Archive for the ‘4/4 Student violin’ Category

Le Parisien (JTL) Full Size French Mirecourt Violin

November 27, 2022

This fully restored antique French violin is among the pride of my collection.

The violin has been extensively repaired, but very solidly. It plays beautifully.

You can see it on my violins in Nottingham website Here.

Here is a picture of the professional sound post crack repair that was done inside the violin some time ago. I took the picture through the tailpiece “button hole”.


Mystery Modern Antiqued Violin (full size)

March 15, 2022

Professional violinist and music teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews an unlabeled full size modern violin that was originally created with an antique finish.

Ref 150

Full size antiqued modern (1980s) probably Chinese violin

This violin has a pleasant, sweet, clear but muted tone. It appears to be an antique instrument but is actually made c 1989s/90s, and although it’s maker is unknown the restorer has narrowed it down to being of Chinese origin.

Dr Sutton has fitted this violin with a comfortable chin rest, a solid tailpiece and a decent set of strings. The bridge is set at a height which makes the strings easy to press down, making it easier to play in the higher positions. Therefore, a student would find this instrument very easy to play as it is comfortable to play, easy to tune and optimised to produce the best sound possible.

Perhaps a pseudo vintage violin that may originate from China doesn’t sound like the most appealing instrument to purchase, however I would be happy to recommend this instrument to an intermediate level student who wants something pleasant sounding, looks good and is easy to play.

Repair and restoration (notes by Mike Sutton)

This violin came into my possession because it had a slightly open lower seam on the violin table (face/top) under the tailpiece. The open seam was repaired by removing the top of the violin and using traditional hide glue and luthier clamps to return it to its orignal state.

Once put back together, a new light alloy tailpiece with integral fine tuners was fitted. A new bridge was cut and fitted. A new sound-post was made and fitted and the instrument was given a new set of high quality synthetic core Alphayue Violin Strings.

This is a very robust violin that has a uniquely solid and balanced snug feel, which have never quite encountered before. Ursula Donnelly is certainly right that it is easy to play. I would recommend it to anyone who thinks the instrument might possibly be unfortunately subject to unwarranted rough treatment for whatever reason. Of course, all violins are delicate instruments and should never be treated roughly, but I suspect this one will prove to be tougher than most.

Very Nice 19th century skilfully faked 18th century Amati violin (full size, 4/4), one piece maple back.

October 16, 2021

Ref: 326

Professional violinist and music teacher Ursula Donnelley plays and reviews a violin supposedly made and then faked by famed luthier Richard Tobin in the early 19th century. But was it? I think the truth is that we shall never really know one way or the other.

Playability and sound review by Ursula Donelley

“This violin has a bit of an interesting history. Dr Sutton’s research shows it to be a 19th Century fake Amati violin (with a fake 18th Century Cremona label) and has been artificially aged to appear older than it actually is (despite now being quite old regardless). It was made by an Irish luthier called Tobin who was tragically destitute at the time of his death.

At first I found the tone a little on the cool side but began to warm up to it when I was playing the E string where I began to feel very connected to the instrument due to its ability to “cry” (around 1m 30s in the video). Perhaps it has something to do with Tobin’s own tragic demise, but the soul of this violin is screaming out in sweet pain, which is a very good thing in my opinion as a violin should be able to do that.

Despite its criminal history, this violin would be a great choice for a student to study up to Grade 8. Tobin may have been a forger but he certainly could make decent sounding violins. Some of the most cutting edge technology now comes out of China, which has no intellectual property laws. Whilst I’m not here to make an argument for forgery, I would be very happy with this instrument if I were an intermediate to advanced level student.”

History, repair and restoration notes by Dr Mike Sutton

Experts (here) have attributed another violin, almost identical in faking details and appearance to this one to most likely have been the work of 19th century luthier craftsman Richard Tobin, who faked violins such as this to resemble well worn valuable 17th and 18th century Italian masterpieces. He did so because those older instruments were more valuable and because he was frequently impecunious, because so many British violin makers were finding it hard to sell their violins due to the number of cheap imports arriving from Germany and France at the time. Sadly, Tobin died in the workhouse. But there is no hard proof of this violin being his work.

Other very similar violins to this one have been attributed (again by professional expert guess work) to high-end master craftsmen luthier studios in Germany in the 19th century. For example, a fake Amati (also – very much like this one – also with very similar fake cracks and a faked neck graft etc), was owned and a favourite instrument of the celebrated South African violinist, Annake de Villiers (1975 – 2012), which she is said to have used for the major part of her career (here).

This particular violin played by Ursula Donnelley and depicted here was once owned by the doom rock music producer of the Band Electric Wizard. Rolf Startin introduced violins on some of their tracks on the Let Us Prey album here).

Startin, who was more lately of the folk band Thirsty Man engraved his name on the back of his violin. This is something I have, on thoughtful advice from hard rock fans and musician friends, left there for the historic record. I blended Rolf’s name in with a little varnish of the original shade so that it is only really plainly visible now if you look for it and turn the violin into the right angle of light. The first picture below is of the back of the violin before this was done. The final picture is of the violin after Rolf’s name was blended in

Ursula Donnelly is right, this violin does have a soul. But whose soul? Or does it contain multiple souls?

This interesting violin deserves to go to someone who will really love to own and play it and appreciate its interesting personal history and lovely appearance as well as its sound and easy playability. Perhaps they too will be a known musician, will love this instrument, and add their name below Rolf Startin’s?

When I bought this violin it had suffered three minor genuine cracks to compliment the many other faked cracks and fake worm holes in its fake distressed table, back, ribs and faked neck graft. The sound post was an extremely badly fitted disaster area, as was the bridge and tailpiece. On written advice of expert local luthiers I repaired the crack with traditional hide glue and with parchment (rather than pine) cleats.

The violin is fully lined and is fully blocked in the lower bouts, The upper bouts are unblocked. It has a separate bass bar firmly glued in place. It has an illegible faked Italian label inside.

I cut and tuned the bridge for this violin from a very high quality seasoned maple blank. To correctly follow the fingerboard and attain the correct height for al the strings, the bridge may appear a little low on the G-string side, but it is exactly as it should be for this particular violin. Being an Amati replica it has a very high arch on the table. To get the best sound I had to tune the bridge with a matching high arch. I have carefully fitted a new sound post for optimal sound. I also fitted this violin with Witner geared tuning pegs. These are brilliant and dispense with the need for any fine tuners on the tailpiece. I finally gave the violin a new set of medium tension Dominant (synthetic core) strings.

Something more about superstition and Amati Violins . From “Why the Devil Plays the Violin” by Addison Nugent” :

“Before the rubab and rabec (two of the violin’s earliest relatives) were imported from Arabia in the 15th century, bowed instruments did not exist in Europe. (The violin as we know it today was not developed until the mid-1500s, when Italian craftsmen like Amati from Cremona and Gasparo da Salò from Salon created the first ones.) And it was precisely because the violin had Eastern origins that it also carried an association with evil. There existed, as far back as the Middle Ages, a perception of the East as sensual and uninhibited — a perception that would grow into a cultural obsession with the eroticized Orientalism of the 19th century.”

Back of violin after refurbishment.

Maidstone Violin, Full Size, Oval Label

October 16, 2021

Professional violinist and teacher, Ursula Donnelley of Mapperley Park Nottingham plays this full size Maidstone violin

Written playability and sound – professional review by Ursula Donnelley

“This violin has a full bodied sound on the lower end and a sweeter sound on the top end, with an overall bold but cool tone. I didn’t immediately warm to it as I prefer a smooth, warmer sound but I realised its potential once I started to play fast semiquavers.

It was actually fantastic fun to play semiquavers on as the action is slightly higher and it can handle faster pieces of music. The semiquavers jump out of the violin with energy and vibrancy that some instruments simply can’t handle. It would be a great instrument for someone who enjoys playing fast Baroque music and certainly suitable for Grade 8!

The only drawback was that the fingerboard was not as easy to traverse as the other Maidstone I reviewed today. However, I think it makes up for it by being such an energetic instrument. If you wanted to play the Four Seasons solo parts on this instrument it would be a GREAT option.

If you are looking for an instrument to complete your advanced violin studies on, this would be a great choice. It is much nicer to play than many of the new branded instruments available on the market.”

Notes by Dr Mike Sutton

This violin was set up by a professional Luthier. It has a lovely high quality Despiau bridge fitted and tuned to the instrument. It has a Witner fine tuner tailpiece and I have fitted it with a new set of Thomastic, Infeld, Vienna Alphayou synthetic core strings. The previous owner attained Grade 8 on it and played it as lead violin in a youth orchestra. This nice instrument had not been played for over 30 years before coming into my possession as a birthday present.

Maidstone full size (4/4)

October 15, 2021

.Assessment of the violin’s playability by Ursula Donnelley (professional violin teacher and performer) of Nottingham.

Ursula Donnelly writes:

“This violin is very easy to play and has a rich, warm tone that I liked immediately. This is one of those violins that has a distinctive character that would certainly do justice to a soloist. I really enjoyed playing this violin.

Dr Sutton’s violins are always well set up and this one is no an exception. The general playability was very good. The fingerboard is very smooth and easy to change position on. I found it very easy to control the sound and produce clear, warm tones without squeaks and scratches.

This violin would suit an intermediate to advanced level student. It would be a suitable violin for a student to complete their Grade 8 on as it can handle the more technically difficult music and sounds great. If you or your child is committed to learning the violin and you are looking for a budget friendly option to see them through to their Grade 8, then this type of violin is for you. Additionally, Maidstone violins in general make excellent folk violins. 

Usually at this point I would list the drawbacks of the instrument, but I haven’t found any. It’s really a great all rounder and a solid investment for anyone who is taking violin seriously.”

Repair and Observation Notes by Dr Mike Sutton

On this blog site you will see several Maidstone (Murdoch) violins that I have repaired and restored. They are all good.

In my opinion this is the best sounding Maidstone violin I have played to date.

I must stress, that all Maidstone violins are certainly not the same. I learned from one very experienced violin luthier that the square label Maidstone violins are generally the best. I do know they are the oldest.

The above violin is immediately very pleasingly responsive on every string and is very easy to play. It has a very nice sweet and open sound, both under the ear of the player and to an audience. It is also not muted, in my opinion, like many 19th century German student violins can sound.

Most Maidstone violins have an oval label depicting two girls dancing. Murdoch, who imported most of his Maidstone violins from the Saxony area of Germany in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, later involved his son in the company. Hence the later models were labelled “Murdoch and Murdoch and Co. There are typical oval labels bearing the simple name Murdoch and Co and later ones as “Murdoch and Murdoch and Co. As far as I know, all the square ones simply say Murdoch and Co just like the violin above does.

As said, some experts claim the square labeled violins are best. Rumours exist that some Maidstone violins were made in what was then named Czecho-Slovakia (Bohemia) and even France. Moreover, that not all Murdoch violins were Maidstone’s.

I own another square labelled Maidstone violin, which I am currently repairing. That violin will be featured on this site in the future.

I must say the above violin beats into the ground all my oval labelled Maidstone’s – using exactly the same type of strings (Thomas Infeld Vienna, Alphayou – synthetic core strings).

The violin also has a new high quality Korolia bridge that I carved from a blank, then tuned to the violin, and a sound post newly made of high quality spruce that I very carefully fitted, using a new-design non-sound-post-damaging tool, for optimal sound. Some minor German spirit varnishing has been blended into the instrument using my own formula to keep the lovely original golden varnish wear-patina whilst ensuring there is no bare wood. The neck was re-set and the fingerboard carefully refurbished. The end block inside the violin was also repaired. A brand new light alloy integral fine tuner tailpiece is fitted, of a type I have always experienced surprisingly good set-up results with in the past.

The violin has historical expertly bushed peg-holes, which lets us know that the violin has been very extensively played for many many years and expensively repaired in the past. This is just one physical clue of it having being considered by a past owner to be a high-quality sounding and once-loved violin. This instrument is quite clearly a cut-above most Maidstone violins. It sounds surprisingly good (even for a Maidstone, which already have a great reputation among those in the know) now, but it will certainly improve even further with post-repair playing, because it has not been played regularly for many years. Why? Because people have been saying it for years, but playing a violin extensively and regularly is now known to improve its sound for sure. Playing a violin, incredible though it sounds, changes the molecular structure of the wood for the better (here). Good job it does not change it for the worse, then.

I am looking forward to seeing how my newly acquired second square labelled Maidstone compares with this one. Once it too has been repaired and restored to beautiful playability in the same way.

On the advice of local luthier experts, I have used traditional genuine parchment sutures to reinforce the spruce-wood repair of some damage that had been done historically to both f-holes. These are extremely tough, acoustic and flexible, whilst being least likely (in my opinion) to interfere adversely with the sound of the instrument.

As with every full size Maidstone I own, the violin has a carved-in bass bar, is fully lined but is not blocked in any of the corners.

More on Maidstone Violins

Unevidenced claims some were made in Czechoslovakia (here).

Dealers will sell a standard quality Maidstone Full-size violin for between £500 and £600. (e.g. here)

I have been advised that a full size Maidstone violin of the sound quality of the one played in this post by Ursula Donnelley would most likely sell in a violin shop for between £800 and £1,000.

Front and back of the restored violin

Czecho-Slovakia Violin c 1918-1930

June 23, 2021

The overall tone and playability of this violin is very good. The high end is particularly sweet to listen to, and not sharp sounding like many violins. This means that a student will enjoy learning on it as they will enjoy the sound of it. A sharp high end can put students off playing high notes, but in this case the high notes are very pleasant to listen to. The lower end is not quite as clear as the top, but has warmth and sweetness to it, making it utterly pleasant to play. 

This violin isn’t the loudest violin in the world, so would suit an intermediate – advanced student who is gaining their confidence. This instrument would be able to handle Grades 5-8 so would be a great first full size violin for a teenager who has earned their stripes. A quiet violin can be a great thing for a student as often students are put off practising out of fear of disturbing their neighbours.

The action is set at a very agreeable height, meaning that the strings are not too high and therefore it is easy to play in the higher positions. At first I struggled a little not to catch the other strings, which I think is due to them being slightly closer together than on my own violin. This means that the violin would suit someone with smaller hands and nimble fingers.

This violin would suit someone who prefers playing more melodic, romantic music more than someone who wants to play super fast semiquavers all day.

Ursula Donnelly Violin Teacher and Professional Violinist: Bollywood Violin School Nottingham

Repair Notes

This violin needed a small crack repair to the face under the tailpiece, and the end block inside the violin required a crack repair using a pine cleat-suture hide glued into place. The crack was hide-glued and repaired using two very traditional small parchment patches. It had clearly been played a great deal and was so scuffed up I gave it a very thin coat of matching red German spirit varnish which was then burnished back carefully so that the scratches are covered but the original red varnish shines through beautifully. It is now a very solid instrument.

The Violin is a Maggini copy and so has double purfling. In the video as you can see it was set up Hills-style tuner on the E-string. I decided to change this to make the violin more suitable for a student by instead adding a new German Wittner tailpiece with integral fine tuners on all the strings.

These are quite rare violins today and sought after by those in the know looking for a solid bargain.

All purfling is added to violins, in part, to add minute bounce flexibility to the top when being played. The double purfling makes the top a little more, in theory but if anything in reality it will be at the microscopic level, bouncy than a normal violin, which is the exact effect Maggini was looking for and which makes these violins so sweetly characterful.

A bridge was especially made for this violin. And a new sound-post was made and fitted in the optimal position.

It is a very responsive violin across all strings and very easy and pleasing to play. I think this is a great antique/vintage violin for a collector, someone returning to the violin after some time or for the student progressing to their next violin after starting out on a standard Chinese student violin, such as a Stentor.

The violin is fitted with a new set of Thomastic Infeld Vienna Alphayou synthetic core strings and a German Witner composite tailpiece with integral fine tuners. In the video it was played with only one fine tuner on the e-string. However, as it is a student violin I felt it best to put on the Witner tailpiece for easier and faster tuning of all four strings.

A Fine Antique German Student Violin: Surprisingly High Quality Student Instrument

May 6, 2021

A full Size German Violin. Played by Ursula Donnelley

Review by Music teacher Ursula Donnelley of Nottingham

This violin has a bright, warm sound. The top end is slightly brighter without being overly harsh, and the lower end is warmer. I really liked the feel of it. The fingerboard is quite wide, meaning there is plenty of space. It was very easy to play in the higher positions and the sound quality remained clear, even on the lower strings.

Overall the sound is very balanced. I like a violin with a really resonant top end and a warm lower end and that is exactly what you get with this violin. You can play both expressive, melodic music and mechanical baroque music on it (like the piece I play in the video).

With that in mind, it would make an excellent violin for a student of classical music who wants an instrument that can handle the advanced grades. I played a Grade 7/8 piece of music (Vivaldi’s Winter, Mvt. III) which shows you that it can indeed handle more advanced pieces.

I really liked the sound and playability. I think it strikes a great balance across the board and would recommend this violin to anyone wanting a high quality violin on a budget. 

If you have larger hands, this would also be a great violin for you as the strings aren’t as close together as they are on some, making it easier to play without catching the other strings.

Manby Full Size Early 20th Century Made in France, imported By Manby and Co of Paris and London.

May 6, 2021

Manby Video Number 1

Ursula Donnelly Reviews an Antique Manby Violin 4/4

Manby Video Number 2.

Review by Ursula Donnelley

This violin sounds absolutely lovely. It has a very unique sound which is deeply resonant and full. It is perfect for a more expressive player who wants a unique sound to play beautiful luscious, lyrical melodies on. It has a rich oaky feel to it a little bit like the violin version of enjoying a single malt whiskey. It has a great feel, a great sound and a great smell.

This violin has a slightly shorter neck than most, making it somewhere between 3/4 and a full size violin. This is perfect for an adult with smaller hands or shorter arms. It comes with a slightly larger body, making it literally ‘full-bodied’ in sound. However, if your arms are normal size it should still be absolutely fine. I didn’t struggle and my arms are quite long.

There are some beautiful resonant tones on this violin, particularly on the middle strings (D & A). I found the lower end to be a bit fuzzier and the high end not quite as resonant, but the sound quality is very high nonetheless.

What makes this violin an absolute pleasure to play is the slightly wider fingerboard which makes it super easy to play.  My fingers had plenty of space and the fingerboard feels amazing.

I’ve given you two sound samples – one being a folky Scottish tune and the other a piece of romantic classical music which you’ll no doubt recognise. I loved playing the folk music in particular as this style of playing really does justice due to the instrument’s expressive sound.

This instrument is perfectly good for the advanced classical grades. However, if you are an advanced folk player looking for something a bit special to blast out some big melodies on, I highly recommend this model.


Repair, Refurbishment and unique varnishing notes by Dr Mike Sutton

Although described in the video above by Nottingham violin teacher Ursula Donnelley – and indeed many violin experts elsewhere – as “English” violins these early 20th century Manby instruments were made in France and imported into England.

Manby wrote that he could not get German instruments after the 1st World War and so imported from France. He later moved to Sydney Australia where he continued to label his imported French made violins. These facts and more on Manby violins can be found here. He was quite an interesting person.

When this violin came into my little workshop it had an open back seam, something I have seen in 3 other Manby violins. So I am deducing it may be a characteristic problem that led many to be thrown away down the decades. Fixing a back-seam is relatively easy and was done without needing to remove the top of the violin. I glued it back together with traditional hide glue and then clamped it. I 100% guarantee all my violin repairs for my lifetime. And I’m in pretty good shape. Unlike the varnish on back of this violin, at the time of the repair, which needed re-varnishing as it had been badly marked up.

In vivid shocking contrast to the conservative face, the back of this instrument now has very broad, later-added by me, tiger stipes. My youngest daughter asked me to ‘punk it up’ “with some attitude” to create this contrast as I was re-varnishing it, and so I did. The intended point being it won’t be to everyone’s taste. The natural selection philosophy behind the glossy tiger striping on the violin is the same as on a Tiger. Namely, “impress your friends and confuse your enemies”.

The instrument is fitted with Pirastro Tonica synthetic core strings, a good quality aged maple Teller Bridge with ebony insert on the E-string, tuned to the violin. A Wittner composite tailpiece with integral fine tuners and a very comfy Witner anti-allergenic composite chinrest (designed to prevent the dreaded “fiddlers neck” that can occur due to bacterial build up on other chinrests if you don’t clean them regularly). New ebony pegs and matching endpin compliment the contrasting look.

Perhaps, if you want to walk into a gig and make an impression, just flash the back of the violin at the audience. Or stride in with it on your shoulder. They may not ever forget it. Others may be left wondering whether perhaps they imagined what they saw, as they watch and listen to you play this now relatively rare fine antique violin, with a twist.

The original label inside the violin lets us know it is an early Manby, because the later ones included his new residence in “Sydney. It reads, rather intriguingly, as follows:

“The London Manby Violin Co. Ltd. London Paris and New York. Patented in the United Kingdom and Principal Countries. Make exact copy of Old Master, Adjust bridge from nut 13 inches. Registered H.S number 1L/2. 4/4.”

Added Tiger Striping with High Gloss Imported German Spirit Varnish, Hand Rubbed, Finish
“The London Manby Violin Co. Ltd. London Paris and New York. Patented in the United Kingdom and Principal Countries. Make exact copy of Old Master, Adjust bridge from nut 13 inches. Registered H.S number 1L/2. 4/4.”

From a novice student perspective here is what it sounds like in the hands of my youngest daughter a week after she passed her Grade 2 ABRSM violin exam, In the video’s below the Manby is played with a higher action bridge and Ascenti strings. NOTE: Ursula Donnelley plays it (above) as it is currently set up with a slightly lower action bridge and Pirastro Tonica synthetic core strings.

Full Size Later 19th Early 20th Century, “The Maidstone” Saxony Violin (Reference ♭)

April 10, 2021

NOTE: This violin has now been re-homed

This Maidstone violin would suit someone who wants to learn without being too loud. It’s a perfect adult first ever or, as you improve, your second purchased, higher quality violin, that won’t make you worry about disturbing the neighbours when practising.

It could also be well suited to a younger person who is approaching the advanced grades but doesn’t necessarily want to be the loudest violinist in the room. It can handle the more advanced stuff due to Maidstone’s quality vs affordability sweet spot. 

The tone is sweet and muted. It sounds pleasing to the ear but won’t make the new learner feel embarrassed when practising. It’s also quite easy to play and not overly resonant, meaning the student will not have to work hard to get a pleasing sound out of it. It is the perfect violin for blending into the back of the orchestra with! It would not however suit a soloist as it simply isn’t loud enough.

The only drawback for me was that I struggled a little not to catch the other strings when playing the D string, but with time you would get used to this.

If you are looking for an affordable starter violin of a reasonable quality, this would be a great instrument.

Ursula Donnelley (Violin teacher and professional violinist)

History, repair and refurbishment notes

Despite what you may have heard, all Maidstone violins are not the same. This is one of several full size Maidstone violins in my private collection of antique and vintage student violins. I also have many 3/4 size Maidstone violins in the collection.

Following the expert review of this violin by Ursula Donnelley, above, I adjusted the arch of the bridge of the instrument to ensure the G and A strings were each lowered by 0.25 of a mm to address the playability issue she experienced. Furthermore, I found I had set the sound post a little further from the foot of the bridge than the optimal position for volume. Therefore, also in response to Ursula’s expert review, I moved the sound post about 1mm closer to the foot of the bridge, setting it now at a ‘bridge foot’s thickness’ away from the foot of the bridge. The top of the bridge was also thinned fractionally, to increase the response of the instrument.

In consultation with expert Luthiers, I am informed that the patina finish to the varnish on this instrument was caused by it having been stored in an attic for many decades. In the UK, attics tend to get hot in summer and cold in winter. This causes the wood to shrink in winter and expand in summer. Years of this shrinking and expanded produces this aged effect to spirit varnish. It is also notable that at some point in history the ebony fingerboard of the violin was visited by woodworm. Close inspection reveals 8 ancient flight (exit holes) of a wood boring beetle leaving the wood. I asked a number of leading luthiers about this and was informed that this was certainly due to the ebony fingerboard having been, unknowing to the original German maker, infected with worm when it was put on the instrument over 100 years ago. This explanation was arrived at because the UK has no resident wood boring beetles that are capable of living in the UK climate that can attack ebony wood. I could have changed the fingerboard for a new one, but the exit holes have at some point been expertly filled and make zero difference to the playability of this instrument. Therefore, in keeping with my personal philosophy of sustainability I have left it as it must have been for over a century.

In addition to making the bridge for this violin and tuning it to the instrument, I made and fitted a new sound post, added a Wittner composite tailpiece with integral fine tuners and complimented this set up with a set of good synthetic core strings. Namely D’Addario Ascente medium tension strings. The lovely antique chinrest is the original Bakelite model that was supplied with the violin in the last century.

Interestingly, this Maidstone violin came from the attic of a nice old Victorian house in Tonbridge Kent, just a few miles from Maidstone where the Maidstone Orchestra for the People movement first began. There, it had been stored for many decades in its original wooden case. My son, who lives in Maidstone and has a business in Tonbridge picked it for me from the lady of the house, who expressed great, bemused, surprised that it was destined to be fully restored.

Today this genuine ‘loft find’ violin is once again being enjoyed in the hands of its new violin student owner.

A very good full size 19th century (1899) copy of a Stainer model violin.

April 9, 2021

Video 1

This violin is a real screamer in the best possible sense! If you want to play dramatic romantic music, this is your instrument! It will cut through above other instruments simply because of its volume. If you want to play showy Gypsy pieces, it certainly can do the job as well.

The pieces I played were Brahms Scherzo in C Minor, Thais Meditation and a Polish Gypsy folk song. All of these pieces require an instrument that can pack a punch in the low end yet retain both this volume with added sweetness on the top end. 

The only possible drawback is that it is highly resonant meaning it is extra sensitive so you get all these lovely sympathetic additional notes in the very high frequency range. Violin is by nature a resonant instrument so this is not a bad thing, but it just means that it’s on the brighter end of the tone range. If you are looking for a very bright sound, this is a good thing. I personally don’t mind this as I like to be heard as I perform as a soloist and often play very showy pieces.

It would be suited as a high quality student violin, meaning it would take the student up to the advanced grades. This is not an instrument for a wallflower but ideal for a student who is confident – perhaps leading their section in the orchestra or performing as a soloist.

It could also do really well as a folk instrument as it has a VOICE that cuts above the rest and wouldn’t need amplification to be heard over the other folk instruments in a noisy environment.

If you want an instrument that’s beautiful, bright, loud and can pack a punch, this is yours!

Ursula Donnelley (Violin teacher and professional violinist)

History, repair and refurbishment notes

When this antique German copy of a Stainer model violin came into my little workshop, there was a crack under the tailpiece and it was covered in so much dust and old grime that I expect it had not been played for several decades, probably due to the crack. I expect it had been stored in an attic for some time.

What interested me was that the varnish on the face of the violin had been worn down to the wood on its shoulder, where its previous owner had held it in their left hand in the manner of a concert player waiting to play. Clearly the violin had been played a lot at performance level before incurring the crack.

I carefully removed the top (face, table) of the instrument, revealing it was as well made on the inside as it is on the outside. The date 1899 is written inside in pencil. This corresponds with my research on these German Stainer model replicas. I traditionally hide glued the crack and then reinforced the repair, very conservatively, in the traditional manner, with hide glued fine spruce cleats (studs, sutures).

Once the face of the violin was hide glued back in place a new sound-post was then made and carefully fitted. The violin was very carefully cleaned before one very light coat of German spirit varnish was applied to the bare wood area to seal it. The varnish was then very gently burnished with my own mixture of Luthier Tripoli powder and fine almond oil in order to enhance and blend-in the finish.

The violin comes in the vintage Beare case it arrived in and originally had a very expensive and prestigious J and A Beare bridge fitted. When fitted with Piastro Tonica strings I was not entirely happy with the way the violin played. It played well, but I felt it could be made to play better. I made a new bridge from a good quality German Teller blank and tuned it to the violin. The result is much better, in my opinion. The original Beare bridge remains safely in the case.

This instrument is refurbished with a Wittner composite tailpiece with integrated fine tuners. The pegs and chinrest are made of rosewood.

As the videos and review, by professional violinist Ursula Donnelly, demonstrate this is a very attractive violin with a good voice. Its previous owner once thought a great deal of this violin, judging by the wear to the varnish they played it a great deal and spent money on it at one of the world’s most prestigious violin dealers.