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corilon violins

F. X. Tourte and the modern violin bow (the violin bow, part III)

Geigenbauer


The modern violin bow and the new classics of bow making in the style of the great François Xavier Tourte


While bow making in the Classical and Baroque periods was defined by many fluid shifts, the modern age of bow making has a clearly identifiable founding father and classic figurehead: François Xavier Tourte (1747/48-1835), whose reputation as the “Stradivarius of bow making” is undisputed. It is thought that this bow maker's son was initially trained as a watchmaker before joining his older brother Léonard's workshop and learning the family trade.

F. X. Tourte's bow design took the accomplishments of Classical bow making and perfected them, always with an eye to the growing demands of the era's soloists. One of his earliest innovations still stands the test of time: he used premium pernambuco wood. This permitted him to apply complicated physics to the shape of the stick, and as a natural material the wood remains unequalled to this day. The logarithmic narrowing of the later-period Tourte bows is an exceptional and historical achievement in terms of mathematical complexity and the related challenges in mechanical accuracy. It was not until a generation had passed that the great Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume (1798-1875) managed to comprehend and describe the precision of Tourte bows.

The massive successes which FX Tourte enjoyed even during his lifetime were not solely due to the mathematical sophistication of his bows; they were also attributed to the ideal playing characteristics he made possible. The FX Tourte bow was perfectly balanced and had a quick and agile response because of its strong inward arch. This bow offered the largest spectrum of playing techniques ever encountered — from full cantabile playing to newer spiccato techniques such as saltando, ricochet and sautillé. Tourte perfected every aspect of the model, including the contours of the head and the mounting for the horsehair, which he widened and increased. Much like Cremonese violins, Tourte's style was only marginally modified by other craftsmen. The most significant heirs of his legacy include the “German Tourte,” Ludwig Christian August Bausch (1805-1871), François Nicolas Voirin (1833-1885) and, last but not least, the great Eugène Sartory (1871-1946).

The most recent development in modern bow making involves working with composite materials such as fibreglass and
carbon fibre, which have been manufactured since the 1960s and the 1990s, respectively. In the meantime they are also available as high-quality models. The use of these materials is partially a response to the shortage of good pernambuco; this in turn is due to an expansion of agricultural areas and major construction activity which have affected the most important sites in Brazil where the pernambuco tree Caesalpina echinata is grown.



New arrivals in our catalogue:
  • Mozart bow - lightweight, active violin bow, silver, Germany
  • 1930's violin bow from Markneukirchen, warm, mellow tone
  • Strong, silver mounted viola bow, c.1980, Markneukirchen, Germany
  • Fine English violin bow by Frank Napier / W.E. Hill & Sons
  • Fine Czech Prague master violin, by Alois Bittner, 1930, No. 75
  • Eckart Richter, contemporary master violin, Markneukirchen
  • Interesting 18th century Markneukirchen viola, 1780 / 1790
  • 1/4 - Fine French 1/4 violin bow, Morizot Frères (certificate J.-F. Raffin)
  • German Markneukirchen violin after Guarneri, beautiful red oil varnish
  • Good German violin bow, W. E. Dörfler
  • 1920's Italian violin by Stefano Caponetto (certificate Christian Lijsen)
  • Powerful antique violin from Saxony, after J. Stainer
  • German Markneukirchen violin, Heinrich Th. Heberlein Jr., 1937
  • French violin from Mirecourt, approx. 1900
  • French violin with a singing tone, Amedee Dieudonne, 1945
  • 19th century: Antique German violin from Saxony, c.1850
  • Petite, late 18th century Italian violin, central Italy (certificate Hieronymus Köstler)
  • Rare German-English violin, Arnold Voigt, approx. 1890
  • Contemporary Markneukirchen master viola, Jochen Voigt, 1982, for soloists
  • Italian violin, Claudio Gamberini, circa 1930-50 (certificate Hieronymus Köstler)
  • Interesting historical violin by Johann Georg Leeb, Preßburg, 1786 (certificate Hieronymus Köstler)
  • Riccardo Bergonzi, contemporary Cremonese master violin (certificate R. Bergonzi)
  • Giulio Cesare Gigli, fine 18th century Italian violin, approx. 1750 (certificate E. Vatelot)
  • Mario Gadda, modern Italian violin after Oreste Candi, 1984 (certificate Mario Gadda)