1949 – The Netherlands Group of Violin and Bow Makers
“Made by hand”, according to tried and tested methods”, “the gild system”, concepts which appeal to the imagination, just like the “apprentice”, “craftsman” and “master”. Words and phrases which, even today, are still easy to associate with the violin makers.
“Tradition” is another such word that belongs in this context. Add the concept “art” and with these ingredients the craft of violin making can properly be described. Although the guild system no longer exists, its tradition lives on. It is often the case, for example, that the profession of violin maker is passed on from father to son or in any event from master to apprentice, and it is because of this tradition that violin making continues today much as it always has done.
Nonetheless, the search for the so-called “secrets” of the old masters continues, particularly in the field of varnishes. We usually know how they were formulated, but how were they actually applied? It is also the case that a real master is often able to create something exceptional from simple specifications, and to another this ability also appears to be a “secret”.
After the death of my father, with whom I took my first steps on the road to violin making, I discovered that although we had talked a great deal about violin making, worked together in his workshop, made varnish and ground pigments, I could not make his vanish as he had made it. Unwittingly, he took his secret with him!
The Hendrik Jacobsz Concours – an international violin makers congress which took place in The Hague in 1949 – provided a forum for makers from all over the world to meet. Besides a competition to find who had made the best and most beautiful violin, viola, cello and double bass, there was also an extensive exhibition.
Violin makers living and working in the Netherlands also met each other there in The Hague – and that was rather unusual, for when did you get the chance to meet your colleagues so soon after the Second World War? A few violin makers then took the initiative of setting up a group and, on 23 July 1949, the Netherlands Group of Violin Makers became a reality! Those present when the group was set up were L. Blitz, E. Eberle, F. Jaenecke, P. Kunze, M Möller and J. Stüber. the board chose consisted of M. Möller Jr., chairman; E. Eberle, secretary; and L. Blitz, treasurer. Violin makers had discovered that it was good to talk together and were even prepared to exchange experiences with each other – about making instruments, as well about their restoration and appraisal.
Admission to the association required – and still requires – that a candidate member had undergone sound professional training, attained recognition as a craftsman, acquired respect and a good name, and had been established as a violin or bow maker in the Netherlands for at least three years. The membership as a whole judge whether or not a candidate satisfies these requirements.
Although in the post-war years the emphasis was largely on the repair and restoration of violins, and on buying and selling them, this gradually changed, and the newly established violin makers increasingly concentrated on making new instruments. It can therefore be said that today in the Netherlands extremely competent craftsman are working both in restoration and in making new instruments. Violin making in the Netherlands is a flourishing profession to which the NVG wishes to, and shall, make a positive contribution through, among other things, its stated intention of “advising the violin playing public professionally and honestly”.
Membership of the NVG offers musicians the certainty that they are dealing with a recognised violin maker who offers a guarantee on all activities carried out by him or her, whether this concerns the making of a new instrument, restoration, or the supplying of an old instrument.
The Netherlands Group of Violin Makers has recently changed its name. Since a bow maker (who exclusively makes bows) has now joined the group, the words ‘bow’ has been added to the name. NVG now stands for the “The Netherlands Group of Violin and Bow Makers”. The Group is statutorily established in Amsterdam and registered there with the Chamber of Commerce
Jaap Bolink, Chairman NGV.