It seems that we are to be “startled,” periodically, by the grave announcement that the long-hidden secret of the old Italian masters has been discovered. Like the mystery of aërial navigation, the art of making great violins continues to remain an unsolved problem, and this despite the fact that we are constantly being assured that Mr. X. and Mr. Z. are to-day making better violins than Stradivarius’s finest instruments.
I am far from being morbidly hopeless on the question of the ultimate success of the modern violin-maker. Indeed, I am optimistic to the degree of believing that the day is not far distant when we shall experience the great joy of beholding new violins which, in no respect, shall be inferior to the creations of the Italian masters. To the best of my knowledge, however, that day has not yet arrived, though, only recently, a New York newspaper again “startled” the violin world with the solemn announcement that a violin-maker of San Francisco has really and truly discovered the secret of the lost art. Strange to say, the newspaper article in question is not the usual conglomeration of absurd “facts.” It is sufficiently sane reading to merit serious investigation; and when I shall have had the opportunity personally to examine one of the instruments of this alleged modern Stradivarius, it will give me pleasure to acquaint my readers with all the details.
But in the meantime I cannot resist giving a word of praise to a maker, one of whose violins I had the pleasure of examining some little time ago. This violin—a new instrument—was made by the New York fiddle-maker, H. Knopf. I had previously seen other instruments by this same maker, but had failed to discover in them qualities of uncommon excellence. The violin under discussion, however, was most excellently made, and the quality and character of its tone were such as to warrant the belief that, even if Mr. Knopf has not discovered the old masters’ art, he understands at least the principles of making an excellent violin.
It is more especially a pleasure to record the fact that a modern violin-maker is doing praiseworthy work, because we are being constantly confronted with the most shameless examples of fraudulent violin-making. By “fraudulent” I mean that some so-called fiddle-makers carry their imposition so far as to import, from Markneukirchen or other towns, fiddles “in the raw,” and, after giving them a few coats of unbeautiful varnish, attach to them their own labels and sell them for exorbitant sums.