Posts Tagged ‘Maidstone square label’

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
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