Superb sounding 3/4 JTL Mirecourt French Violin

Professional violinist and violin teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews a lovely rescued and significantly repaired and restored antique C19th Jérôme Thibouville-Lamy (JTL) French Mirecourt made 3/4 sized Medio Fino violin.

I loved this violin the moment I started playing it. I lie. I loved this violin from the moment I tuned it. The tone is gorgeous and it was very easy to play. In fact I didn’t want to stop playing it.

As it is a 3/4 size violin it would be suited to a child of approx age 8-12, and therefore not suitable to an adult player. If you have a particularly gifted child who is looking for a 3/4 size instrument that they could perform more advanced music on, this is a perfect model.

As an added bonus, Dr Sutton has fitted it with geared tuning pegs which makes it very easy to tune. I chose geared tuning pegs for my own instrument as I found that during the short intervals between songs at the performances I do at weddings, I can retune the instrument quickly and subtlety

Repair and restoration notes by Dr Mike Sutton

This violin came into my workshop in the most dreadful state. The pegbox had been cracked in two and was held together by an old iron screw. The nut (at the top of the fingerboard) looked like it had been furnished by Shrek on a very bad day. Someone had also rammed a far too long sound post into it, warping the top and cracking it rather severely around the f-hole region.

I undertook repairing the patient as conservatively as possible. I opted to glue rather than add cheek patches to the peg box. But that choice meant the best thing to do, in my opinion, was to fit the instrument with Wittener composite geared pegs. These pegs do not work in the traditional manner that involves a tapered ebony wood peg being forced into the maple wood peg box to hold the peg in place whilst tuning. Instead they are fixed in static place. When turned the entire peg itself does not move as is the case with traditional pegs. What moves is a small geared sub-section of the peg. This means the pegs put zero strain on the peg box. These pegs are brilliant because no fine tuners are required (not even on the e-string), they act as the fine tuners and tune ever so finely and easily. I believe that if this technology existed back in the C17th century then they would be traditional and the first choice of all musicians and makers.

The table (face/top) of the violin was removed in the repair process. The cracks were all traditionally hot hide glued and then reinforced ultra-conservatively with the “old-school” method of using hot hide glued genuine parchment cleats to serve as sutures. Elsewhere, it was necessary to re-build some serious cosmetic damage by carefully adding some violin quality European spruce slithers to re-build the damage by using violin-grade European spruce wood. The repaired area was then sealed with traditional shellac sealer and then covered with several coats of matching German spirit varnish (specially imported). The repairs were then hand finished using my own formula.

The violin has been fitted with a new high quality bridge and sound post both perfectly fitted and tuned to the instrument.

The repair of what was otherwise a totally wrecked violin has not made this instrument’s scars completely disappear. However, in my opinion they add great character to the instrument as a living testimony to its value as a violin that has been through the wars and remained worth repairing. When I play this instrument it conjures up images of rich Christmas puddings in my mind. Most fittingly, I think the correct term for such a violin sound is “sumptuous”.

This JTL violin sounds great now but will get even better with regular playing. It’s all set to go for the next 300 years or more.

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