Orfeo Magazine N° 4 - English Edition - Autumn 2014

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orfeo N°


m a g a z i n e Feature

Baroque Bavaria Interviews Hauser Blöchinger Ober Discover The Mittenwald Museum N° 4 - Autumn 2014 English Edition

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This inaugural edition is centred on two families from Barcelona: the Fustero family, manufacturers of machine heads, and the Simplicio family, luthiers, and their connection with the “Modernista” movement.

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orfeo From the Editor



m a g a z i n e It was Andres Segovia who brought the name Hauser into the limelight around the world, when he played, for almost 30 years, on a 1937 guitar built by Hermann Hauser. We went to visit the eminent luthier’s grandson, Hermann Hauser III, who still produces guitars under the famous label to this day, and his daughter, Kathrin, who is set to continue the tradition. In a neighbouring village, Edmund BlÜchinger showed us the guitars that he made for his children and, in Munich, Fritz Ober shared with us his passion for vintage instruments, which serve as an inspiration for his work today. These three luthiers live and work in Bavaria, a breath-taking region in southern Germany, famous for its castles, Baroque churches, painted houses and proximity to stunning spruce forests, which have been supplying luthiers with high quality wood since time immemorial.

Alberto Martinez

The Hauser

A bright future in lutherie awaits Kathrin as she perfects her craft alongside her father, Hermann Hauser III.

The Hauser family of luthiers are renowned worldwide for their remarkable instruments. For 30 years Segovia played with the famous guitar made in 1937 by Hermann Hauser Sr., now on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Today, Hermann Hauser III and Kathrin, his daughter, continue the tradition of guitarmaking under their


own labels.

The V-joint connecting the headstock and neck, typical of traditional German and Viennese lutherie.

Every guitar is different and corresponds to a specific request from a guitarist or collector Guitar built by Josef Hauser (1854-1939), the dynasty’s founder. When I arrive at their workshop in Reisbach, Herman Hauser III is stringing a freshly-completed guitar, the #735. In a corner of the workshop, Italian guitarist, Aliosha De Santis, is playing the guitar built for him by Kathrin (#22). Now he sets it gently down and agrees to play the new guitar for the first time, while the Hauser family look on with bated breath... Orfeo: How do you organise your work? Hermann Hauser III: We work like farmers. In autumn, we start selecting the woods: the right woods with the right dimensions. We have a sizeable stock of wood; some spruce tops come from Josef Hauser, from 1880 or 1890, and some rosewoods come from Hauser I, from 1920 or 1930. We then decide which top goes

with which back and sides, in accordance with the orders we have. Every guitar is different and corresponds to a specific request from a guitarist or collector: spruce or cedar top, with or without bear claws, Indian or Brazilian rosewood, the body size, the neck and so on. Another important detail to keep in mind is the body resonance frequency that we need to achieve, depending on the wishes of the future owner. Orfeo: You have a waiting list of four or five years; does this mean that you are always building your guitars for somebody in particular? H. H.: Yes, and that’s why the wood selection is so important. Then, we start making the rosettes and the tops; and during the winter we build the bodies.

Kathrin Hauser’s latest creation: guitar N° 22 for Aliosha De Santis.

The purfling around the edge of the guitar’s back is continuous, since we see the back as a unified whole rather than two halves.

Kathrin at work under her father’s watchful eye.

We need two hundred and forty hours per guitar In April, we generally start with the bindings, the head, the fingerboard and then, in summer, the varnish. The guitars are made from woods coming from all different parts of the world, so once they are finished, we prefer to hold onto them for a while, here in the workshop, to be sure that nothing changes and that the woods are stable. Orfeo: How many guitars can you build per year? Kathrin Hauser: We need 240 hours per guitar and we build around 14 guitars a year. Everything is handmade. Take the rosettes, for instance: it takes us a week to make three of them. In the end, a guitar should be like a piece of art, made in its entirety by just one pair of hands.

Orfeo: Where did you learn to build guitars? H. H.: I learnt with my father and I went to the Mittenwald school. K. H.: I also learnt with my father and then I went to the Mittenwald school to get the diploma. Orfeo: Could you tell us about the unusual bridges and neck joints on your guitars? H. H.: The bridge is parallel to the frets, higher on one side and the bone is compensated. This is typical of Hauser guitars. The bone is 3 mm thick and carved for different string lengths so as to achieve perfect intonation. The neck with the v-joint comes from the German and Vienna school. It’s more difficult to make than the Spanish neck, but it is incredibly strong.

The bridge is parallel to the frets, higher on one side and the bone is compensated.

Orfeo: How do you explain the high quality of lutherie in Bavaria? H. H.: Bavaria was at the heart of Europe, with major influences from both the Viennese and the Italian luthiers. Traditionally, Füssen was the European centre for lute construction. Fernando Sor played on a guitar made by Stauffer, a luthier from Vienna, who made great sounding instruments. My grandfather used to build this style of guitar until Segovia and Llobet came to suggest that he shift to a more Spanish approach, making instruments that were closer to the Spanish guitars. My grandfather, with the help of Segovia and Llobet, created what we could consider modern classical guitars, blending the Spanish and the Vienna schools.

Orfeo: Kathrin, have you done some restoration work on old guitars? K. H.: Yes, my father always says that it is necessary to understand the philosophy of the old masters. It is one thing to build a guitar with your own ideas and quite another to repair a guitar that was built in a different way. You have to understand the original concept, respect it and avoid introducing changes. Orfeo: Kathrin, how many guitars have you built? K. H.: I got my diploma in 2007 and then I started working here. I have finished number 22 for Aliosha De Santis. Up until now, I have used

The Segovia model, very close to the guitar built by Hermann Hausser I for the Spanish maestro, is the most demanded

mainly spruce tops and Indian rosewood for my guitars. Orfeo: Do you build different models? K. H.: Yes, we have many different models but the ones that are in greatest demand are the Segovia and the Llobet. The Segovia is very close to the guitar built by Hausser I for the Spanish maestro and the Llobet is smaller, similar to the Torres guitar that Llobet used to play in concerts. The Segovia model is the most copied guitar in the world! Orfeo: Do you think that you can continue to live up to this prestigious name? K. H.: Absolutely!

The rosette made by Kathrin for guitar N° 22.

Hermann Hauser III (born in 1958)

Here is guitar N째 735, made by Hermann Hauser III, which had just been completed at the time of our visit.

Hermann Hauser II (1911-1988)

The guitars built by Hermann Hauser II number from 501 to 1076. This guitar is N째 745, made in 1963, sporting the legendary Landstorfer tuning machines.

Hermann Hauser I (1882-1952)

Hermann Hauser I made some 900 instruments, including guitars, zithers and violins. This is a 1933 guitar, with an unusual zero fret.

I’ve never possesed a great Hauser guitar myself, although I do own two very good ones. The German instrument has what I can only describe as the very essence of classicism in guitar sound; the integration of the different registers of the instrument, whether in the extreme high positions or in the low, achieves a balance which is remarkable. The bass is deep but finely focused; it is sustained but has great clarity. The treble strings have a bell-like quality and a sweetness of tone that is never cloying. The third string which, on most instruments, can sound tubby and lucking true centre, on a great Hauser has a profound ring about it, and when played softly is quite magical. And because of this concentrated focus and clarity of sound, and its consequent fine separation of detail in both contrapuntal and chordal music, this type of guitar is ideally suited for use as a concert instrument. Julian Bream “A life on the road”, written by Tony Palmer

Edmund Blรถchinger Edmund Blรถchinger learned how to select wood with his grandfather, how to make guitars with Helmut Buchsteiner and how to refine them with the Romero family. In his Buchbach workshop, he showed us two guitars that he built for his children: Luisa and Florian.

All the Torres that I have ever come across are magnificent instruments Orfeo - How did you learn to make guitars? Edmund Blöchinger - I started as an apprentice in a cabinetmaker’s workshop specialising in chairs. Then I learnt guitar-making with Helmut Buchsteiner in Bavaria, I followed a masterclass with Romanillos in Cordoba and I supplemented the knowledge that I gained by reading books and examining old guitars. For me the Torres guitars are the genesis of the classical guitar; all the Torres that I have ever come across are magnificent instruments. As concerns the way in which the guitar works, how the fingerboard works, how the neck works, I learnt a lot from Celin and Pepe Romero because they told me what was important for them as players. Bavaria has a longstanding tradition of high quality craftsmanship and we are lucky to have easy access to very high quality Alpine spruce. Orfeo - Does this high quality craftsmanship also mean that the entire guitar should be made by just one luthier?

E. B. - Yes, of course. When crafting my guitars, I do everything myself. If I were to have someone else make the rosette or do the varnishing, I would have the feeling that I was losing control over the instrument. And I think that, in the end, you feel it. For the same reason, I would never put my label in guitar built by somebody else. Orfeo - What makes your guitars distinctive? E. B. - There really is no secret; every detail is important. My main goal is to make light guitars, with low mass to move, and quick response. For the head, I adopted the three-lobed Torres design. For me, this is a timeless design, like the scrolls on violins. The fretboard has a slight twist to it, so as to leave more space under the basses. I don’t like to compensate the heights of the strings with the bone. I can’t really explain why, but I just have the feeling that this is the way that it should be. On the other hand, I do carve the bone into a shape Luisa’s guitar: cedar top, rosewood sides and a superbly crafted rosette.

I don’t like to compensate the heights of the strings with the bone.

If I were to have someone else make the rosette or do the varnishing, I would have the feeling that I was losing control over the instrument

My main goal is to make light guitars, with low mass to move, and quick response that compensates for the length of the strings. For the tops, the key to success is the quality of the wood. Once the wood has been selected, I fine-tune it mainly by working the thickness. I have opted for minimal bracing, which serves mainly to prevent the top from collapsing. But, like I said, if you want to make a good guitar-top, what really counts is choosing the right wood. The choice of wood for the back and sides is not so important. I like to use stiff wood for the tops, with a strong winter grain or bear claws. The transmission of sound seems to be faster. Another personal detail is that I like to use frets that are a little bit wider and higher. The player needn’t press so hard and the modulation is easier. Don’t forget that the secret of fast playing is to apply the minimum pressure required on the frets... Every single detail is important for achieving an overall balance and for the fine-tuning of a guitar. That’s why I do everything by myself.

Orfeo - Where do you get your spruce tops? E. B. - I cut the wood myself in the Alps at the right cycle of the moon. For the spruce, I’ve noticed that if I cut it in winter, during the newl moon, when the sap is down in the trunk, the wood is lighter; it dries faster naturally and is more resistant. I am careful to always replace the trees that I take from the forest. I like the idea of giving back to nature the same number of trees that I’ve taken for my guitars. Orfeo - Which are your favourite woods for the back and sides? E. B. - I love maple, cypress, various rosewoods and yew. The one I like least is the Indian rosewood: I don’t like the smell. Orfeo - How many guitars have you built? E. B. - I can build six to eight guitars per year and my last one was number 157, inspired by the 1859 Torres that was played by Miguel Llobet.

The back and sides of Florian’s guitar are made of yew, a wood that was highly prized in the Middle Ages for making bows. It is extremely stable, supple and never rots.

Soundboard made of spruce on Florian’s guitar. The heels are crafted from a single block of wood.

Edmund Blöchinger working on his guitar N° 157, inspired by the 1859 Torres that was played by Miguel Llobet.

Fritz Ober Fritz Ober built his reputation making lutes and restoring guitars made by the old masters: Torres, Hauser I, Santos Hernandez, Manuel Ramirez, Esteso, Friederich and Fleta. Today, his guitars combine all the charm of a Spanish guitar with German clarity and balance.

The quality of his work was already obvious in his lutes.

Orfeo: Where did you learn to build stringed instruments? Fritz Ober: When I was a guitar student, I built my first guitar on my own and then I learnt with Helmut Buchsteiner, a well-known luthier in Bavaria. Later, I started my own workshop, building lutes and Panormo-style guitars. My instruments were an immediate success. In the beginning, I was not so focussed on classical guitars but I started getting some orders and when I had the opportunity to see some high quality, old Spanish guitars, from Torres, I was deeply impressed. Orfeo: What impressed you so much about the old Torres? F. O.: Everything! The sound, the design, the simple and beautiful construction. Every Torres guitar is wonderful. For instance, “La Leona” has

Fritz Ober getting ready to build his next guitars.

The heads of his guitars take their inspiration from Torres.

Another exemple of Ober’s beautiful work: the back is of maple with a central strip of snakewood.

Spruce tops and rosewood backs for his next two guitars.

Santos guitars are not so well balanced but they are more fun to play; they are more like “Rock’n’Roll” guitars

Some shaped ribs, ready to go. Photos: Clémentine Jouffroy

a very good balance, probably lower than a modern guitar and, from the deepest notes to the highest, the range is wider and more open. It’s very difficult to make a copy of a Torres guitar. I made a copy of “La Leona” three or four years ago, only because I was lucky enough to have the original for a long while in my workshop and I could really examine every detail. It meant that I was able to notice many details that I haven’t seen before. The result, I think, was good, and quite close to the original. Orfeo: But you also like Hauser guitars, don’t you? F. O.: Hausers are a very different breed to the Torres. They have a “piano-like” quality, with very clear and separated sounds. I have examined many Hauser guitars from the thirties, trying to

understand the way in which they were built, but I have never made a copy of a Hauser guitar. Orfeo: Which are your other influences? F. O.: Santos Hernández guitars. They are not so well balanced but they are more fun to play; they are more like “Rock’n’Roll” guitars. These, then, are my three influences: I like the Torres balance, the Hauser clarity and the playability of the Santos guitars. I like Fleta and Friederich guitars, too, but I won’t be heading in those directions. My ideal sound is somewhere between a Hauser and a Torres: the very nice, singing Spanish style, that “sexy” feeling; and the piano-like quality of the Hauser guitars. For all I know it might be impossible to create just such an instrument, but that’s what I try to do.

A close look at the details of Fritz Ober’s guitars reveals his extraordinary finishing skills.

We luthiers are always trying out little changes here and there to improve our guitars

The fact that he is a guitarist helps him in his work as a luthier.

Orfeo: How have your guitars changed over time? F. O.: The fretboard was always slightly twisted but I’ve changed the neck angle these days; the dome of the top is different and the whole construction is more refined. My regular bracing is a seven-strut fan pattern and even though at first glance it appears to have changed little over the years, I have done a lot of work on it: the width, the height, the scalloped ends... We luthiers are always trying out little

changes here and there to improve our guitars. We can come up with new solutions in our heads but the proof of the pudding is when you build a guitar and see the result; it’s the only way. Orfeo: How many models do you make? F. O.: Two; one is made with my normal plantilla and the second one is smaller, very close to a Manuel Ramirez. I think I have built 200 guitars and 100 lutes. In general I make ten guitars a year and I don’t put numbers on the labels.


Bavaria, one of federal Germany’s Landers, is a prosperous region whose historical continuity is closely linked to the Wittelsbach family and to Catholicism. During the strife that pitted Protestants against Catholics following Luther’s seventeenth-century Reformation, Bavaria remained faithful to Rome. Baroque art thus flourished throughout the region, encouraged by the Catholic Church. Today, the region is perhaps best-known for Ludwig II of Bavaria’s extravagant Neuschwanstein Castle and for it successful companies such as Siemens or BMW. Bavaria is proud of its impressive landscapes, with its conifer forests, its romantic lakes, its castles, its villages of hand-painted houses and its traditional crafts.

Profusion of cherubs in the Pilgrimage Church of Wies. Photos: Richard Newton

The Pilgrimage Church of Wies (1745-1754), a masterpiece by architect Dominikus Zimmermann, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Baroque art in Bavaria

The Baroque is an artistic movement that originated in Italy around the mid-sixteenth century. It is a style that features exaggerated movement, decorative excess, dramatic effects, exuberance and grandeur. It spread rapidly throughout Europe and influenced every imaginable artistic genre, including sculpture, painting, literature, architecture, theatre and music. The popularity and success of the Baroque

style were encouraged by the Roman Catholic Church which had decided, at the time of the Council of Trent and in response to the Protestant Reformation, that the arts ought to convey religious messages. Contrary to Lutheran thought, which advocated austerity and sobriety, the Baroque movement came to be used as Counter-Reformation tool. Art, from this standpoint, ought to convince the faithful of God’s

The Pilgrimage Church of Wies (1745-1754).

The Saint Johann Nepomuk church in Munich, also known as the Asamkirche, sits right in the heart of the city. It was decorated by the Asam brothers, who were sculptors, stuccoists, painters and the most representative artisans of German Rococo.

The Rottenbuch Abbey, founded in 1073, was refurbished in the eleventh century in the Gothic style and decorated in the eighteenth century by stuccoist Joseph Schmuzer in the Baroque style.

The Old Residence Theatre in Munich is the work of architect François de Cuvilliés.

The Rococo is an artistic movement, noticeable mostly in architecture greatness through effects that are awe-inspiring, dazzling, overwhelming… While northern Germany embraced the Lutheran Reformation, Bavaria remained steadfastly faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. With its penchant for Latinity, it was to become one of the bastions of the Counter-Reformation. The Rococo or Late Baroque In the eighteenth century, the Baroque gave way

to Rococo or Late Baroque. It flourished mainly in the Germanic Holy Roman Empire (Germany, Austria, Bohemia) and in southern Europe (Italy, Spain, Portugal). The Rococo is an artistic movement, noticeable mostly in architecture, and in the decorative arts, as well as in painting and, to a lesser extent, music and literature. Ornamentation soared to new heights, beco-

Amalienburg hunting lodge in Nymphenburg, an unparalleled example of the harmonious marriage of architecture and decoration.

From 1760 the Rococo movement gradually gave way to Neoclassicism ming rich and fanciful. Frescos displaying trompe-l’œil designs, nymphaea and allegorical sculptures seemingly filled every available space on churches, castles and fountains. In Bavaria, rural abbeys are covered in cherubs and the walls appear to strain under the effects of gilding on a white background. The ultimate expression of this style can be seen in the work of the Bavarian architect and deco-

rative designer of Flemish origin, François de Cuvilliés, whose Amalienburg hunting lodge in Nymphenburg, near Munich, and Old Residence Theatre in Munich demonstrate unparalleled examples of the harmonious marriage of architecture and decoration. From 1760 the movement gradually gave way to Neoclassicism, with its return to austerity and to the canons of antiquity.

“ Lüftlmalerei ”, trompe-l’œil art houses

The “Pilatushaus”, in Oberammergau, is completely covered in frescoes. In southern Bavaria, around Mittenwald and Tyrol, there is a tradition of illusionistic paintings on house façades. It dates back to the eighteenth century and legend has it that it the tradition began with the painter Franz Zwinck. This popular form of trompe-l’œil art is created using fresco techniques, in which the murals are painted onto still-wet plaster so that the co-

lours become permanently set into the plaster itself. With this technique the painting needs to be completed very quickly, but it guarantees a stable, long-lasting result. The themes depicted are often religious but there are also simple geometrical designs and scenes portraying country life. A. M.

Some faรงades feature the guitar.

Most of the paintings portray religious themes.

An example of a fresco depicting country life.

The poles show the viewer which kinds of trades and crafts are practised in the village. Here, on this Mittenwald “Maibaum�, the figure of a luthier can be seen.

“Maibaum”, a very old Bavarian tradition The Bavarian tradition of “Maibaum” (Maypole) is deeply rooted in the history of the region and involves hoisting, on the first day of May, a tree trunk painted in the colours of Bavaria (blue and white), and decorated with figurines representing local tradespeople and craft guilds that can be found in the village (luthiers, brewers, mechanics, etc.). A spirit of competition arises between the Bavarian villages, to see who can raise the largest and most beautiful tree. While awaiting its moment of glory, the Maypole is prone to theft by villagers from neighbouring towns. It is thus jealously guarded day and night by locals who hope to discourage any potential Maypole kidnappers. Should a raid be successfully carried out, the captors can demand ransom for the return of the hostage: beer, sausages and pretzels… On May Day, the village men erect the pole with their bare hands; a veritable test of their prowess, which requires not only brute strength, but also expertise and precision.

The Baroque guitar in Bavaria In Bavaria, the manufacture of stringed instruments is centred in two towns: Füssen and Mittenwald. It was in these two towns, which are south of Munich and very close to the Austrian border, that lutherie blossomed in the Baroque period.

Füssen, town of luthiers

Füssen is the oldest hub of European stringed instrument-making. The Füssen luthiers’ charter, drafted in 1526, is one of the oldest in Europe. While it was primarily the lutes crafted there that made Füssen so famous, its high quality guitars and viols also contributed to its renown. Around 1530, the stringent regulations of these guilds – stipulating the rights and obligations of its luthiers, their apprentices, craftsmen and journeymen – were applied very strictly and required that only a limited number of individuals practice the craft in the town: no more than twenty as at the mid-sixteenth century. A good many luthiers therefore had to move elsewhere, following the trade routes that would lead them to the major cities of Italy, via the Lech river, but also to Vienna and Prague, as well as to England. Young craftsmen, having only just commenced their training, very often had to leave behind their family and homeland so as to take up an apprenticeship in a workshop far, far away. These expatriate German luthiers, who settled in Europe’s major cities, brought with them their manufacturing expertise and retained their own aesthetic preferences, especially in Italy: engraved ivory inspired by the masterpieces of Albrecht Dürer, and, for guitars, the pronounced ebony/ ivory contrast (or the rosewood/bone contrast

Attributed to Giorgio Sellas, Venice circa 1635. Photos: Sinier de Ridder

Baroque guitars were constructed using lute-making techniques

Engraved ivory, inspired by Dürer, for the guitar of Matte Kaiser

in the case of Stadler, given the scarcity of ivory in Naples). They adapted well to the gentler Italian climes, and indeed were often joined by their respective brothers, sons or nephews, meaning that whole dynasties of luthiers became established there, enjoying success and prosperity. They blended the techniques of Italian luthiers with their own, producing some of Europe’s most exquisite Baroque guitars at a time when the repertoire was sizeable and the guitar was very much in fashion. Later, in the eighteenth century, when the popularity of the guitar gave way to that of the violin, the luthiers from Füssen, peppered throughout Europe, continued producing some of the most beautiful violins ever made. Baroque guitars were constructed using lute-making techniques, which were quite different to the techniques imposed by the Spanish guilds at the time. Indeed, the body and the neck are built separately, with the latter being subsequently fitted and glued onto the neck block. In the few (surviving) guitars made by Stradivari, this same type of assembly was used. Baroque guitars have very few struts, usually only two: above and below the soundhole, and subtle bracing on the lower part of the soundboard, reminiscent of the bracing on lutes. The sound hole

Rosewood and bone contrast. Jacob Stadler, 1629. Photos: Sinier de Ridder

Soundboard by Pratter, Prague 1679. The marks on the guitar top were made by the luthier himself with a hot iron that he was using to stiffen the top and keep it hot before closing the instrument.

is closed by a parchment rosette, sometimes several tiers deep, and the neck decorated with precious materials. It would pointless to try to list here all of the many luthiers originally from Füssen living as expatriates in every corner of Europe, especially when the work has already been done for us by Richard Bletschacher in his study entitled “Die Lauten und Geigenmacher des Füssener Landes”. But it is nevertheless fascinating to see that almost all of the most famous guitar-makers from the height of the Baroque period hail from this little Bavarian town and that the guitars themselves are, throughout the seventeenth century, built in accordance with the instructions of the Füssen guilds, while the guitars built to the Spanish guilds’ (rather different) specifications remain confined to the Iberian peninsula and its territories. The most lavish of the guitars built by these Bavarian luthiers have come down to us through the ages, but it is quite possible that there were also numerous instruments made in a more simple style, with far less decoration, produced for musicians of more modest means. . Françoise et Daniel Sinier de Ridder

Luthiers-experts (France). www.sinier-de-ridder.com

The Mittenwald museum

Ever since the seventeenth century, Mittenwald has been renowned for its quality manufacture of stringed instruments and its school of lutherie is still open to this day. The entire Hauser family have been trained here, over and above their hands-on training in the family workshop. The town is justifiably proud of its museum, which dates from 1930.

Inside the museum, the visitor can admire a faithful recreation of a luthier’s workshop.

The museum is housed in one of Mittenwald’s oldest and prettiest buildings.

Its proximity to Vienna, city of renowned luthiers, also afforded access to a vital source of knowledge

Mittenwald is on the ancient Roman road known as the Via Claudia Augusta, which connects Bavaria and the plain of the river Po, in Italy, and has long served to facilitate trade and cultural exchange. The town is not far from Vienna, the European capital of music and a city of much instrument-building expertise, home to such famous luthiers as Johann G. Stauffer. The guitars made by Stauffer were famous for their beautiful sound and outstanding craftsmanship: the asymmetrical headstock with the machine heads set in a row along one side, the V-joint connecting the headstock and neck, and the ice cream cone heel. All of these distinctive features can be seen in several of the guitars on display in the Mittenwald museum and in the early Hauser guitars, which were made before the master guitar-maker met with Segovia. What is even more surprising is that some of these elements are still to be found in contemporary American guitars today, such as the asymmetrical heads on Fenders or the Vjoints on Martin guitars. Mittenwald has been a town of luthiers since

The Viennese influence is quite noticeable in Mittenwald guitars.

An old photo from the lutherie boom years.

The town features a statue of Matthias Klotz and a giant violin carved from a treetrunk.

In the seventeenth century, lutherie became the symbol of Mittenwald and it continued to develop until 1940 the seventeenth century. It all began with Matthias Klotz (1653-1743) who, upon returning from Italy where he learned his craft as an instrument-maker, brought lutherie back to his hometown. He taught his three sons how to build stringed instruments, chiefly lutes and violins, and thus helped to establish a hub of luthiers in the town. And so it was that the name Mittenwald became practically synonymous with lutherie, which blossomed in the town right up until the Second World War. The vocational school of instrument-making still exists and runs courses in lutherie and in the manufacture of wind instruments. A visitor to the museum of stringed instruments, founded in 1930 and housed since 1960 in one of Mittenwald’s oldest and prettiest buildings, can admire a sizeable collection of Baroque instruments. There are also exhibits of guitarlyres, guitar-harps and guitars with additional strings. Some of these bizarre specimens on display are truly mind-boggling, but they did not end up greatly influencing the development of the instrument.

The luthiers seemed endowed with boundless imagination. Left, its creator, looking very pleased with his strange instrument.

Paris, December 2014 Website: orfeomagazine.fr Contact: orfeo@orfeomagazine.fr

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