Munich violin makers and master violin makers and the joy of experimentation in a conservative craft

On the history of violin making in Munich

Munich has long been known as a city of art: luminaries such as Orlando di Lasso worked at the court of Duke Albrecht V during the Renaissance, whereas King Ludwig I transformed the capital of Bavaria into "Athens on the Isar" with his ambitious construction projects. By contrast, however, Munich itself is not widely considered a city of violin making. Despite the great names that line its history, such as Johann Paul Alletsee (1684-1733) and Giuseppe Fiorini (1861-1934), it never achieved the name in violin-making that places such as Füssen or Mittenwald did. Nevertheless, in keeping with Munich's reputation for its unconventional and multi-facetted artistic and cultural life, there were indeed some interesting original thinkers amongst the violin makers who worked in Munich.

One example of a trailblazer is Matthias Johann Kolditz, a master violin maker who was active in the first half of the 18th century and built slender models featuring lower arches than were common in his day. As a technically proficient master, he created eye-catching nonconformist pieces, including a viola with ribs that had multiple curvatures, as well as instruments with beautifully carved rosettes placed under the fingerboard near the soundholes. One of the finest Munich violin makers of the 19th century was Andreas Engleder (1802-1872), a highly sought-after repairer who taught important masters such as
Johann Kriner (1834-1883), who in turn went on to become the first director of the Mittenwald violin-making school. In his work, Engleder pursued interesting attempts at integrating new contours into stringed instruments. This was a major departure from the classic Italian templates of Stradivari and Guarneri. Engleder experimented with a pear-shaped violin and was inspired by contemporary influences to create pieces such as violins patterned after the body of a guitar.

In our time, innovative approaches can be seen in the work of violin maker and physicist Martin Schleske. Much like the famous American researcher Joseph Nagyvary, Martin Schleske has dared the to bridge the gap between craftsmanship and the natural sciences by working with tools such as computer-aided vibration analyses to explore the enigma of a violin's sound. He patented a technique that improves the resonance of violins by using the fungus Xylaria longipes to reduce the density of tonewoods. Innovative minds like Martin Schleske and Nagyvary act as catalysts in a field that is mindful of its traditions and conservative, a craft whose great masters were also great observers and quietly did research on their own. Striking a balance between the work of a laboratory and that of an luthier's atelier can be successful and fruitful, as is evident not only in the highly respectable instruments that these violin-making researchers have created. Other proof of this interdisciplinary approach can be seen is in another context – using dendrochronology to determine the age of wood has become a recognized method in violinmaking history.


Violin shop and repair services at Corilon violins

Our specialist atelier will also accept commissions for service repairs, bow rehair and adjustments for your master violin, fine violin, or viola (national and international). Please contact us for a quote and instructions for sending in your instrument.


Related articles:

The violin wolf tone: Taming the wolf in a stringed instrument

Contemporary violin makers - the modern artisan elite

Mirecourt's new masters: contemporary violin makers in Mirecourt

Stradivari's heirs: contemporary violin makers in Cremona

Mittenwald violin makers - contemporary masters


Matthias Klotz and pre-modern violin making in Mittenwald

History of the violin bow

Eugène Nicolas Sartory: the modern classic of bow making

Online catalogue