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Frederick Oster
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Published: 28 September 2015

From Cremona to Markneukirchen | The Violin Craftsmanship of Hermann Todt

With great anticipation, Freeman’s is introducing a new auction to its upcoming 2015 fall schedule.

The November 20 Musical Instruments sale will include a fine assortment of stringed instruments. Of particular note is the offering of a 1914 violin by Hermann Todt of Markneukirchen, Germany, which took as its inspiration the 1733 “Lafont-Siskovsky” violin by Joseph Guarnerius del Gesu of Cremona, Italy.  Like other highly regarded violins, which often travel through time with the names of a significant previous owner, the Guarnerius had derived its name in part from Charles Philippe Lafont, a renowned French violinist and composer.

Heinrich Hermann Todt (1862-1929) was one of the most highly skilled violin makers in Markneukirchen, a town in the Vogtland region of Germany. Known as the most prolific instrument- making region in Europe, it has historically been an area often referred to as the “music pocket.” In his wonderful “bench copy” of the Lafont Guarneri, Todt painstakingly attempted to reproduce every detail of the original instrument, including nicks and scratches, varnish wear, and tool marks, as well as selecting wood  matching it as perfectly as possible. He created wear to the soft spruce grains on the table in the same areas as the original violin and recreated filled worm intrusion holes in the lower back (more evident in the copy and visible in the original using a magnifying glass).  He even mimics the original Guarneri label in its layout:

Hermann Todt fecit Markneukirchen Anno 1914 Copia
Joseph Guarnerius 1733 Frederici Gilfillani
Geschenk von Frederick Gilfillan am Jaroslav Siskovsky 1914

 

Additionally, the maker has branded it below the end-pin: H.TODT

“When Mr. F. J. Gilfillan of St Paul, Minn. purchased the famous La Font Guarneri through Hill & Sons of London in 1912, he went to Herman Todt of Markneukirchen the best known violin maker in Germany at the time and commissioned him to make two reproductions of this violin as exactly as possible with no limit as to cost or date of delivery. Mr Todt took 2 years to finish the job at which time he presented this copy to his friend Jaroslav Siskovsky subsequently a member of the New York String Quartet. It was in Siskovsky’s possession until 1953 when Mr. Cyril H. Jones a very dear friend acquired it. At this time Mr. Jones, ex-headmaster of Milton Academy residing at Cotuit, Mass is the owner of the violin. Verification of above statements can be proven by looking at the label inside the violin.  Jaroslav Siskovsky”

In Mr. Siskovsky’s book, Fiddler on the Hoof: The Odyssey of a Concert Violinist, published in Philadelphia by Dorrance in 1975, he notes on p.152: “[Gilfillan] took the instrument to the most famous violin maker in Germany, who searched for one year for wood whose grain and texture would match the original.”

The Hermann Todt violin is a particularly handsome example of this maker’s work, in overall excellent condition, strong sounding, and quite suitable for a professional musician. Freeman's inagural sale of Musical Instruments will take place on November 20.

Browse the Auction Catalogue

Image: To be offered 11/20/15. A Violin by Herrmann Todt, Markneukirchen, 1914. A violin labeled: Hermann Todt fecit/Markneukirchen anno 1914/ Copia/ Joseph Guarnerius 1733/Frederici Gilfillani/[i.m.]Gesberck[?] von Frederick Gilfillan an Jaraslav Siskovsky 1914. Estimate $10,000-15,000.

 

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