Carlo Bergonzi...a late Cremonese master...here my newest interpretation, great wood, glowing shaded varnish with a light texture and a warm sound. Try it.
I am delighted to announce my involvement with the 4th annual Bristol festival REALLY CLASSICAL RELAY
Live music played continously by professional musicians from the start to the end of the weekend (except the small hours).
A small selection of my instruments will be on display, as well as some scroll carving display.
Bristol Music Club
76 St Paul’s Road, Bristol, BS8 1LP
13th & 14th May 2017
Saturday 13th May 4pm - 10pm (doors open 3pm)
Sunday 14th May 10am - 4pm (doors open 9:30am)
international professional musicians | historical instruments | music by Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven & contemporaries | continuous performances | come and go when you want | pay what you can for entry | all ages welcome | creative activities & children’s concerts | licensed café | crafts stalls
Spring cleaning in the wood store, about 24 beautiful seasoned 8 year Bosnian Maple sets available for sale...
Last Sundays BVMA exhibition was as usually a very well organized day, thanks to the management committee and volunteers. A healthy number of visitors, professional and student players as well as enthusiastic violin making students from Newark-on-Trent and Merton College made for an almost endless stream of visitors to Kings Place London.
I enjoyed meeting the many visitors to my stand, engaging in interesting talks, as well as listening to some wonderful playing when my instruments where tried - but where were the viola players?
But just as important is the interaction with the many friends and colleagues attending. It was a friendly event with much sharing and learning alike.
If you missed it try and visit next year - possibly again at the same wonderful venue - watch this space.
My latest Carlo Bergonzi violin was having its first 'official' outing, but was already praised by Alexander Sitkovetsky after his wonderful performance with the Tabakova Players last Wednesday at St.George's Bristol, the entire programme with music by the mesmerizing Dobrinka Tabakova.
My next BVMA - BRITISH VIOLIN MAKING ASSOCIATION - exhibition will be on Sunday 12thy. March 2017, together with many friends and colleagues at the new venue of 'Kings Place'.
The Brodsky Quartet will be in attendance playing makers instruments in a short concert at 13.15.
‘Players Meet Makers’ Day is the BVMA’s annual showcase of violin makers,
bow makers and associated trades displaying their instruments and bows – the best of new making in the UK and abroad.
Sunday 12 March 2017 - Kings Place - 90 York Way - Kings Cross - London N1 9AG
Doors open at 10.30am and close at 5.00pm --------- Nearest stations: King's Cross & St. Pancras
If you have any questions or would like to view a specific instrument on the day please contact me before.
My latest small da Salo Viola 15.5'' - after the ex Kievman, is now varnished and fitted up.With a one piece back on the slab, a somewhat wider grained front it's keeping close to the original. The richly coloured red brown oil varnish is shaded, with textures and a light patina, giving a warm subtle appearance
Work continues on the Bergonzi violin and several of my new instruments will be on show at the forthcoming BVMA March exhibition in London (more details to follow ).
Also on the Bench a violin after Bergonzi and a baroque violin after Nicolo Amati, as well as a small da Salo Viola 15.5'' - the ex Kievman.
30 year anniversary: September 1986 - 2016
After my 3 year full time training at the Welsh School of musical instrument making and repair in South Wales I set up my first workshop in Bristol Horfield's Radnor Road Center.
A former furniture making training place for returning WW2 soldiers, it became a busy multiple occupied small business center with several craft and artisan workshops.
In 1992 my wife Ana and I settled in Totterdown, a Victorian suburb on the southern hills of Bristol. Our large 3 storey house was to become our home and inspirational working environment for the next 8 years.
For the last 16 years we have been in Sylvia Avenue, just a bit higher up on the hills, with beautiful panoramic views over the city and green surrounds. Our city garden has an almost Italian Mediterranean flair, with apples, grapes and delicious figs (there must a suitable micro climate here).
My workshop with its 2 windows is overlooking the garden and gives a lot of light.
Over the years I have had the fortune to meet many wonderful and encouraging musicians. The process of making instruments is an ongoing learning curve, and seeing, listening and exploring old and new instruments is as inspiring now as when I started my profession 33 years ago.
Most of my instruments are in The UK and many countries in Europe (Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands), but also further afield in the USA, Taiwan, Japan, Australia.
Click on the photo for some early impression of my workshops and some encounters with musicians.
The October issue of the Strad magazine is also
featuring my workshop in its regular 'My Space' series.
Feel free to browse my book pages for an interesting selection of collectible and often out of print books on the violin etc.
August - September
Now on the bench and nearing completion are 2 Violas, the larger one based on my successful Gasparo da Salo model, reduced from a large tenor to a manageable 16 1/2'' (420 mm).
Also a smaller 15 3/4'' (400mm) Viola after Andrea Guarneri, very comfortable for a smaller hand. The one piece slab back inspired by the Primrose Guarneri.
I am also working on a beautiful Richard Tobin violin which has been most likely made for Lockey Hill around the 1820's.
A nice summer break in a small northern Spanish village has produced several scrolls for my next violins and violas...
2 Viola scrolls for my current Da Salo and A. Guarneri Violas, as well as scrolls after Guarneri del Gesu, Carlo Bergonzi, Nicolo Amati and Antonio Stradivari.
June - July
My new Stradivari model cello is also a happy sounding instrument and has impressed a recent visitor...
The bee violin has flown to Devon into a happy summer...
April - May
Varnishing time... my own cooked oil varnish after old traditional recipies,
subtly coloured with my tranpsarent and lightfast lake pigments, made from madder root (rubia tinctorum).
Turning a fishy present into a time honoured abrasive....
a look at dogfish skin preparation.
The photos I took during the making of the latest violin can be seen here.
Work on my new Cello also continues - photos soon.
The BVMA exhibition was busy and a lot of fun. As always just enough time to meet old friends, colleagues and musicians keen to try instrumnets and compare.
Several instruments are now in the process of being tried, and one of my large da Salo Violas is now with its happy new owner on the Southcoast of Britain.
January - March 2016
I will be exhibiting some of my instruments at the forthcoming annual BVMA makers day at London's RCM opposite the Albert hall.
It's on Sunday 13th. March and the doors are open from 11am to 5pm.
Please contact me if you want me to bring a particular instrument you are interested in.
I am close to finishing my newest Stradivari model Cello, as well as working on a violin commission, the 'Bee' companion to the 'Bee'-Viola from almost 20 years ago.
In the workshop 2015
November - December 2015
A new Cello after Stradivaris' B-Form is being started, with some beautiful well seasoned wood selected.
RCM degree student Melissa Ong is the happy owner of one of my previous smaller Strad cello models. She visited recently for a check up to her cello after playing it for over 2 years in several London orchestras. She is also the principal Cellist of the RCM Symphony Orchestra. Her cello and its sound has developed beautifully and after some minor adjustments and a little cleaning is ready for some more serious playing.
A recent new client is the well known Viola player Yossi Gutman, now again resident in Berlin. Mr. Gutmann, b. Tel Aviv, 1947, acclaimed violist, studied with Nadia Boulanger, Odeon Partos, Williams Primrose, Yehudi Menuhin and Sergiu Celibidache. He has been principal violist in several orchestras: including the Hamburg Symphony; Deutsches Symphony Orchestra, Berlin; Bayreuth Festspiel Orchestra. In chamber music: founding member of the Melos Quartet; founder of the Stradivari Sextett; principal violist for the Amati Ensemble.
In the past he had 1734 Gibson Stradivari Viola on loan, also playing a Carlo Antonio Testore Viola, and more recently choosen a 'Steffen Nowak' Viola after Gasparo da Salo to perform on.
Mr. Gutmann is one of many fine players who are appreciating the sound and potential of a good contemporary instrument.
August - September - October 2015
The 2 new instruments are finished and can presently be seen at the 2015 Triennale exhibition in Cremona, where they were both very well received by the international jury.
the new Guarneri Viola
I finished varnishing during July, and finalized the set-up and sound adjustments during my holidays in a small village in Northern Spain. An impromotu concert on the violin in a residential care home showed that the violin had a rich pallete of tone colours and it was a joy to play.
varnishing stages of the new del Gesu
the del Gesu violin with its varnish ground
And the varnish ground of the viola
May - July 2015
2 new instruments are under way, a Guarneri del Gesu violin after the 1737 'Joachim' as well as a Andrea Guarneri viola, after the Conte Vitale.
For both instruments I choose beautiful deeply flamed one piece backs cut on the slab, looking for the warm and darker sound character this type of wood can give.
The fronts are from old, well seasoned alpine spruce.
shaping the bassbar
The LSO International Festival at Londons Barbican on 12.April, part of the 'STRAD Sundays' at was an interesting event to exhibit at. A friendly welcome by the organisers, well set up tables, and various makers and a few dealers showing an interesting array of instruments and accessoiries. It was a popular event with many active musicians visiting, chatting and trying instruments.
Three talks accompanied the event. Roger Rose’s well attended talk was about the changes in set-up between Baroque and modern instruments.
Helen Michetschläger previewed her forthcoming publication of the Magister Violin Varnish book. Her summary of Koen Paddings’ varnish system and research doesn't promise ready-made recipes, but more an insight into the system itself and the various papers and articles the late K. Padding had published. The experienced varnish maker amongst us will undoubtedly find this publication useful, whether one has used the Magister varnish or not, for the beginner searching for a working varnish perhaps less so.
The sad and early death of K. Padding has left a gap in the commercial violin varnish market, and probably many of his customers looking somewhat worried into the future when their own supply runs out.
Making one’s own varnish is not without pitfalls as every maker who has ever ventured on this road can verify. But once a workable recipy has been found, it’s worthwhile to keep improving and fine-tuning it over the years, rather than jumping onto the latest craze. Very much like creative cooking, once the basic technique has been mastered, the improvement lays often in reacting to the immediacy of varnish layer application, absorption of the wood and the ground, ways of application and the myriads of other possibilities, some of them by design, others by chance.
After many years of experimentation it is still a challenge and joy in getting to know and learn more about my classical ingredients and their properties and being able to adjust my recipy for the next instrument as I see fit, rather than having to rely on a commercial product, however well received.
photo courtesy of G.Jevic
photo courtesy of G.Jevic
The final talk was by a prominent London dealer, trying to explain the adjustment possibilities of a wolf note on a violin, aided by the very patient LSO leader Roman Simovic.
My impression was that the attempt of science and good old fashioned trial and error sound-post adjustments might well have impressed some of the audience, but judging by both the sound of the test violins and the body language of the player I reserve my own judgement what the real reason of such a public demonstration might have been.
Due to my commitment at my stand I was not able to be part of the audience in the auditorium invited to compare the sound of 6 violins from a Stradivari down to a humble ‘Mirecourt’.
The evening concert by the LSO opened with the magnificent ‘Cantus in memoriam Benjamin Britten’ by Arvo Pärt , followed by a virtuosic and thoughtful interpretation of the Britten violin concerto by Gil Shaham on his 1699 “Countess Polignac” Stradivarius, one of the last ‘long pattern’ violins.
Mr. Shahams’ beautiful and shimmering sound on his violin should make makers listen and perhaps try to make the occasional long pattern model.
I am delighted to have been invited to take part in an exhibition during the LSO International Festival at Londons Barbican.
The event is part of 'The Strad Sundays' and will be on Sunday, 12. April from 10am - 5.30pm in the Fountain Room, Level G.
The evening concert will feature Gil Shaham and the LSO playing the Britten violin concerto.
Link to the festival brochure here.
Just back from the BVMA exhibition in London, still unpacking and tidying my workshop. A very nice and friendly day at the RCM, as always a great place to catch up with friends, colleagues and to meet many players. I am using the 'recovery' period to put photos of my new da Salo Viola up here.
January - February
My da Salo Viola is almost finished and varnished. My previous instruments on this model have all sold to players in the UK and Germany in the past years.
I shall also be exhibiting at this years BVMA Makers Day, to be held at the RCM London (The Royal College of Music) Prince Consort Road, London, SW7 2BS) on Sunday 15. March. 10.00 - 16.00. admission free.
Da Salo Viola
Stradivari Cello 740mm
In the workshop 2014
November - December
After finishing my Strad model Cello I am now making a new Viola after Gasparo da Salo - 16.5'',
ready for March 2015.
The new cello has a rich ,even and powerful sound. Available to try now.
I have also been busy with carving a Viola scroll to replace the missing original on a Grancino Viola, belonging to a prominent British player.
Replica Grancino viola scroll
August - October
The latest cello after my Stradivari B form reduction is nearing completion and will be varnished soon.
With a back length of 740 mm and a 680mm string length
its a very comfortable cello to play without compromising on performance.
My earlier Grancino viola has also recently sold.
Stradivari Cello 740mm
June - July
My 16'' Andrea Guarneri Viola model is now finished. The sound is warm and responsive over its register and very promising at this early stage. The varnish finished with an antique appearance showing some light wear marks, craquelee and patination. Pictures are now here....
16'' Guarneri model Viola
A visit from a bumblebee....my 1997 cutaway viola came into the workshop for a bit of TLC. Read more here...
Both instruments have stunning one piece backs of East European maple -
I am lucky to have been able to purchase a large part of this tree in the early 1990's.
A few more pieces are still available for some special instruments.
'da Salo' Viola
Guarneri 'del Gesu' Violin
Nearing completion is a 16'' Viola after Andrea Guarneri.
I am also making a new Cello after my modified 'Forma B' Stradivari.
Viola after A.Guarneri
In early May I went on a spruce buying trip to Northern Italy, a few photos can be seen here.
Even though I have assembled a large stock of tonewood over the years I am still stocking up for the next 30 years ;-)
visit to Italy
January - February Visit my stand at the annual BVMA exhibition on Sunday 2. March. It is held in a new London venue at :
The Clerkenwell Centre, 61 Lever Street, London EC1V 3AR. Open from 10.00 until 16.00
I am now in the finishing stages with my newest Violin after del Gesu as well as a large Viola after Gasparo da Salo.
These will be on show at the forthcoming BVMA makers day in London on March 2cd.
My baroque violin after Amati has been purchased by Mr. Rafael Font, who is a fine violinst and active in several period instrument ensembles both here and abroad.
He will be performing in the forthcoming national tour of historic churches with Poeticall Musicke, comprising 8 concerts during March.
In the same ensemble an earlier baroque violin after Stainer made by me is also being used by George Clifford.
varnishing the new 'del Gesu' and 'da Salo'
In the workshop 2013
October- November - December 2013
The last 2 months have been busy
with a variety of activities. Back in September/October I have
been again in Cremona, for both the trade fair as well as visiting
the new 'Museo del Violino' and its inaugural exhibition of
selected instruments from the Chi-Mei collection in Taiwan. The study day was also a highlight where groups of makers were able
to look at and handle these instruments more closely. Comparing
notes with colleagues proved to be a unique opportunity as many
instruments were by lesser known Italian makers.
Closer to home I have been preparing several new instruments,
as well as finishing and setting up my baroque Stainer violin.
My new small Cello model after Stradivari has been bought by a
highly talented student at the RCM London.
Taking photos of my instruments for my webpage here as well as
for future reference has long been a hobby of mine. With a
somewhat improvised set up and lighting they will never be as good
as I perhaps would like, but I prefer to put my main energy into
my instruments. With digital video on many cameras I
was tempted though to try to show some of my instruments in 'motion'.
Apologies if these don't work in some IE browsers, or possibly with some size
distortion on handheld devices. Coping with html5 codes proved to
be only slightly more fascinating then watching paint dry, and
with this I think I am at the limit of my computer expertise.
The colour will probably show less true then in the photos, but I
thought it would be interesting to see a violin from different
Any comments are welcome.
the new Stainer baroque violin
the Duomo in Cremona at night
new del Gesu violin
August - September 2013
I started varnishing my new Stainer baroque style violin . Some photos and updates are now online.
Two more of my instruments have found some happy new owners in
Britain over the summer.
One of my del Gesu violin models has sold to a professional
player and teacher, and my latest da Salo viola has been purchased
by a talented student.
June - July 2013
Recently one of my Bergonzi model violins has been bought by a
professional player with the Taipei Philharmonic Orchestra, Taiwan.
The Stradivari exhibition at the
Ashmolean museum in Oxford was unmissable. Open until
11.August it gave visitors the unique
chance to see and compare 21 of Stradivaris best preserved
instruments. Some photo impressions of my recent visit are here.
My 2 two new violins are progressing
well - the Guarneri Violin is varnished and awaiting its set-up.
The Stainer Baroque violin should get finished over the summer
ready for late August.
Meanwhile my last available full size Strad Cello has sold and will
soon be living in Australia.
1713 'Boissier-Sarasate' new del Gesu model violin
April - May 2013
My new viola (400mm) after my Andrea
Guarneri model is finished and having it first sound trial. The back
and ribs of beautiful curly East European maple.
I am also working on 2 new violins after Stainer (baroque), and
a Guarneri del Gesu model.
Guarneri style Viola, 400mm
Early March the BVMA makers day was a nice day
to meet players, many new faces and old friends alike, and a good
way of catching up with many colleagues.
The Gildas quartet performed a very well received 30 minute
recital on 4 instruments chosen from the exhibitors.
Its violist Kay Stephen had taken a liking to my new Gasparo da
Salo viola and her and her colleagues skilful playing
were proof that virtually 'brand new' instruments can sound
resonant, rich and vibrant. Also the unusual choice of a 'medley'
of individual quartet movements was a great way of exploring the
range of tonality of the 4 instruments. A quartet to watch I
My new small model Stradivari cello has received
praise by visiting cellists and photos are also available now.
Back in the workshop a small viola (400mm) after my
Andrea Guarneri model is taking shape.
I will also be looking out for some dry and warmer days to do
some varnish cooking.
Da Salo Viola
January - February 2013
The new Cello is finished and
being played in. Photos will come soon.
Meanwhile a new Viola after Gasparo da Salo is well on the way.
I am also looking forward to the annual BVMA Makers day, Sunday
3th. March 10.00 - 16.00.The event will be held again at the The Old Sessions House, Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0NA.
Admission and events brochure is free - catering is available on
site and nearest tube is Farringdon 5 minutes away.
In the workshop 2012
November- December 2012
I have been keeping busy with a
new small Cello (740mm) after Stradivari - modified after
the golden period B-form.
This should be ready during January 2013.
Late in November I had a visit from photographer and violinist
Edward Webb who is undertaking a project of photographing violin
makers in their workshops. His website can be found here.
My Bergonzi Violin achieved the 5th. best tonal result
out of over
200 violins entered in this years Cremona
More info on the Bergonzi violin and Guarneri Viola.
September - October 2012
My latest 2 instruments
are getting played in just now, photos coming in a couple of weeks
Meanwhile my earlier 'Provigny' Strad
model violin has sold to a player from Englands South coast
May - June - July 2012
Time is moving on fast - just like
the jet stream induced bad weather fronts over northern Europe of the
I am now varnishing my latest 2 instruments - a viola after
Guarneri and a violin after C. Bergonzi. They should be ready for
Occasionally I have my compact camera on hand in the workshop
and the thought of mind to take some shots of the moment.
Making violins is a magical combinations of many different skills
and the mix of sculpting and very precise engineering in
wood can be aptly demonstrated by the different aspects of violin
When planing the endgrain of the maple neckblock the plane
blade has to be razor sharp - and a well honed and adjusted plane
is a prerequisite.
The resulting shavings are beautiful by-products - even though
ending up in the bin. They look like frail autumnal leaves
exposing their fragility against the light.
maple neckblock shaving in the light
When contemplating the purfling inlay around the edges
there are many different methods to choose.
Starting with a bewildering choice of woods like poplar, pear, maple,
beech, ebony or even whalebone, black paper or - god forbid - fibre! to the
thicknesses of each strand and the direction its being cut, made
in the own workshop and stained black with logwood shavings and
ferrous sulphate or bought in.
the purfling channel marked and partially cut
Then the - usually three - black, white, black strips are prepared,
planed, cut, sandwich glued, pre-bend or left straight, inserted loosely and
held by the tips of the fingers whilst handling the runny glue
dripping down from the tip of the brush....this is not a good time
to answer the telephone!
the c-bout strips are fitting
No wonder some of the old Milanese and English school makers
preferred to shortcut and imitate the time consuming channel
cutting by a scratched double line - when done well looking like
tramlines in the snow - or painting it on.
Structurally the purfling strips have the function of preventing
cracks to the more fragile grain of the spruce front.
When hit on the edge a crack may well travel along the whole front
- but the cross directional multi stranded inlay (to about half
the edge thickness) will absorb and 'break' the impact - thus the
extra time spend in channeling and inlaying is well invested by
preventing even more costly repairs.
here the loose 3 strip purfling inlay method is shown -
anyone wants to try it with 4 (like Bergonzi?)
the 2cd inner mitre join is ready for trimming
The best makers also excel in their stylistic
use of this inlay technique, so much so that the material
and inlay method
used , the style of corner mitre, its length, shape,
extended black 'bee-sting' and direction into the corner point are
a valuable feature and tell tale sign of a school, workshop or
even an individual maker. Very much like an individuals
handwriting differs from another.
and the finished work on my Gasparo da Salo Viola
I have finally updated the web site with
photos and a brief description of my newest baroque violin after Nicolo Amati and the modern Viola after A. Guarneri.
After London I am busy with some new projects
- also re-organizing my wood stock and now offering various Cello
backs for sale. A few 5 years old, some others just over a year
old, stunningly beautiful figured backs, have a look here.
The BVMA exhibition on the 4th.March was as pleasurable as
always - perhaps visitors numbers down a bit to previous years -
it was an awful rainy day - but nevertheless I met up with many
interesting musicians and regulars - thanks to all who came
by, chatted and tried instruments.
January/ February 2012
I have been preparing for my annual exhibition
at the BVMA Makers day Sunday 4th. March 10.00 - 16.00.
I am looking forward to be meeting old and new customers alike
- you are all welcome to stop by to chat and try any instruments.
On show will be my latest Baroque violin after Nicolo Amati, a mid
size Viola after Guarneri, as well as violins and a Strad model
The event will be held again at the The Old Sessions House, Clerkenwell Green, London, EC1R 0NA.
Sunday 4th. March 10.00 - 16.00.
Admission and events brochure is free - catering is available on
site and nearest tube is Farringdon 5 minutes away.
The New Year has begun and I am looking
forward to varnishing my newest viola after Guarneri and baroque
violin after Amati - update and pictures soon.
Time is flying - still working
on the last 2 instruments, but travels, workshop and wood store
reorganisation keep me busy and away from the bench.
Wishing all my clients, friends and web site visitors a good
holiday and all the best for 2012.
A new book on the history of 'The Pump Room
Orchestra, Bath' by Robert Hyman (a member of the Bath Pump Room
Trio and owner of one of my violins for many years) and Nicola Hyman will be
launched in November.
Order details with free UK postage on my link page.
My 2006 Stainer Baroque violin will soon
be heard in the London early music circuit as it has found a new
owner, a young professional baroque violinist, recently graduated
from the RAM.
I am just back from my annual pilgrimage to Cremona where the
town hosted an exhibition of 5 early decorated Stradivari violins.
This small but exquisite exhibition together with the many other
events and the uncommonly warm temperatures made it a very
pleasurable study trip.
2 new Violas are progressing on
the bench. An Andrea Guarneri model (400mm back
length) which I have made before for a commission last year,
though this will have a slightly longer string length of 360mm.
The other inspired by Gasparo da Salo with a back length of
The Cello commission of a 740mm adapted Strad model is completed
and now with a delighted new owner, a professional Cellist in
Scotland. Link to photos and the 'making blog' here.
I decided to take some new photos of the previous Strad Cello made in 2007/2008,
the previous set not quite doing it justice. They can be seen here.
The Cello is nearing its completion and reaching
the varnishing stage.
Meanwhile the 2008 Andrea Guarneri Viola is sold. I hope to be able to make another model
during this year.
December 2010 / January 2011
My work on the cello commission is going well.
Photos of the making stages here.