About Roland Baumgartner: violin maker, restorer and renowned expert in Basel, Switzerland
The world of Swiss violin making is young and rather circumscribed, at least in comparison with traditional European centers of the art — small perhaps, but not to be ignored, as the example of Roland Baumgartner, a noted master violin maker and violin expert in Basel, Switzerland clearly shows. Roland Baumgartner represents the third generation in his family to head the workshop founded by his grandfather, Fritz Baumgartner, Sr., in 1920. That is where both Roland Baumgartner and his brother Michael received their training. Roland Baumgartner further developed his expertise and skills by working and studying under major violin makers in France, England, Germany, Italy and the USA — thus gaining considerable experience to round off the comprehensive instruction given by his father, Fritz Baumgartner, Jr.
Fritz Baumgartner Sr. and Jr.
Looking beyond Swiss borders had already been characteristic of Fritz Baumgartner, Sr., the founder of the violin-making family, who studied in Liestal under August Meinel of Markneukirchen. At that time, Meinel was an instructor and entrepreneur who greatly influenced Swiss violin making. From 1913 until World War I began, Baumgartner went to Markneukirchen himself to learn the art of bow making under August Rau. At his own atelier in Basel from 1920 onwards, he made bowed and plucked stringed instruments with increasing success, deftly selecting models from among the wealth of styles created by great European master violin makers. Fritz Baumgartner Sr., who had first trained to be a watch-crystal cutter, also invented the electric rib-bending iron, a significant contribution to the technological development of his craft.
After 1950, Fritz Baumgartner, Jr. continued the work of his father, soon earning awards at international competitions. His instruments, which were mainly fashioned after the works of Italian master violin makers, are not very numerous, but they remain well-esteemed to this day, as are his Tourte-style bows. Roland Baumgartner returned to Basel from his journeys in 1974, quickly establishing a good name for himself as a violin maker. Like many excellent masters of his trade, the bulk of the work in his atelier soon consisted of repair orders. As his experience in restoring antique stringed instruments grew, so did his reputation as a violin expert. Roland Baumgartners certificates are now recognized worldwide.
Since 1988 Roland Baumgartner’s atelier in Basel has been reinforced by luthier Gertrud Reuter, and he has again become a world traveler in the cause of violin making: as a sought-after violin expert attending great exhibitions, as a jury member in international competitions, as a consultant, lecturer, author and appraiser in Cremona, Paris, Freiburg, Mittenwald and the USA. An active member of several national and international violin-makers’ associations, Roland Baumgartner hardly has time nowadays to make new instruments. However, his good contacts all over the world are a source of inspiration, knowledge and experience that shape the work that takes place in his atelier—and make Basel a world-class center of the art of violin-making.
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