Ref :   0903

A good French violin of the
Derazey School
with a fake Stradivari label.
Circa 1880

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This violin was originally offered to me as 'an old German Strad copy' still fitted with gut strings, which meant it hadn't been played for at least about 60 years. Yet it showed signs of tremendous wear and use from earlier - a heavily pitted fingerboard (now reprofiled), considerable wear in the treble c-bout and of the top's corners and edges. Clearly this violin had been played - a lot! And that was a good sign that it was greatly appreciated and had been played extensively. And it was very dirty from dust and oxidised rosin deposits.

It was only when the cleaning began that it became apparent that this was NOT German, but in fact a good French instrument, and very likely of the Derazey school, meaning it was from the Derazey workshop, probably from soon after the time that Justin Derazey took over the family business in 1879. This is fairly easily ascertained inasmuch as the choice of materials, the general workmanship and the manner in which the varnish had been reworked and worn down after application is identical to three other instruments I had seen from the same studio. Despite excellent workmanship in this violin, it remains surprising to what extent commercial imperatives drove the work of such studios as they apparently believed the fitting of a nicely faked Stradivari label would make the violin more appealing than a Derazey studio label.

The materials used for this violin are outstanding. One is immediately struck by the close match in flame and figure in the wood used for the back, ribs, neck and scroll - evidently from the same block and in keeping with requirements for good French lutherie. The top is of open-grained tone spruce with very straight and even growth lines. The purfling itself is very fine and carefully traced with good mitres and a steady hand throughout. The light amber-brown oil varnish has been reworked to appear worn, but nevertheless is soft and displays normal natural smooth wear patterns rather than chipping, as is common with cheaper harder spirit varnishes. So, all aspects of this violin's making point at discernment and fine workmanship that convince that the objective was to make a serious instrument conforming to high-end requirements.

And it succeeds. When playing it, it soon becomes evident why it was so well-worn and well-used - except for two other instruments I have here, this violin completely outplays just about everything else I currently have in my collection of around 30 violins - good ones. The tone has immediate power, focus, projection and above all clarity, is balanced over the full register and responsive in the high positions.

This is a good violin equal to any demand placed on it. It's easy and rewarding to play. After some 60 years of silence it's a great pleasure to hear this violin's beautiful voice again. It should go on to serve many generations of violinists to great satisfaction.


Dimensions :
  Length of back: 36.0 cm

Condition :
  Excellent condition. New ebony pegs and setup. Fingerboard recently profiled. The varnish is somewhat worn in the usual places.
A wingcrack (treble side) and a minor crack in the top running up along the tailpiece from the lower bout, treble side. were repaired long ago and are stable without threat to the violin's structural security. The lower front treble corner has been repaired.

Provenance :
  This violin belongs to Johan Grobbelaar. Earlier provenance unknown.

Price : Withheld


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