THE STRAD - VOL.121 NO.1445 - SEPTEMBER 2010

Geigenbau_The-Strad_September-2010 My Space: A peek into lutherie workshops around the world.


"My Cat is a good judge of instruments -
if she likes the sound, she will lie
on her back and loll"


WITH A CLEAR CONSCIENCE I can say that my home is my castle.
I live and work in Lindich Palace (built in 1738-41), which was a hunting lodge for the Princes of Hohenzollern-Hechingen. Franz Liszt and Hector Berlioz visited here and gave concerts for the arts-loving Prince Konstantin and his wife, so there has always been music in and around this building.
I have been following the World Cup, as you can see from the poster on the left-hand wall.
I'm a member of the luthiers group Klanggestalten (see The Strad, March 2008), and there is a poster of our 2006 exhibition beneath the World Cup poster.
I haven't replaced it with a more recent one because the scroll that is pictured is one of mine! A black-and-white group portrait of the group's members can be seen on the elevated table between the two windows, beside the bodies of a viola and a violin I am working on at the moment. I mostly work on several instruments at once, and on the left workbench there is a neck waiting to be stuck on to its corresponding body. The neck is being guarded by Fräulein Smilla, a cat who has lived in the castle since before I moved in. She didn't have a home and was fed by the neighbours in turn, and at some point she just moved in with me. She is a good judge of instruments  - if she likes the sound, she will lie on her back and loll, otherwise she'll just walk out on it. The huge paper roll leaning against the right wall is a present from the luthier Francois Denis. It shows the outline of a seven-metre violin in Stradivari pattern, and he gave it to me after a Klanggestalten exhibition. I am not sure what to do with if yet. On the workbench in the middle of the room there are the two halves of a back that I have just started working on. On the shelves on the left of the picture is part of my wood stock. I mostly buy from dealers in Mittenwald or the South Tyrol, but I have seen fantastic maple from Romania. The three instruments hanging in the windows are cheap violins I bought in the white to experiment with varnishes. You can appreciate what works and what doesn't much better on a real instruments than on a simple piece of wood.
Above the toolboard on the left of the picture are several instruments and - separately - the back of the first of them, which I took out to repair a small crack. This is a violin by the Franciscus Geissenhof. The label says 1802, but it is probably earlier; around 1800 he changed to making Stradivari models, but this one is still in the style of his teacher, Johann Georg Thir. The instruments is completely original, even the fingerboard. Directly above the back of the Geissenhof you can just see a miniature violin I made as a child, playing with a knife on the kitchen table. I like to call it my op.1!