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State school for violin and plucked instrument making in Mittenwald
Mittenwald is not only famous for its tourist attractions. It also draws musicians from all over the world who want to purchase a violin, a cello, a viola or a plucked instrument. Mittenwald is also the home of an established state school where students from all
over the world learned the art of making violins or plucked instruments.
We are thankful to the school for all the following information.
The History of Mittenwald:
Mittenwald, located at the old trade road between the Karwendel- and Wetterstein mountains (upper valley of the lsar river) first was officially mentioned as "in media silva" in the years 1096 - 1098.
It seems to have developed rapidly during the following 200 years. When the "Grafschaft zu Partenkirchen and zu Mittenwald" were sold by the last Earl of Eschenlohe to the Bishop of Freising it was immediately appointed as one of the three "sub-courts" of Werdenfels.
On June 20, 1407 Mittenwald received its own coat-of-arms:
The white mountains at each side symbolizing the location of the town between Karwendel and Wetterstein mountains: The three green trees are for the name of Mittenwald. The Moor is part of the coat-of-arms of Freising.
The advantageous situation at the trade road from and to Italy brought considerable income to the community of Mittenwald and it was increasing steadily. Special houses with large archways and vaults were built for storage of a lot of goods such as silk, spices, tropical fruits, oil, wine, furs, leather, bales, of cloth etc. Following, was a
period of great prosperity until the 17th century. The main reason for this "flowering time" was the transfer of the big market between Venetian and German merchants from Bozen to Mittenwald in 1487. The big war between the years 1618 and 1648 meant a great loss of trade. This, however, did not bring complete poorness to the village. Mathias Klotz returned to Mittenwald
and established a new "trade"- violin making. Through this combination of merchandising and violin making, Mittenwald even became a center of violin making.
At the end of the last century the first "tourists" came to Mittenwald. First of all these were artists attracted by the beauty of the scenery and the uniqueness of the inhabitants. The "explorers" among other had been: Heinrich Noë - a well known traveling
author. Some of the first "guests" were: Professor Ruehmann, Oskar von Miller, founder of the "Deutsche Museum" in Munich, his brother Ferdinand von Miller (sculptor) and the artists (painters) Ludwig Zumbusch and Fritz Prölß. Because of the many visitors new jobs were created: alpine guides, landlords, photographers etc.
At the beginning of the 20th century the number of inhabitants was increasing rapidly from a population of 1,858 people up to 8,500 in 1992.
Mittenwald today is a well known tourism center offering its guests a wide range of possibilities for sporting activities and an exciting interesting comfortable vacation.
Mittenwald's Violin Making History
In 1983 Mittenwald celebrated two very important anniversaries: 300 years of violin making and 125 years of Mittenwald's Violin Making School.
Founder of Mittenwald's violin making undoubtedly was Mathias Klotz.
Although he was a tailor's son, Mathias Klotz was interested in music and instruments from his earliest childhood.
From historical documents we know that he was sent to Italy when he was about 12 years old to study the art of violin making. Concerning his teachers we only know that during the years 1672 - 1678 he worked with master Johann Railich, an Italian lute maker at Bottega di Lautaro al Santo in Padua.
Matthias Klotz did not really build his instruments according to the classical Italian style but rather made them similar to those of masters from Füssen (a town in Bavaria) and Swabian
(Southern Germany). Certain elements of his violins remind of the famous Tyrolean master Jakob Stainer.
In 1683 (in all probability) M. Klotz, calling himself a skilled lute and violin maker returned prosperous to Mittenwald and established his own work shop.
We really do not know the reasons for his return but his decision might have been based on facts, such as:
No problems in establishing his own workshop, as a native son
Wood, such as maple and spruce was growing in the surrounding mountains
Advantageous location at a trade route connecting Southern Germany and Italy
Trade and merchandising were flourishing and due to its location, Mittenwald was an important place on the trade route between South and North
Therefore he could count on good sales of his instruments.
Through his outstanding skills and knowledge Mathias Klotz gained a good reputation, respect and prosperity. He was the founder of the Mittenwald violin making tradition because he did not
only train his own sons in a 5 year apprenticeship but also the interested
sons of his fellow citizens.
When Mathias Klotz died in 1750, 15 violin makers were practicing this trade. As they were located not only in Mittenwald but also living in the surrounding villages, one could already talk about a "Mittenwald school".
At the beginning, the violins were mainly sold by peddlers. After several instruments had been finished, they were put into special cases and sold to the surrounding monasteries and nearby
However, one day this market became saturated. Therefore it became necessary to extend the travel routes to Cologne, Frankfurt, Leipzig and even to Vienna, Budapest etc.
Time and travel expenses more or less exceeded the profit so that the violin makers left the trading to their relatives who were dealers and merchants. Through this cooperation the
number of clients could be extended, as well as sales throughout the year. This resulted in a considerable increase in profit within Europe, especially in Portugal, Russia and England.
The emphasis put on violin making is shown on a balance sheet from 1807:
Over a third of the income of Mittenwald was gained through violin making (approx. 80 violin and 10 bow makers, e.g. over 30 % of the male inhabitants.
These figures showed the following trends:
1. Violin making was going to become the most important source of income in Mittenwald.
2. Besides making master violins some of the violin makers specialized in building only parts of a violin such as bodies, scrolls or pegs and accessories.
Masters made their violins by themselves until the second half of the 18th century but due to the tremendous progress regarding music in general and especially domestic music the demand for instruments increased considerably.
This development resulted in the establishment of two companies, J. A. Baader & Cie. as well as Neuner & Hornsteiner. These two companies now acted as wholesalers for instruments having their own saw-mills and dictating kind, quantity and salary as they supplied the necessary material to the "home workers". The instruments were varnished and set up in the company's own workshops. Until the middle of the 19th century these two companies sold their instruments only within Europe.
Around 1850 they successfully entered the American market. The consequence of this kind of violin making was mass production which, however, could only be maintained until World War I because the main business was in the United States.
Finally, on November 23, 1933 a message reached the district administration in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, "the violin making industry once located in Mittenwald is completely expired and no domestic work is done anymore." Mass production, however, would never have
been possible without "home workers". For the Mittenwald "home workers" this kind of violin making only was an extra income and they worked for the two companies periodically in late fall and during the winter time.
Farming work had absolute priority. The low salary paid per piece (low salary was the only possibility for the companies to stand the steadily growing Bohemian and Saxony competition) only was acceptable because they owned their little house and had their agriculture and firewood.
Therefore they grasped the first profitable extra income that was offered to them - namely railroad building. In 1912 Mittenwald's isolation ended when it was connected to the railway network.
The now beginning tourism made it possible to concentrate efforts on this more profitable source of income.
Although the two companies closed down, violin making did not entirely disappear. Even during the period of mass production some independent violin makers carried out this trade and some
(in the years prior to 1930) had their training at the domestic violin making school. This enabled them to earn their living with this trade.
This violin making school had been officially established in 1858 under the rule of King Max 11. This decision had been made because the government was aware of the fact that in order for the
individual craftsmen to built a complete violin support was needed. In the beginning only domestic students were educated at this school. Based on the success later on students came from all over the world to study the art of violin making in Mittenwald and they are still coming today...
Meanwhile, new departments have been added to this school. The official name of the school reads:
"Staatliche Berufsfach- und Fachschule für Geigenbau und Zupfinstrumentenmacher", which means State School for Violin Making and Plucked Instruments.
In the past years many native masters have successfully completed their apprenticeship at this school. They, as well as direct descendants of Matthias Klotz are building violins in Mittenwald. So we can definitely say that Mittenwald, as the center of the Southern
German violin making, did not only carry its good reputation through the past centuries. It will be famous and well known for its art of violin making following the tradition of Matthias Klotz in future.
State School for Violin Making and Plucked Instruments:
When in 1683 Mathias Klotz returned to Mittenwald after many years abroad, soon a lot of violin makers practiced this trade in Mittenwald. However, in the middle of the 19th century there had been a great lack in the education and training of young talent. In
1857 it was so obvious that the government decided to send Johann B. Reiter - a qualified violin maker - to Mittenwald in order to teach interested persons in the art of violin making. However, Johann B. Reiter did not succeed in this mission.
Therefore, in 1858 King Max 11 initiated the official establishment of the Violin Making School in Mittenwald.
At the beginning, the school did only trained domestic students. But in the course of time its reputation became public all over the world.
The school around 1910
The school today
What you don't see- more skill are thought
Students come from everywhere
Soon students came and still come from China, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States of America, Mexico, France, Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Norway, Finland etc., to study the art of violin making in Mittenwald. Many of the well known masters received their education at the school.
The "sun room" of the school
Today the school is divided into several departments; heart is the department for violin making. A training time of 7 semesters in all scopes of string instrument making is necessary for he journeymen's examination. The education is based on the old German
and Italian traditions. The practical field includes the reconstruction of historical and modern string instruments as well as repairs. The theoretical training includes theory, technical drawings, music and art history, physics/acoustics as well as instrumental and orchestral playing.
In February 1982 a department for plucked instruments was added. The education takes 3 years and also can be concluded with the journeymen's examination.
If you have any more questions about violin making in Mittenwald or how to apply as a student, please contact the school directly:
Staatliche Berufsfach- und Fachschule für Geigenbau und Zupfinstrumentenmacher in Mittenwald
Partenkirchner Straße 24
Tel. 001 49 8823 1353
Fax 001 49 8823 4491
The Violin Making Museum:
On March 7, 1930 the following persons established the museum's society: Clerical Council Johann Baptist Karl, Leo Aschauer (Director of the Violin Making School), Gustav Grasek (Violin Making Master), Dr. Fritz Ferchi and Hans Ebenhöch (hotel owner).
Aim and purpose of this museum (according to its statutes) are:
1. Collection and exhibition of historical instruments and objects.
2. Maintenance of the scenery's beauty, the special flair of Mittenwald and its historical buildings.
3. Support of the domestic violin making and art.
Members of the society are found all over the world.
The first chairman of the society was Leo Aschauer. When he passed away in 1969, Josef Kantuscher (violin making master) was appointed and still is chairman today.
After many negotiations, in 1960 the museum was moved to the Ballenhausgasse. This building was purchased for the museum by the community of Mittenwald in 1982. Most of the instruments and objects
shown here are property of the museum. Visitors can see scenes of the former life of a violin maker with ail the things and tools used at this time.
Original living quarters of those days are shown. Of course, one also comes to know detailed information about Mathias Klotz, founder of the Mittenwald violin making. You will also learn more about his instruments as well as the building of a violin and the bow and many other details about various string instruments and historical objects. Responsible for design and equipment
is Sebastian Pfeffer (Vice chairman of the society), a reputable and well known sculptor and fresco painter. It is the only museum of this kind in Germany. Approximately 40,000 visitors come every year.
Meanwhile, a workshop has been added were one can watch first hand a violin maker at work and feel free to ask questions.
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