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Mittenwald Double Bass by Joseph Shandl circa 1872 - #2705 - SOLD

Front image of a Mittenwald Double Bass by Joseph Shandl circa 1872
Back image of a Mittenwald Double Bass by Joseph Shandl circa 1872
Side image of a Mittenwald Double Bass by Joseph Shandl circa 1872
Scroll image of a Mittenwald Double Bass by Joseph Shandl circa 1872
Click to zoom to a double bass by Mario Bandini, Ravenna anno 1980

Instrument Characteristics

A viol shaped instrument with a flat back that slopes gently in towards the neck and a characteristic strip of ebony along the back centre join. This instrument is made in the traditional style of the Mittenwald School. The wood used is nicely figured, well thicknessed and of high quality. The carving details of the scroll, f-holes and purfilling are well controlled and beautifully neat and the varnish - well just take a look at the glorious texture and deep-dark red-brown colour that has been applied over a yellow ground - it is simply exquisite.

This instrument looks rather like a small Seitz.

Yes, that's right it does. The style and quality of making is very much on a par with the renowned master bass maker - Ferdinand Seitz - a contemporary of Schandl who also lived and worked in Mittenwald. At the time a large proportion of the violin makers from the area would have supplied instruments or parts of violins exclusively for dealers and manufacturers such as Neuner and Hornsteinster.

How many makers were there approximately in Mittenwald at the time?

I have been reliably informed that an 1880 population census established a figure of some 4000 residents in the town of Mittenwald out of which there were some 200 violin makers. That's quite an astounding number - in fact approximately 10% of the working population.

Do you have any info on Joseph Schandl?

It would seem that Joseph was a descendent from a line of violin makers. There are five makers listed in the Jalovec Encyclopedia of Violin Makers - although none with the name of Joseph. This seems strange for a maker with such high skill and ability - but as a plausible explanation - it could just be that he wasn't included in referance works because he was "only" a double bass maker and as such he was just not so well known.

Indeed the high quality of this instrument would suggest that he was a bass specialist.

Makers label showing Joseph Shandl's signatureIs there a makers label?

No - there aren't any labels in the instrument at all - but there was a pencil inscription alongside the origional bass bar (Bass side opp the bottom bout). No matter how hard we tried - here - at The Contrabass Shoppe - we were unable to decipher the inscription - so naturally we asked the assistance of some German friends and colleagues. To our surprise they too were unable to work out what it said due to the fact that it had been written in what is called Old High German script - which is something that they had not been taught at school.

So what is Old High German script?

In brief - modern day Germanic languages are a descendant from the ancient Latin alphabet. During the sixteenth century - text developed into angular shaped letters known as the Fraktur and Textura scripts. This was further developed during the Baroque period into a more ornamental fashion called - Antique script.

Within the past 100 years the writing system of the German language has seen a great deal of change. Frakur - the Old High German script - was taught in schools up until 1941 at which time the Nazis claimed that the letters were Jewish and abolished it nationwide. It was replaced with Antique script - which we now consider to be normal writing.

How did you work out what the inscription said in the end?

Well - the name was recognised instantly by two German colleagues who - shall we say - are very slightly older than middle aged. They read the inscription as Joseph Schandl in Mittenwald an der Iser. Annon 1872. Thanks for everybody's help. We managed to get there in the end.

I notice you said that there "was" a makers inscription

Yes you are quite right - I did use the past tense of the word because we knew that in order to maximize the sound potential of the instrument, the work required to the inside table would result - most unfortunately - in the removal of all traces of the origional signature. With this in mind it was most important that we preserve and document the identity of the instrument by means of full photographs and the translation of the signature.

Was the removal of the signature really necessary?

At The Contrabass Shoppe - we certainly don't want to alter another makers work unless absolutely necessary. Unfortunately - times have changed. When this instrument was built it was made for three large thick gut - low-tension strings. Today we use four narrow high-tension steel strings that require neck angles to be set much, much higher. When built we can assume that this meticulously made instrument sounded great. With our modern strings and set-up requirements our restorers can guarantee that the instrument would sound like a complete "dog" (English slang for no good) because they know that to make an instrument sound really well the plates (front and back) need to vibrate properly when the strings are moved.

I did notice that the instrument is in virtually mint condition.

Yes - that's right the condition of this instrument is absolutely superb and once again we can safely assume that this instrument has not been played very much in the last 50-60 years simply because it never played very well with a more modern set-up. Here's a question for you. Can you tell me why any player would want to play on an instrument that doesn't sound any good?

OK - I take your point. So what did you do to the instrument?

Obviously rethicknessing work was the cause of the removal of the signature and as I have said previously the table was very much over-thick. At this point we must stress that this type of work should only be undertaken by the most experienced and skilled of restorers. In addition to the regraduation work we replaced the old bass bar, thinned out the old back centre brace, fitted three new edges to the front, replaced the neck, fitted new high ebony, fitted new fingerboard, bridge, sound post and endpin unit, cleaned the instrument, touched up the varnish and re-set up.

OK - so how has the work turned out?

The work has turned out absolutely fantastic and the proof is in the playing. As one draws the bow across the strings the whole instrument begins to vibrate and a simply colossal sound comes out. I promise you - you won't be able to stop smiling at the enormity of sound. Hold on to the china plates!

As an added bonus this instrument 'speaks' so quickly that we'll be very impressed if your bowing technique can match what this instrument is capable of doing.

Final Summary

Absolutely everything about this instrument just shouts out quality. The materials, the making, the finish and the sound are all really at a top, top level. The condition too is quite breathtaking and the proportions are such that it will suit a great number of players.

Named Mittenwald basses of this period, quality and condition are infrequently seen on the market these days - so even if you decide to purchase this instrument purely as an investment opportunity - at a purchase price of under 20K - what's that expression? ... "it's the real deal".

Stats:

LOB (length of back) - 110.1cm (43.35in)
Width across upper bouts - 50.0cm (19.75in)
Width across middle bouts - 36.3cm (14.27in)
Width across lower bouts - 67.5cm (26.52in)
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates- 20.6cm (8.15in)
Body Stop - 59.3cm (23.40in)
String length - 104.7cm (41.20in)

SOLD

For a very big view of the instrument, click on each of the photographs

Front View

Back View

Front View Back View

Quarter View

Scroll view
Quarter View

Scroll View

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