Sign in to follow this  
Stadiravius

An Amazing Violin's trek from 1950's Florida, a garbage can ... to my hands.

Recommended Posts

A few weeks back I had to help a neighbor who was recently widowed clear some stuff, unfortunately by the time I arrived the vultures (Mainly some nieces and nephews who pawned half her stuff) had already passed and all that was left was a few kitchen items and suits to put on Craigslist.
 
Suddenly in the depths of the closet, I see the tip of what looks like a musical instrument case, I thought it could be a flute or some other instrument ... I open the case and realize there's a violin inside, I call the lady to offer a purchase, she's not available to talk. Never gets back to me.
 
I drive by the house a few days later and a pile of garbage is stacked on the front lawn. I come out of the car and the violin is there on the street ... in absolutely pitiful condition.
 
I pick it up, head home and start looking at the thing, I've seen a few violins in my time, I am used to the factory assembled newer ones which are pretty consistent in quality.  This thing looks like nothing else I've ever seen. The bracing, the finish, there's something about it that is unique in more than a few ways. Definitely hand made.
 
A few magnifying glasses start providing answers, and the first one is a name and a date.
 
blN9S1O.jpg
 
Ok ... a good start, Adam Szymanski, August 21st 1959, an address and a few other details like the fact that this violin is based off a Giovanni Paolo Maggini template, Maggini was a violin maker from the 17th Century born in Brescia Italy, a student of Gasparo de Salo a legendary violin maker. Some violins will follow a Stradivarius template, there are a few different ones ...
 
The first objective was to figure out Szymanski and what he was all about, Google his name , you will literally find nothing ... EXCEPT ... an article from the 60s, AND patents, now we're getting somewhere.
 
LBTeLE0.png
 
The article gives an incredible insight into Szymanski, his 'secret' finishes and setups, his patents are also pretty amazing. For someone who is literally a complete unknown this guy sounds like a genius. At this point, this garbage find is starting to really pique my interest.
 
Gcm40pT.png
 
Here's his patent for what he calls the Bass Bar, an amazing invention that ... well to put it in his words
Today, a violinist when performing with a heavy orchestration must play his violin forcefully in its upper range sometimes giving rise to a disastrous tonal collapse. Even in violins hand-crafted by the old masters, the new and stringent demands of maintaining the tonal quality of the violin when it is played with power in its upper range have not been met with the consequent result of tonal collapse of the violin in its upper range. Attempts of all types to surmount this two-pronged problem for producing smooth tonal qualities throughout the range of the violin have fallen short. Such attempts have included the utilization of bass bars having varying shapes in violins. However, these attempts have proved to be unsatisfactory, the violins produced thereby having discordant tonal qualities at one or more points in the range or scale of tones produced from the violins.
 
Ok, the TLDR version, he figured out a way to improve a violin's shitty upper register response when playing loud.
 
Ok ... so Where do I go from here, well ... How about more pics !
 
yuXJBrk.jpg?1
 
In the late afternoon light ...
 
EPVPjPD.jpg?1
 
Ok ... so obviously not so good condtion SO ! What do we do, hit up the best luthier in town, google to the rescue, forums galore and ...
 
VOEA2qD.jpg
W3S6QRH.jpg
SoYquAt.jpg
 
A complete setup that includes adjusting a few bumps on the fretboard, a new bridge, a little crack, a little bit of ungluing etc ... etc ...  and in a few weeks it'll be back on it's feet !
 
Babam ! Will keep you guys posted ! Curious to see what it's worth as well

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 The article talks about his shop called Cremona Hall as a tribute to Stradivarius in St Petes Florida, I checked the address via streetview, it's a little house at 5416 Gulfport Blvd ! How cool is that !

L5K2WBF.png
LYFTvKi.png 

 

More Stuff, this guy would have fit right in, gonna leave this gem here as his plea to all musicians

GcAcfbq.png 

The man himself, clearest pic I found. Tracked a nephew via an obituary, Facebooked him for some info

bdjzRpK.png

 

An update this morning for those of you with all the kind messages. The story of Adam's instrument took a personal turn when Fred Wright got back to me this morning. Fred was an independent writer for the Petersburg independant and wrote the first article I found, he has few memories of Adam but is digging to get back to me. The second article that I found thanks to a few clues Fred left, is this one.

Once again, I want to emphasize, there is virtually 0 content about Adam out there, not a single website, mention, nothing ... literally zero. A cool TGP'er sent me a two year old request from someone on Answers.com to get an evaluation of a Szymanski violin and that's it ... her violin was from a 600 serial number, mine is a 350 ( so as TGP rules oblige, older is BETTER)

To get back to the article, and why it hit close to home, June 4th 1955, Adam is interviewed by George Bartlett, he finally opens the doors to all this. His youth in Potsdam Germany, his dream of Cremona Hall becoming an academy where professionals and amateurs would geek out over violins all day. But, it did not start like this for Adam. His enthusiasm towards music had been destroyed by World War 1, his arm had 'caved in' and upon arriving to the US with 35 cents in his pocket he basically got out of poverty by buying a violin in a pawn shop and immediately selling it for 200$ (once again very tgp'ish)

Unfortunately also after his arrival in 1924, Adam's eyesight deteriorated steadily crushing his hopes of building violins until, and this is where it hits home. On a personal note, my wife is an ophthalmology medical resident, a very unhappy one after a few years in the local program drowned in a haze of exhaustion. There is no feedback for her of her impact and this is where HER PATH meets Adam Szymanski

Adam's eye had also been injured during the war

kLREKOn.png GEZ69pz.png

After the operation, Adam went from engineering work to building and re-assembling violins full-time. The article goes in depth about Adam believing that music is an absolute key to fighting juvenile delinquency.

 

Little update for those following this. An update on the work ahead from the kind people at 'Maison du Violon'

GVuFnpU.jpg

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I am also very interested in your story!  Looking forward to hearing the rest of it! :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's an interesting story with good possibilities.  The best way I've found to get information about old American makers is contact violin shops or even music stores around the region that they worked in.  The instruments have tended to stay in the area and people have usually seen them and know something about them.  I'm sure there are plenty of violin shops around St. Pete.  He must have gone from penniless to fairly well to do, because patents are expensive (and rarely worth it except as part of a strategy).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I can't believe I found this article. I often went to Mr. Szymanski's shop. I have a violin made by him, it has such a rich sound, it almost sounds like a viola. Even strung it as a viola once when I played viola for a small orchestra and no available viola.

All the information that you have quoted about him I heard directly from him. I can hear him talking with his rich German accent. I can also smell his shop, it had such a distinct aroma. He could make his instruments sing.

His 1st shop was on the St. Petersburg side of 49th St, then moved across 49th St, and a few blocks down the same boulevard into Gulfport.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi Marcella, I am hoping someone can help me find Cremona Hall today, here are the potential addresses I have in Gulfport but street names have changed since the 1960s.

 

** 1 - In 1955 the Address is 4760 Lakeview Ave, in Gulfport

2 - In 1956 2830 Tifton Street, Gulfport

3 - 4700 Lakeview Avenue, Gulfport

4 - 5416 Gulfport Blvd.S.**

 

 

The story got picked up by someone locally here who is a documentary film maker and we are in the process of submitting to the Canadian National Film Board to turn this story into a small Doc covering a bit of the Szymanski family history, Adam's war stories, his emigration to the USA, his return to violin making, the creation of Cremona Hall and also a bit on the strange violin history of St Petersburg like W.B mclaughlin etc ... 

 

Adam Szymanski had a special life and I think that in his last days he was hoping that his work would help give his family a bit of a place in eternity, I'm sure he knew he'd be the last Szymanski violin maker which is why he spoke with such passion about everything.

 

On a purely technical standpoint his instruments are all fitted with a unique Bass Bar and Varnish. Both bespoke.

 

You have an amazingly special violin, please I'd love to see some pictures.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.