December 12, 2011 at 7:54 PMAnyone who cares about the art of the violin should also care about the state of the art of violinmaking (otherwise known as 'lutherie') and bowmaking.
Indeed, luthiers and archetiers (bowmakers) around the world continue to perfect the craft, turning out works of art we call violins and bows, every day. To this end, I'd like to bring you some news from a recent contest, held in France, in which American makers fared very well against the competition.
The following is a synopsis, from the 2011 Etienne Vatelot Violin and Bow Making Competition, held in Paris in November.
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At the 2011 Etienne Vatelot Violin and Bow Making Competition held in Paris in November, American bowmakers came out on top in the traditionally French dominated field. Minnesotan Matthew Wehling garnered first place for a cello bow and second place for a violin bow, while Morgan Andersen of Washington state won top honors for his violin bow. The first prize for viola bow went to Gary Leahy of Ireland.
In the instrument making categories, German Markus Klimke doubled by winning first place for a viola and second place for violin. Australian Peter Goodfellow (residing in Scotland) scored top cello prize, and France’s Philippe Mahu was a crowd favorite when he accepted his award for top scoring violin.
The Vatelot competition is particularly significant for bowmakers for two reasons. First, it honors Etienne Vatelot, whose book Les Archets Français ("French Bows") remains an important resource nearly four decades after its publication. Second, as it is held in Paris, the home of bowmaking, the competition draws the highest caliber of entrants. This is only the fourth time the competition has been held.
Full results and photos from the concours can be seen at http://www.civp.com/lutherie/gb/palmares.htm
Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Gary Leahy - Ireland
Second prize: Eric Fournier - France
Second prize: Boris Fritsch - France
Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Philippe Mahu - France
Second prize: Marcus Klimke -Germany
Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Marcus Klimke - Germany
Second prize: Antoine Cauche - France
Award GLAAF: Philippe Mahu - France
Grand Prix de la Ville de Paris: Richard Gonon - France
Second prize: Mathieu Millet - France
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Here are some pictures of Matthew Wehling's prize-winning violin bow:
Which is probably the only fair way of assessing bows. What makes one bow better than another has so much to do with how it resonates with a particular instrument.
But winning a competition really doesn't seem to tell you that much about how good the bowmaker is at making bows that sound good. It shows mostly which bowmaker can make pretty looking bows. And it allows bowmakers to raise their prices since they can point to certificates that they have won.
I recall a bowmaker handing me a bow telling me that it was made for a competition, so "please excuse the sharp edges." That comment always confused me. Are bows for competition really made differently than for those for players????
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