Markneukirchen or German Cremona: introduction to the history of German violin making in the Vogtland region, Saxony
His great sense of regional pride and healthy spirit of self-confidence are what inspired Markneukirchen violin maker Ludwig Gläsel jr. (1842-1931) from Markneukirchen in Germany to print the words “Deutsch-Cremona (German Cremona)” on his violin labels. Ludwig Gläsel jr. was, after all, one of the finest and most successful master craftsmen of his day from the German Vogtland region, and he also made a name for himself with several publications about the history violin making in Germany. As a member of a well-established and large Markneukirchen family of violin makers, he was certainly entitled to the brash pride that led him to rank violin making in Markneukirchen, the main village of the "Musikwinkel" region (the "musical corner" on the border between Saxony and Bohemia) alongside the legendary name of Cremona.
Or was his label perhaps intended as a sly wink? After all, during the approximately 350 years in which musical instruments were built in Markneukirchen, the town did not always enjoy an unblemished reputation. Around the mid-1700s, Carl Wilhelm Heber saw the need to put an additional label inside one of his Markneukirchen violins:
Many an impostor
Can sneak in here and there
Take heed you read my seal
Or buyer, please beware
Those who deal with old violins are all too familiar with these false labels that claim Italian provenance as well as famous – or at least famous-sounding – names. In the “Musicon Valley,” as Markneukirchen's region is sometimes now called, people understood what was popular and knew that time would tell. There are many Markneukirchen violins that reveal their Saxonian heritage only upon closer examination by the trained eye. The people of Markneukirchen have more than enough reason to be proud of their violin making tradition, however. The history of German violin making in the Vogtland region began in the mid-16th century, and as was the case in the neighbouring town of Klingenthal, Protestant émigrés from nearby Kraslice (Graslitz) in Bohemia brought the art of violin making to Markneukirchen, and with it arose an important new branch of industry.
Noteworthy families of Markneukirchen violin makers
H. R. Pfretzschner, bow maker, and entrepreneur
Reference guide: The violin: How to select a violin, its provenance and value
Mirecourt's new masters: contemporary violin makers in Mirecourt
Stradivari's heirs: contemporary violin makers in Cremona
Mittenwald violin makers - contemporary masters