Le Canu-Millant, Paris: lutherie and expertise
Making his first violin at the tender age of 13 marked the beginning of Bernard Millant’s career. Then again, it may have started even earlier, for he presumably spent a great deal of time in his father’s workshop from his early childhood on, as befitted a scion of one of the oldest and most venerated French violin-making dynasties. Born in 1929 to Max Stanislas Millant and Suzanne Lardon, Bernard Millant’s roots extend back to Mirecourt, where his grandfather Sébastien-Auguste Deroux and his family had become well-established luthiers by the mid-18th century.
Bernard Millant returned to his place of ancestry when he began his apprenticeship under Amédée Dieudonné in Mirecourt in 1946. He stayed there until 1949, simultaneously learning the art of bow making at the Morizot Frères’ atelier. After his apprenticeship, Bernard Millant worked for Lazare Rudié in New York where he met Rembert Wurlitzer, an encounter that sparked his further vocation as a valuator and expert.
In 1950 Millant returned to Paris and set up shop in 56 Rue de Rome, just a few doors away from the workshop owned by his father Max and his uncle Roger, and not far from the building where Millant’s greatest apprentice, J.-F. Raffin, would later establish his atelier.
Bernard Millant invented his own bow design by studying a collection of antique bows that was in his family’s possession. His model was an interesting and ingenious synthesis of elements from the Peccatte school, which influenced the style of the head, and from the English bow-making tradition, particularly the frog with its Hill-style underslide. Despite his concentration on bow making, Millant never abandoned his origins. He rose to be a multitalented master, as evidenced by his first great success, when he was awarded two certificates of honour at the International String Quartet competition in Liège in 1954, one for a quartet of instruments and the other for a quartet of bows.
Upon winning a gold medal in Ascoli Piceno in 1959, Bernard Millant began one of the most productive and successful phases of his career. The sought-after bow maker and restorer went on to become a valuator of international repute, whose expertise and powers of discernment are respected to this day. Perhaps it was Millant’s critical, expert eye that inspired him not only to stamp his bows with the words BERNARD MILLANT PARIS, but also to inscribe the year of origin on the underslide, for he knew well what a difficult and complex task it could be to appraise a bow of unknown provenance. All products of his own workmanship bear the name Millant in lasting tribute to their maker, who ranks among the great masters of the French bow-making tradition, and are highly esteemed by professional musicians.
In 1989 Bernard Millant passed his business on to Loïc Le Canu. From 1996 to 2000 he collaborated with his former apprentice J.-F. Raffin on writing the monumental two-volume work L’Archet, a history of French bow making. This achievement firmly established Bernard Millant as a great authority. Millant found worthy successors in Loïc and Verena Le Canu. Both worked for Max Möller—who, like Millant, apprenticed under Amédée Dieudonné—at his renowned atelier in Amsterdam. Before that, both had pursued their training at several major international ateliers, including that of André and René Morizot, the last of the famous Morizot frères, in Mirecourt.
The Le Canu-Millant atelier continues on in the spirit of Bernard Millant, who still regularly visits his old workshop and remains active as an expert, as the new owners carry on the business of violin making, restoration, consultation and scholarship in the tradition of their great predecessor.