Ben Hebbert

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    Violin dealer and researcher based in central London. Visit my website, or email to arrange a visit. My stock ranges from fine contemporary makers to outstanding classic Italian instruments.

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  1. Pah! Amateurs This is how you make a super loud one (apologies the bridge isn't there) This was a really powerful bass.
  2. Ben Hebbert

    Baroque viola neck and fingerboard dimentions

    I think for a viola you can be as short as you like. I can't remember what I wrote above, but don't worry about millimetres so much as proportion, and what looks great.
  3. Ben Hebbert

    Single instrument auction

    I fail to see any kind of issue here. Instruments come up for sale for a variety of reasons, and it’s worth considering that if it were consigned to the September auction there would be no payout until October. With that in mind, it might be that the vendor was looking for a way to realise their cash quicker than that, and the violin was clearly significant enough to attract more than one buyer willing to pay a decent price. This is simply an enterprising auctioneer with the benefit of an online platform to make a single-lot sale possible. Not that long ago things worked differently, and it would have been too costly to market a single instrument this way.
  4. Ben Hebbert


    Tom, That particular violin is a very good Strad model of the sort that Bisiach and Antoniazzi were employing, so at first glance it was very much in their circle, and the varnish was just straight forward Antoniazzi type, but Antoniazzi is a very distinctive maker as are the others in that broader circle, and this didn't have any of the distinguishing marks, we - that is to say, having passed it around colleagues - were generally of the feeling that the scroll was German, though the body, blocks etc. did suggest that the rest of it had been made in Italy. Moreover, if it were German we would see many more like it. The result was to sell it very conservatively, with a very nuanced description for transparencies sake.
  5. Ben Hebbert

    Martin Mathias Fichtl Vienna, Large Cello

    Jacob, I don't think that digression is very useful - you are welcome to revive the great Deconet thread of old if you care too.
  6. Ben Hebbert

    Martin Mathias Fichtl Vienna, Large Cello

    I suppose if we accept that he locked an as-yet unknown Venetian violin maker in a basement to make instruments that he labelled as his own, then - ok, that’s a reasonable explanation to explain why instruments of a single identifiable hand routinely have Deconet labels in them
  7. Ben Hebbert

    Martin Mathias Fichtl Vienna, Large Cello

    Exactly my point, the Fichtl would be far less controversial if one steamed out the label, and called it “anonymous circa 1685” It’s a very long time since I saw the instrument, but indeed, if one reads the orthodox texts about the history of the cello one would expect to believe that this kind of instrument was out of production by 1700, hence why a 17th century date is probable, but as new discoveries such as this one show, there is much more to the story. I’d love to know why there are so many “tenore” sized violas made in the Salzkammergut region, a century after they ought not to be made. I have speculated some archaic local church tradition...
  8. Ben Hebbert

    Martin Mathias Fichtl Vienna, Large Cello

    Coming late to the party I can't help feeling more depressed by some of the musician's comments than the quandary of whether to inflict permanent vandalism to the instrument. The truth of the matter is that there are instruments out there that end up getting modernised one way or another because the historical market will not support the sale and use of them. This may at times be a factor of price - something that has only been inferred in this situation, but also about fashion. One musician who has commented on this post claims to have a bona-fide 17th century bass violin, but on what basis if he doesn't actually know who made it - the absence of evidence doesn't make it a truth, just an assumption - whereas this one seems damned because it was made a few years later than musicologists find evidence for. We've seen similar intellectual disconnects in the Deconet argument of old, where it is inconvenient to understand that person who doesn’t appear as a violin maker on paper could have made the many instruments he clearly did - likewise a leading maker in Vienna saw fit to make this instrument and musicians saw fit to buy them, without regard for whatever paper trail of scholarship we are privy to, so it is not good enough to ignore the instrument because it doesn't fit what the 20th century books say. If this was without a label or Jacob's scholarship, it would likely as not be doing the rounds as anon 17th century too, without the slightest notion of any inconvenient truth, but more to the point, what purpose can it serve - is erroneously tuning a gut-string to Bb on an inappropriate instrument really equal a sin as cutting the thing down? To read this thread you would think so. There have been a couple of times when I have struggled to sell 1820s British instruments of a sort that have original features that are entirely in line with making from a century before hand and earlier - because of the prejudice of the date without the musicians stopping to consider what the instrument is in reality. If musicians can't have the imagination to work around the small inconsistencies that are found in every original instrument, then ultimately what choice do we have then to work on them until they are in a condition that can find a market. That final sentence is not to support Jacob in the slightest. Of course, he can flip the instrument as-is into auction and make it someone else's problem, remaining blameless and ethically aloof when it eventually reemerges a fraction shorter. I would prefer to ask why this tradition perpetuated in Vienna, when it was largely gone from the rest of Europe some decades earlier.
  9. Ben Hebbert

    How Do Auction Houses Grade Violins?

    Interesting isn't it. I've had that particular violin in my hand, and as an ensemble, it is a deeply impressive instrument (I have a feeling the front is Forster, fwiw), regardless of it being a composite. BUT yes, as I am instantly uncomfortable about it being a "fine example of" Stainer's work, because clearly it can't be.
  10. Ben Hebbert

    English violin question

    I'm very happy with the one on Tarisio. Smith's violins commonly have exquisite inked purfling, which is so good that you wonder if it would have been easier to just inlay them instead. However, there are elements of the carving of the edges that they forgo when ink purfling is applied. I also have a very fine example with purfling, and as a result it has the fine built up edges that you would expect on a genuine Stainer. It's evident that these must have been sold at two different qualities - fine and super fine. The varnish appears to be applied differently, so purfled ones seem thinner and more refined in the varnish but in both cases there seems to be an ingredient that oxidises, so they always end up rather muddy in colour. I would add that the button graft means that the violin has lost its pins at the top. The large one is a bit bigger than I expect, but Smith did use a pin system that resembles Cremonese on the whole.
  11. Ben Hebbert

    London violin shops( cello searching)

    May have the perfect thing - do email me
  12. Ben Hebbert

    Origin of Fractional Size Designations

    Kevin's comments above certainly ring true to the old wives tales that I've heard too. It is CERTAINLY true that the small violins of brothers Amati, Strad and del Gesu are the basic size of what we call a quarter-sized violin. I certainly think it is the best explanation. In this regard, its worth pointing out too that there were many requirements for instruments of all sorts of smaller sizes before 1800 without defaulting to the assumption that they were child's instruments. Although there may be a huge amount of debate about what these were intended for, without necessarily providing satisfactory answers, I tend to think that the default of "child's violin" is inevitably a cop-out, though clearly some of them may have been exactly that.
  13. Ben Hebbert

    J Panormo cello?

    I'm here! Jacob, thank you - I take this cello reasonably seriously, but sadly, this is exactly the kind of instrument where photographs are next to useless unless they are shot really well, and even then the fine elements that make something a Joseph Panormo can really need to have physical inspection. The fact that the ribs come out a nice yellow, whilst the front and back seem to be a nice hot red makes me want to simply see better photographs before making any comments that require me to butter my hat and order a king-sized tub of Nutella to make it easier to digest. In sum this does look "like" the Betts workshop Stradivari form which the Hills liked to connect to Henry Lockey Hill as a copy of the King of Prussia's lost cello. Although we may see that both from HLH, and Joseph Panormo who was obviously working very closely with him, I think it also leaks into a slightly broader diaspora of "Betts school" instruments, Fendts, Powells, etc, which often got upgraded to Panormo - even the Hills were not completely reliable on this. (There are even issues of Panormo selling instruments of his close contemporaries as his own). As a result I have to urge the maximum of caution. Panormo-family instruments really are too difficult because of all the near-misses within their community. I would not like to say anything further without better photographs. I hope that doesn't sound curmudgeonly of me.
  14. Ben Hebbert

    Early Amati with three peg holes?

    Joel By English tradition, these pegs in old instruments is supposed to be an old Bavarian tradition, at least according to Hills. The only maker that I know of who consistently has these from new is Johannes Cuypers, which puts the kybosh on it being Bavarian. I would argue on these Amatis that from your evidence, their precise placement varies considerably from instrument to instrument. In my mind this suggests a later practice, perhaps in the French court to accomdate new kinds of strings rather than something by the maker.
  15. Ben Hebbert

    Early Amati with three peg holes?

    Manfio , No high renaissance / high baroque painters paint playing in a realistic way. In the case of this Ecstacy o St Cecilia by Guido Reni, you anyway need to consider what the picture means and where he took his prototypes from - Raphael's Ecstacy of St Cecilia - in both examples mortal music gives way to heavenly music, so she is distracted from her playing by the celestial choirs of angels. Aside from this, the issues of Ekphrasis and the Paragone - i.e. the rivalry between the arts / the muses means that most painters of the past would consciously avoid painting a moment of music where sound was produced, instead depicting moments that are in every sense musical, but in which there is silence. This is to avoid the paradox of the ear expecting the sound that the eye sees, and also because this would amount to a challenge by painting against music as to which of the arts was greater. So never worry about playing positions. Reflexively, period musicians who try too hard to emulate what why see in paintings, just make me laugh.