One can't miss the original label on the inside back
of this instrument for it measures approximately 20cm x 8xm in
size. On the label the printing states ‘Wilhelm Durrschmidt,
Gigen und Lautenmacher, Markneukirchen /Sa. anno 1929'. The initials
DW are hand written in ink towards the left hand side and there
is a decorative border.
According to the volume on German and Austrian Violin
Makers by Karel Jalovec (pub 1967) Wilhelm August Durrschmidt was
born on 11-03-1863 and died on the 17-10-1937. In 1887 Durrschmidt
founded a workshop in Markneukirchen from which he made stringed
instruments, lutes and parts of instruments for assembly. He was
also a supplier of wood and tools for violin making.
On page 59 Jalovec writes ‘Though individual
parts of his instruments were roughly done by others - as was the
custom in Markneukirchen - he is nevertheless one of the more skilful
Markneukirchen makers'. Indeed this smallish, viol shaped instrument
with a rounded or "swell" back is well made from materials
of a good quality. The table shows spruce of a good even grain
while the back and ribs show maple with a faint but attractive
figure. The varnish is in excellent condition and is of a golden-brown
colour over a yellow ground. There are outside linings which add
strength and robustness to the instrument and the peg-box is fitted
with the original brass half-plates.
Although there are few signs of damage evident to
the outside of this instrument, a certain amount of corrective
work and improvements to the inside of the instrument have been
necessary to enable The Contrabass Shoppe to present it in the
A1 condition that you now find it. The work includes half-edging
and the replacement of the edges to the majority of the table.
A patch has been fitted to the sound post area, there has been
fairly extensive re-thicknessing work to reduce an overly thick
and inflexible table and the bass bar has seen some re-profiling
work done to it. In addition the neck has been re-set to the correct
angle and one bottom rib has been shortened very slightly. Cleaning
work has been performed followed by varnish work to touch in the
areas where necessary. A new top nut has been fitted, the fingerboard
has been "shot"
and a post and bridge have been fitted. Phew! Quite a lot
of work in fact for something that on outside appearances didn't
look as though it needed anything doing to it. And so how much
exactly did that amount of work cost? Tony Houska explains the
philosophy behind The Contrabass Shoppe. "Although the work
set me back UK£2,600 at least I can assure any prospective
customer that this instrument is in excellent structural condition
- which is the way all our instruments are presented and the way
I believe a customer should be entitled to find them. As for sound
quality on the Durrschmidt, I am happy to tell you that it is also
in excellent shape".
Besides the impressive label, the inside back bears
a rather flamboyant pencil inscription from a previous restorer
stating ‘Repaired Dresden' and followed by an undecipherable
To summarise the above then, this is a nicely presented
instrument in excellent structural condition.
The nicely sloped shoulders, the easy production
of a complete range of volumes and the incredibly small string
length (only 40.75in) make this instrument an absolute pleasure
to play. Who said that double stopping in thirds and fourths on
the double bass was difficult?
Width at the upper bout 19.5in (49.7cm)
Width at the centre bout 14.5in (36.7cm)
Width at the lower bout 26in (66.0cm)
LOB 42.3 (107.5cm) St length 40.75 (103.5cm)