Thursday, May 22, 2008

Polish Maker's Spotlight: Szlachtowski, Koscielny, & Cracovia Workshop

For a number of years, the shop had been investing its time in locating world class contemporary makers from abroad such as Italy or Germany. However, it seems like the boss recently has had an interest in the up and coming makers of Eastern Europe like Poland, Czech Republic, or Romania. If you've kept tabs on my Twitter account, you may have heard about the arrival of some new instruments. Two of these will be the topic of today's entry as I show off some nice photos of the makers, talk more about their background, and a bit of history on Polish violin making.

Jan Szlachtowski was Born in 1951 in Nowry Targ, Poland. In 1970 he finished school in violin making in Zakopane where he worked under one of the old Polish Masters Jozef Bartoszek. From 1987 to 1988, he worked at W.H. Lee firm in Chicago. In 1988 he returned home to his birth city where he opened up shop and can still be found working today. His main area of work is cello which have established quite a reputation amongst dealers in the U.S.

The workshop of Master Jarek Koscielny in Czetochowa, the town of the famous Black Madonna which is frequently visited by Catholic tourists and pilgrimages. His violins are made in the Stradivari and Guarneri patterns with an antiqued varnish look.

The Cracovia Workshop was established about 6 years ago in Southern Poland. Polish Master Ryszard Florek runs the shop with 4 assistants in the town of Bielsko-Biala. All the instruments are "aged", antiqued, and treated in spirit varnish.

As you can see, some of the best contemporary makers are coming from Eastern Europe. You may think that violin making in these countries are a relatively new cultural phenomenon but not so! According to an article in the the Warsaw Voice, a majority of the Polish violin makers are members of the-oldest, after Italy's, organization of violin makers in Europe. The Association of Polish Artists Violin Makers (ZPAL) is reported to have 113 members and is celebrating its 54th anniversary this May.

In fact, Poland has had a richer history of violin making that dates as far back as the 16th century. The first great makers of that era, Marcin Groblicz I (1530-1609) and Baltazar Dankwart (mid-16th century - 1622), started two dynasties of outstanding violin makers which lasted until the 18th century. Some scholars even believe that the prototype of the violin originated in Poland. Relics such as a primitive fiddle from the 11th century, a five-string instrument from the 12th century and a six-string instrument in 15th-century serve as some of the strongest evidences for their case. A collection of these instruments can be found at the Museum of Musical Instruments in Poznań.

Many of today's Polish makers go through secondary school whose curricula include the art of violin making. There are currently two in the Poland that offer such programs: High School of Fine Arts in Zakopane and High School of Music in Poznań. These schools' graduates have an opportunity to continue their studies at the Violin Making Department of Poznań's Music Academy. This means that Poland is the only country in the world where violin makers can receive a university-level education.

After years of training and apprenticeships, many of them have established their workshop in the mountainous region of Poland. Due to the low cost of labor in Eastern Europe, a favorable currency exchange rate for the US Dollar, and a tradition of highly trained makers, these instruments can be compared with others that are worth two or more times their market price.


Anonymous said...

I have a nice cello from the 1970s made by Joseph Bartoszek formerly of Zakopane. I wonder where I could get it valued?
Dr. George Hyde

A. Cavallo said...

You can contact A. Cavallo Violins toll free at 877.838.6222. Usually an instrumetn has to be seen in person by a qualified appraiser to establish a value.


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