A Violin by Otto Wolfram Markneukirchen 1922 – Tremendous Sound!


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inside up on top spruce plate

Markneukirchen, Germany was the place to grow up, learn, live, and breathe string instruments 24/7. These men devoted their lives to the art and at a young age apprenticed themselves to a maker or workshop, learning and developing their skills from sunup to sundown. From the mid-17th through the early 20th centuries this little musical corner of the world between Saxony and Bohemia was a powerhouse of quality instrument making. This area had the wood and took advantage of the superior resources and creative makers/entrepreneurs’ insight and knowledge to become a global industry by the 1850’s. This Wolfram instrument demonstrates the outstanding standards, visual aesthetics, and tremendous sound that violins that were made in both Germany and in Cremona had in the early 20th century. Otto Wolfram was born in 1884. He lived, worked, and died in Markneukirchen in 1947. The Wolfrom family were mostly bow makers in the area. Otto produced, as I discovered in the William Henley book, a small number of handmade violins and that his work was highly esteemed. Our Wolfram Strad model violin was made in 1922 and the workmanship is truly at another level. I love the scroll; the finished work on the volute is unique in its length of the ear and the egg shape carving work is outstanding. Wolframs own larger Strad modeling is gorgeous, it is unique, being a few millimeters larger than typical Stradivarius modeling. The violin has a pronounced lip around the perimeter, deep channels, and arching that lends itself to a powerhouse sound. The sound hole area is cut with graceful curves, not so vertical in its stature, and the f hole workout area shows even more detail. The varnish work is oil and the patina on the violin is true and natural. The players who owned it were fantastic stewards of the instrument entrusted to them. We gave the instrument a complete work up, going over every centimeter. It has a new corner on the lower top treble side, new ebony fittings, new sound post, and Despiau bridge.

Corpus 359.0 mm., Major Width 207.0 mm., Minor Width 170.0 mm., Rib Height 30.0 mm.

The voicing on the instrument rocks. The response off the strings is powerful and instant. It has depth of color, especially on the bass side, which is mature, masculine, and melting. The instrument pumps, not just sings out. The violin could be a soloist choice, one that does not hold back. The treble strings are rich in texture and easily ring with brilliance. I tried light bow pressure, strong bow pressure, and various weighted bows. The violin responded so very well even with lighter gram weight bows and with light bow pressure. When I laid into the strings with more weight and at various times more bow speed the instrument could handle the work out. The overtones ring. Yup, the violin will bring a smile to your face (a hmmm! look) as soon as you begin playing.