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Joh. Bapt. Schweitzer


katymorgan

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I’ve been browsing through all the old posts about Johann Baptist Schweitzer, prompted by my recent purchase of a violin with his name in it, and I’m pretty well convinced that what I have is one of the hundred-or-so-year-old copies. The label, as well as I can make it out, says: Joh. Bapt. Schweitzer fecit at formam Hieronym. Amati Pest 1813.

However, some mysteries remain:

If the Schweitzer violin that sold at auction in 1995 for $16,000 (per Maestronet’s Price History page) was genuine, how come it was dated 1880? If the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (www.zti.hu/museum) is to be believed, the real Joh. Bapt. Schweitzer was born in Vienna in 1790, and died in Pest in 1845. I see Riedstra’s (www.riedstrasviolinshop.com) lists a “Schweitzer” violin which is evidently not genuine (it’s dated 1859) for $3500, probably in much better condition than mine, and maybe a better violin to start with, for that matter.

I love my new/old fiddle, regardless of its origin, and wouldn’t trade it for any of the bland, shiny new violins I tried for under $1,000. The dealer who sold it to me thought it didn’t have a label at all (it’s faint, but mostly legible under a good light), which is probably why he only asked $550. It shows no signs of fake aging, but plenty of signs of real age and use…genuine cracks, well mended, and gouges in the varnish, no doubt acquired during its career as a school rental instrument (it has a paper number “12” inside). The ribs are sprung at the neck end, so far as to actually extend a hairline beyond the edge of the back at one point, and the D-string peg is evidently a viola peg. It has a lovely one-piece back with an interesting grain and a thin strip of ivory across the nut where the strings hit, and it sounds…well, just like what I want my violin to sound like! Having started studying the violin 2 years ago at age 63, I don’t have time for a new violin to develop its voice!

Any thoughts?

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The question about the date of 1880 for the violin listed in the auction History is a good one. I hope someone can enlighten us about that.

Genuine Schweitzers are very expensive. On the other hand, German trade instruments with such a label are fairly common. It's more than likely that you have one of those, but perhaps you can put up pictures - I'm sure somebody on this forum will be able to venture an informed opinion.

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"Any thoughts?"

The violin trade is riddled with mysteries of the sort described in your post. But if your violin sounds the way you want it to and looks good, and you only paid $500 for it, you are so far ahead of the game you can't imagine it. Forget about this Schweitzer character who probably has no connection with your instrument and just enjoy the violin!

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Labels mean very little in the violin world because the label is often wrong. A very plausible scenario would be that the 1880 label was itself fake, in a real violin (not uncommon--someone takes out the original, "upgrades" the violin with a better label, and then later someone who's not in command of all the historical facts re-labels the instrument correctly, but with an unlikely date ). The lesson is to not worry about labels a whole lot, except as a possible clue.

As you've probably figured out by now, 1813 was the date of the label that is in most of the fakes, and is the biggest clue that you have one.

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Another common date on fakes is 1817.

Few genuine Schweitzers have changed hands at auction, even over several years. I've often wondered why this particular label is so often abused. I don't think he got so much free advertising even when he was alive. :-) The funny thing is that some of these labels look like they were put on at the factory in the late 1800s. Maybe they were marketed as a Schweitzer model and not originally intended to deceive(?)

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There are many in classifed ad I noticed. I am happy with mine regardless a premium I had paid. Enjoy it, a good violin is a good violin. I felt sorry some needs a fake label to sell. It is our fault. People don't look at a violin as it is but looking its pass or its pretened pass.

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"The ribs are sprung at the neck end, so far as to actually extend a hairline beyond the edge of the back at one point."

I've seen "Schweitzers" with fake wear on the edges of the top and back near the treble side of the neck to imitate the wear that would have been caused by many years of playing. Perhaps this is why your ribs appear to be "sprung."

I've also seen several "Schweitzers" with fake repair labels. One repair label was by "Channot" in London. I fell for the repair labels the first time I saw them. But a few weeks later, when I saw another "Schweitzer" with the same two repair labels, I realized there were too many N's in "Channot."

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Thanks, everybody, for your fascinating comments!

Yes, I do feel I got a real bargain, since it's just the violin I want, and everybody has commented that I'm suddenly playing better on my new violin!

I don't see any signs of fake aging. It doesn't have the dirt seen on the photo that was put up, and the ribs appear to be genuinely sprung, since the purfling is intact and evenly spaced from the edge all the way around, front and back. Also, it's worse on the bass side of the neck. The cracks are definitely genuine, and in fact worried me a bit. The dealer gave me a guarantee reading "Will repair any cracks that open," with no time limit, saying "I'm not worried." I'm not really worried either, but eventually the violin will need some work, and I hope I can take it to someone who can give me an opinion about its origin, just for curiosity's sake. Any ideas who in New York would be good?

I'll try and put up a picture soon, in case anyone is still interested.

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Of all the trade violins that I have come across, the Schweitzer models have always been my favorite. All seem to have a good tone. They all seem very light. The artificial aging is really cool.

I also had a copy of a Schweitzer that was made by Carl Newmann (which may also be a trade name) that was an copy of an actual Schweitzer. It was totally different from the Schweitzer trade violins. This violin was inported by an old firm in New York that sold better violins. I cant remember the complete name, but House of Music was part of the name.

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