F.Sollner - the influence of the great Master


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The Influence of the great Master


My work gives me a great feeling every time I meet the instruments from eminent violinmakers from different eras, who are already a part and are inherently inscribed into the history of violin making. Such an instrument is always impressing but never surprising. It is even more pleasant when I meet an excellent instrument from less-known violinmakers, whose instruments are not frequent or rather little occurring.
Francis John Sollner was born in 1848 in Tachov, where he also died in 1908. Being a student of Gabriel Lemböck, he worked in Vienna, London and Budapest. In 1892 he returned back to Tachov, where he was recognized as an expert and an excellent violinmaker. At the present time, he is not very well known for any magnificent feats and his instruments are found only sporadically. That is why his name is often forgotten.
Gabriel Lemböck, on the contrary, was a renowned Master, one of the best violinmakers of his time and is recognized and appreciated even today.
I already came across a Sollner´s instrument, which was distinctive and interesting. However, I did not consider that as conclusive of Sollner´s art. I rather held onto the opinion of Karel Jalovec, who wrote about him in his book "Czech violin-makers ". He writes that although Sollner was hailed in the time he lived, his instruments were not a miracle. I do not fully agree with this opinion now. Although Sollner did not overtake his teacher in the mastery of his instruments, his work had a very good standard. We can discover interesting masterpieces from his workshop particularly among the instruments from his first period, when Lemöck' s impact on him was the strongest.
The instrument presented here was built in Lemböck's workshop in the 1860s. It is provided with initials G.L. on the connection of the lower rib just as all Lemböck instruments. (Sollner later marked his instruments similarly under the base of the bottom plate by his initials FS). It was also common that violinmakers sold some of their instruments as copies of famous Masters. They didn´t sign these instruments by themselves or only covertly. For such instruments, the violinmaker often used the help of his skillful students and assistants and only led their work or eventually finished the important details. Therefore, there is an original copy of the label of Giuseppe Guarneri inside the bottom plate and only after opening the instrument we discovered a very subtle label in place where violinists hold their chin on the top plate. This label only confirms Sollner´s cooperation with Lemböck. Using a burning monogram testifies that Lemböck was not ashamed of this instrument at all, but rather that it was proudly sold as a work of his workshop. These violins were built as copies, including the instrument wear and imitation of the old varnish. Therefore, this varnish differs from the varnish used on most of the other instruments of the Lemböck's workshop. Sollner kept this harder old varnish imitation in the future as well. On the other hand, the head of the instrument is a masterpiece that reminds us of Lemböck all along the line. It is made generously and yet carefully and brings these violins to the level of high quality instruments of that time.
Even when Sollner left Vienna, he took his skills and patterns into other places where he worked. Perhaps if we discover more interesting and good-quality instruments from his workshop, this little-known Master can end up being recognized also today.


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