Ref :   0974

An excellent German viola by
Joachim Gräbner
(1928 - 1981)
Johannesburg, 1967

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Joachim (Karl Heinz) Gräbner was born in 1928 and raised in the south of Germany. He studied violinmaking with the important maker and master, Fridolin Köhler in Munchen. In his adult life he settled in Johannesburg in South Africa, which, during the 50s, 60s and 70s had a number of important symphony orchestras with their commensurate spin-offs such as musicians, teachers and students, which no doubt made this country an attractive prospect for an aspiring violinmaker. He was prolific in this respect - his instruments soon made their way into the hands of the country's foremost soloists and principal players. Gräbner sadly died of leukaemia, prematurely and at the peak of his powers, in about 1981. The account goes that he died alone at home and had been dead for several days before being found.

Joachim Gräbner made mainly cellos and violas and his instruments have for years been in the hands of the foremost musicians in South Africa. Other than being consistently well-crafted to high standards, his instruments are particularly noted for outstandingly good tone, which make them very desirable for soloists.

South Africa's foremost violist, Jeanne-Louise Moolman of the Odeion Quartet at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein plays exclusively on a Gräbner viola - an instrument she has used for numerous concert performances, recitals and recordings and which in many ways sets a benchmark in viola tone, focus and carrying power. The important cellist and teacher, Michael Haller, has spent most of his professional life playing on a Gräbner cello - likewise an instrument with extraordinary tonal properties. The same can be said of the noted cello teacher, Tilla Henkins. However, Gräbner made some outstandingly good violins, completely on a par with his violas and cellos. The important violinist and teacher, Richard Reid plays on a Gräbner violin for his public performances.

Gräbner's instruments are admired further afield: over the past number of years I have been contacted by musicians, dealers and makers from variously California, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and England to get more information about Gräbner - all of them expressed great appreciation for their instruments and the workmanship they manifest. In reality I have not encountered one single negative comment about a Gräbner instrument by those who play on them, or about Gräbner himself by those who new him.

This viola, made in 1967, bears Gräbner's known label, signed by him and is in impeccable condition. The back, ribs, neck and scroll appear to be from the same block of maple with a narrow even curl of distinct figure. The top is of good medium-grain tone spruce with narrow winter growth at the centre line, widening to the flanks. With a length of back of 40cm (15 ¾ inches) the viola is comfortably small, yet Gräbner compensates for a short body length through fairly deep ribs and full arching, thereby increasing the volume of the body.

The one thing Gräbner understood was tone and how to achieve it in all his instruments. And this viola is no exception. In keeping with his norms, this viola has good tone from every perspective.


Dimensions :
  Length of back: 40 cm

Condition :
  This viola is structurally in perfect condition.

Provenance :

Price : P.O.A.


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