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NVG Cellist

Berlin School

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Dear community,

I bought this cello that was described to me as Berlin School, high-end dating from mid-late 19th C. Can anyone please help me understand what exactly Berlin School means (other than made in Berlin), who it might have been made by and is the date correct? Unfortunately the vendor could offer no other information and I'm struggling to learn more about Berlin School with web searches. Really appreciate your help.

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I'm really no expert and hope others will correct me if I'm wrong. But I believe the "Berlin School" has something to do with the making going on around the Möckel Family, like Otto Möckel. (check the Wikipedia article) I believe they worked with inner molds and Corner blocks, and the Instruments are well regarded nowadays. 

 

Your Cello to me Looks like a nice but simple straight Forward Saxon (Markneukirchen) Instrument. The rib Corners end Right at the plate Corners , and probably you can see the seam is Right in the centre of the Corners. This means the rib construction is without Corner blocks (which you may or may not be able to see from the f-holes, as after construction they added fake Corner blocks that are not immediately discerable from real ones, unless you open up the instrument) , and then glued onto the back, the excess Wood the filed off. I don't think your Instrument has much to do with berlin. 

If it were my Cello, speaking as a Cellist, I'd get it fixed up with a properly done Setup. Very likely your instrument can Sound a lot better with a good end pin and tail piece, fitting Bridge and Sound post etc. I wouldn't be surprised if the fingerboard could use a redressing too. Ofcourse, the Pictures do not sayhow it actually Plays, but Instruments with a Setup that Looks like that do usually improve a lot with a new one.

 

Edit note: others have spoken, ignore my first paragraph

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As Martin wrote above, "Berlin School" is one of those pernicious attributions that I fear gets thrown at anything slightly better looking than a garden variety Markneukirchen trade instrument, especially by hopeful American dealers. Unlike some of the other large German-speaking cities, Berlin became a major capitol fairly recently, and doesn't really have a tradition of fine making going back to the 17th-18th centuries, like Nuremburg, Regensburg or Vienna. In the second half of the 19th century, several good makers started setting up shop, and I've seen instrumenets by Ludwig Neuner and Michael Dötsch that I feel are as well made and sound as good as some of the best Vuillaumes I've seen. That said, most of what I've seen called "Berlin school" are just Markneukirchen trade instruments possibly labeled and sold by Berlin based shops,  It might be a very good playing cello, but I fear this one is of that latter category, and I'd be wary of paying any premium based on a "Berlin school" attribution.

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If there is a „Berlin School“ or not is contested. The book Deans links to above is quite good, written by a dedicated collector of this supposed school. Even he splits the Berlin makers up into groups such as those who came from Markneukirchen, those who came from Mittenwald, others, which doesn‘t make a consistent „School“ in my book.

 

The OP ‚cello is a relativly modest Markneukirchener box, so I wonder what the (I think ugly americanism) „High End“ is supposed to mean.

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I have the greatest respect for Jacob, but I think it’s a very nice looking cello, and I would love to play it myself. The peg holes need to be bushed in the worst way, I’ve never seen pegs in so far. Also, I’m interested in whether the bottom rib is one piece?

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There's a photo of the bottom rib which is 2-piece.

I think it's quite attractive but it's still clearly a Markneukirchen cello of average quality, (narrow purfling, manky scroll, all the usual stuff) and the idea of someone selling it as "high end Berlin school" just pisses me off.

It's also very poorly presented for something sold recently - as you point out yourself, the pegs are really not acceptable for a retail sale, and the big crack to the lower rib is badly repaired and very unsightly.

Somehow the description rings a particularly false note in the light of these issues.

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55 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

... The peg holes need to be bushed in the worst way, I’ve never seen pegs in so far. Also, I’m interested in whether the bottom rib is one piece?

Good eye! Missed that first look through!

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"high end" is relative. For many people a 2-3K cello is unaffordable. When I started I wanted to play cello, but could only afford a (very cheap) violin...

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3 hours ago, martin swan said:

 

There's a photo of the bottom rib which is 2-piece.

 

I saw the picture, but I couldn’t tell whether the rib was one or two piece. I went back and looked more carefully and saw the seam.

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Berlin school: Oswald/ Otto/ Max Möckel, Otto Seifert, Ludwig Glaesel, Dötsch, Ludwig Neuner. Seen as Berlin school by German makers. I know a luthier in Germany who specialises in this school.

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45 minutes ago, uguntde said:

Berlin school: Oswald/ Otto/ Max Möckel, Otto Seifert, Ludwig Glaesel, Dötsch, Ludwig Neuner. Seen as Berlin school by German makers. I know a luthier in Germany who specialises in this school.

As I said above, a mixture of makers with Mittenwald or Markneukirchen background who moved to Berlin, and mostly worked there for a period in late 19th /first part of 20th C. Define „School“.

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The book by Wolfgang Meyer (who was researching these matters for more than 30 years) is named "Berliner Geigenbau" (violin making) and not "Berliner Schule" for good reasons.

To establish a school there should be a significant number of teacher/student or master/apprentice relations about a longer period, but in Berlin this was interrupted by the 1930s economical and political crisis and the war. The most influencing maker surely was Otto Möckel with students like Voss, Jung and (last but not least) Olga Adelmann.

There was a sheer uncountable number of Berlin  highly professional and autodidactical makers in the early 20th century, but the period was too short to become something like a recognizable school. After the war the city was divided in two and only a handful left.

But there seems to be a tendency to give better Markneukirchen work from the 19th century names like Dresdener and now Berliner.

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3 hours ago, uguntde said:

Berlin school: Oswald/ Otto/ Max Möckel, Otto Seifert, Ludwig Glaesel, Dötsch, Ludwig Neuner. Seen as Berlin school by German makers. I know a luthier in Germany who specialises in this school.

Yes there were a few makers in Berlin. Do you think this cello relates to any of them?

It's very hard for me to see how the Moeckels relate to Michael Doetsch - how are they part of a "school"?

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10 minutes ago, martin swan said:

 

It's very hard for me to see how the Moeckels relate to Michael Doetsch - how are they part of a "school"?

They had their shops a footwalk away from each other, that's probably the most significant relation.^_^

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So far I haven't succeeded in selling them a violin, but they have sold me a few brushes!

And they are great for all those essential luthier supplies like superglue, Cif, and pozidrive screws ...

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5 hours ago, uguntde said:

Berlin school: Oswald/ Otto/ Max Möckel, Otto Seifert, Ludwig Glaesel, Dötsch, Ludwig Neuner....

How about Carl Schulze?  I ask because I have one of his.

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Carl Schulze was maintaining the royal orchestra's instruments in the late 19th century and seems to have made some experimental violins ("re-inventing the secret of Stradivari" etc.) He's mentioned in the Musikinstrumentenmuseum booklet.

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8 hours ago, Blank face said:

Carl Schulze was maintaining the royal orchestra's instruments in the late 19th century and seems to have made some experimental violins ("re-inventing the secret of Stradivari" etc.) He's mentioned in the Musikinstrumentenmuseum booklet.

He also has entries in Henley, Jalovec and a French book that I photocopied a page from but didn't record the title of.

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56 minutes ago, Brad Dorsey said:

He also has entries in Henley, Jalovec and a French book that I photocopied a page from but didn't record the title of.

They probably all copied from Lütgendorff, who gives a very detailled report of his system. Unfortunately he doesn't tell where Schulze apprenticed.

It's also possible that he was a shop owner only who let make his violins by others (or bought them from Mnk) if Meyer doesn't know him.

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