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More detailed information about stringed instruments and the history of violin making.


Violin making in western Bohemia and the Vogtland region


Schönbach and Graslitz: The history of violin making on the Bohemian-German border


In the 19th century, the new constellation of violin making in the economic region of the border between western Bohemian and the Vogtland evolved into a highly efficient division of labour. It went on to shape the wide-scale musical culture of Europe and the U.S. with the large numbers of cost-effective instruments it yielded. Smaller workshops throughout the entire binational area built instruments and, more notably, instrument parts to large-volume merchants who sold them internationally at top profits. In Schönbach, nearly 150,000 violins were produced each year in the late 19th century – along with 200,000 violin backs! These admirable figures clearly illustrate the economic structure of the instrument “publishing” business, as it was called.

There were, however, downsides to the industry's success. One was the massive need which prevailed amongst the families, who were completely financially dependent; the other was the dubious reputation of the lower-quality industrial products which to this day still clings to the era's Bohemian-Saxonian stringed instruments. Schönbach and Graslitz in particular were home to only a few violin makers who were able to create an instrument and all its parts from scratch– and who could afford the time to do so. However, their works – which were often purchased anonymously – had quite good acoustic and aesthetic properties, and these old Bohemian-Saxonian instruments do not deserve the fundamental disdain they frequently are given.

The Schönbach instrument makers experienced a minor form of emancipation from the supremacy of Markneukirchen around the turn of the 20th century when they founded two production cooperatives and established their own brokers. As a result, they were able to export some 20% of their own production by themselves. Within the interlinked business structure of the region, Schönbach stood out as the key centre for trading tonewoods, some 700 train cars of which were sold each year.


Related articles:

Crossing borders: on the history of violin making in western Bohemia

The second phase: the more recent history of violin making in western Bohemia

Markneukirchen: violin making in “German Cremona”

Klingenthal: the origin of violin making

H. R. Pfretzschner

Hopf: a dynasty of Vogtland violin makers

Ernst Heinrich Roth: a rediscovered master

The bow makers of Markneukirchen

Noteworthy families of Markneukirchen violin makers

New arrivals in our catalogue
  • Antique Saxon master violin - 19th century, c.1870
  • 19th century Mittenwald violin. Neuner & Hornsteiner, approx. 1860
  • Raffaello Bozzi at Antonio Monzino: Italian violin, 1940's
  • Italian violin, Romedio Muncher, Cremona 1929
  • American violin by W. Wilkanowski, Brooklyn, 1938
  • H. Derazey: Fine French violin from the workshop of Jean-Joseph Honoré Derazey
  • Saxonian violin by master luthier Max Heiling
  • Old Markneukirchen violin from Schuster & Co., 1942
  • Antique Markneukirchen violin, probably Schuster & Co.
  • Antique Violin from Saxony, approx. 1870
  • Antique Markneukirchen violin of quality, c.1890
  • Markneukirchen master violin, 1940's
  • German student violin after Stradivari, from Bubenreuth
  • Giorgio Grisales: Modern Italian violin, Cremona (certificate Giorgio Grisales)
  • Northern German violin by Richard Berger, Stralsund
  • German violin from Mittenwald, 1970'ies
  • Contemporary master violin by Marc de Sterke
  • Interesting German post-war violin, Hopf workshop, Taunusstein-Wehen
  • Contemporary Italian violin by Giovanni Lazzaro, Padua 1990
  • Fine Mittenwald master violin, c.1740, Sebastian Klotz circle
  • Antique Czech master violin. A fine copy of Johann Georg Thir, c.1900
  • Antique French 3/4 violin. Probably J.T. L.
  • François Fent, a fine historic French viola of the late 18th century (certificate Hieronymus Köstler)
  • Marcello Martinenghi, 1949: Fine Italian viola (certificate Eric Blot)