italianate features to the instrument, but in this case I feel that his nineteen years in Italy enhance the sale of the instrument, and not its price, since the viola is strongly Northern European in design. That said, his German contemporaries from Füssen who remained in Italy include Matteo Goffriller and David Tecchler.

Altogether a charming historic instrument of considerable rarity with the expected sound of a great 17-inch viola. The present setup optimises a longer string length, to take full advantage of the size. Some restorations, and priced accordingly.

George Pyne

George Pyne is an English maker who interests me enormously. The majority of his works are fairly unassuming, and result in his reputation being lumped in with less appealing stereotypes of early 20th century English making, but some of his works stand up to the very best traditions of the period, standing shoulder to shoulder with Wulme Hudson, the Voller brothers and other makers with direct links to the vibrant Wardour Street violin trade. The result is that his work and reputation remain underrated, and best examples can offer really good value for money against instruments of comparable craftsmanship and vintage.

Many of his instruments are made simply and unpretentiously, without any trace of faking or antiquing, and contemporary biographers speak strongly about his morals and how he avoided the more devious aspects of violin making. Yet as I have become familiar with his work, I’ve seen more examples that point towards him being as active as the Voller brothers and George Wulme Hudson in creating fakes and imitations.

This violin is based on the work of Giuseppe Rocca, a maker from Turin whose work was common in London in the late nineteenth century, becoming a target for various fakers including the Voller brothers. Features of George Pyne’s work include a habit of almost always using the same sound hole template and soft, wide edge work of a particular style that is present in this example – suggesting that he was more an imitator than a forger in his approach to older instruments, but otherwise demonstrating such a close relationship to genuine works by the Voller brothers that it would be easy to mistake it as their work.

A super violin in it’s own right with a very clear and strong sound under the ear that carries well. The perfect violin for someone hankering for a Voller (or a Rocca) on a smaller budget.

Hippolyte Caussin

The Caussin workshop specialised in producing antiqued instruments for the London and Paris trade, but in the early years their instruments were made to extremely high quality, and the work of the family – Francois-Nicolas and Hippolyte are highly revered, with instruments occasionally appearing by Claude-Augustin Miremont and Paul Bailly.

The violoncello by Hippolyte Caussin is the best of type, an excellent French cello of the mid-nineteenth century, with a strong classical Italian look that has improved as it has aged. The instrument is in excellent condition, and a superb instrument of professional standard.

Lockey Hill

Lockey Hill had a prolific and varied career. This example shows enormous influence from his father, Joseph making it one of the most attractive models to come from his workshop, with especially elegant Amati-styling around the soundholes. An excellent and powerful violoncello with huge professional potential. The cello has expertly restored cracks in both the front and back with a proportionate reduction in price. A very good opportunity to acquire a first-class English cello for a discounted price.

In 1917 the violoncello was acquired for the Royal Artillery Band, and was almost certainly put to use entertaining officers and troops behind the lines on the Western Front. It is one of several instruments known to us with RA Band inscriptions carved into the back of the pegbox of this kind.