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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:
  • French viola bow stamped "N. Audinot", J. Thibouville-Lamy (certificate J. F. Raffin)
  • Excellent 19th century German violin bow by Bausch
  • German lightweight violin bow with a "Salingre" stamp, soft
  • Charming antique French violin after Antonio Stradivari
  • Georg Klotz, 1766: Fine Mittenwald violin (Georg Kloz)
  • WORKED OVER AND OPTIMIZED: Modern Italian 7/8 violin, Carlo Melloni, 1932 (certificate Eric Blot)
  • WORKED OVER AND OPTIMIZED: Italian violin in the Otello Bignami tradition
  • Good Schönbach viola, Ferdinand Fischer, 1935
  • Markneukirchen violin bow of the 1950ies, bright, fluid tone
  • Old Mittenwald violin, Josef Rieger, 1927
  • Markneukirchen viola bow, silver mounted, Arnold Stoess
  • Contemporary German soloist violin, Bernhard Gerstner, Ulm 1995
  • Fine 18th century violin, Franz Knitl, Freising, 1769
  • Excellent French violin, Collin-Mézin (fils), 1945, No. 845
  • Fernando Montavoci, rare 1936 Italian violin
  • Old, Mittenwald orchestra violin with a dark, clear tone, 1950's
  • Old, 1920's Saxon violin, Markneukirchen, bright tones
  • Mario Bedocchi, fine Italian viola (certificate by Eric Blot)
  • Aldo Zani, fine contemporary Italian viola
  • Fine Italian viola, Umberto Lanaro, Padova (certificate Robert Bein)
  • François Fent, a fine historic French viola of the late 18th century
  • Historic master violin from the Vogtland region, circa 1780-1800
  • Powerful 1920's Southern Italian violin with a radiant, brilliant sound
  • Good 1940's violin bow from Markneukirchen, warm, mellow tone