5-String Double Bass by Ferdinand Seitz, Mittenwald circa 1850 – Review

Big bass.

Yes - this is one of those magnificent instruments with the rounded or "Busetto" type lower corners in the style of Mathias Klotz (1653-1743) that are quite awesome in every aspect. With a length of back (LOB) measurement of 118.3cm - this really is a true 5/4-size instrument.

Is the string length big as well?

No. Even though this is about as big an instrument as one will find - it is still very playable due to the fact that The Contrabass Shoppe has fitted a stunning "slim-feel" neck that provides a string length of only 105.4 cm. Can you believe that statistic? Only 105.4cm. So big bass - but incredibly easy to play.

Big Sound?

Yes indeed. As one draws the bow across the strings the whole instrument begins to vibrate and a simply colossal sound really makes its presence felt. I promise you - you won't be able to stop smiling at the enormity of sound. Hold on to the china plates!

Is the bass labelled?

No unfortunately it doesn't have a label or inscription.

How do you know that it is made by Seitz?

The instrument is typical of Seitz's output. You could say - that these magnificent instruments were his trade mark. If you take a look in our Archive pages - you will see another example of Seitz's work. The near-identical example is signed in ink - 'Ferdinand Seitz 1856' on the bass side lower table.

How do the two instruments compare?

In terms of model, workmanship and quality of timber used - the two instruments are very, very similar. In terms of overall condition - we would have say that this one is the more superior on the basis that it still retains its glorious plumb red-brown spirit varnish.

Ferdinand Seitz - he was famed for his basses wasn't he?

Yes he was. Although there is very little recorded about Ferdinand Seitz - even in the larger reference books - double bass players the world over recognise his name as being synonymous with these large well sounding orchestral instruments. German players especially favour these 5/4 size instruments that were often made - as is this example - with the rounded or "Busetto" type lower corners.

More on Seitz

Ferdinand worked around about 1840-1857. There were several generations of violinmakers with the name Seitz. Most of them worked in and around Mittenwald. The Encyclopaedia on Violin Makers by Karel Jalovec records no less than 18 with a surname spelt either Seitz or Seiz. Many of the makers worked for or supplied instruments or parts of violins exclusively for the dealers and manufacturers of the time - namely Matthias Neuner (3rd) and Matthias Hornsteinster.

More on Mittenwald

Mittenwald is located at the foot of the Bavarian Alps in the very south of Germany. Between the end of the 15th and the 17th century Mittenwald prospered as it lay directly on the lower trade route between Augsberg and Venice.

More on Mathias Klotz

Mathias Klotz (1653-1743) can be considered the founder of violin making in Mittenwald. In 1685 he returned to the town and opened a large workshop in which he trained his three sons as well as many other violin makers from the area. Today the town still has a violin making school and there is a museum devoted to the evolution of stringed instruments and to old Mittenwald.

Instrument characteristics

This instrument is made in the traditional style of the Mittenwald School. It is viol shaped with rounded or "Busetto" type lower corners. It has a flat back that slopes gently in towards the neck and along the length of the back centre join is a characteristic strip of ebony. The wood used is nicely figured, well thicknessed and of good quality. The carving details of the scroll, ƒ holes and purfilling are neat and well controlled. The varnish is original and very typical. Just take a look at the glorious texture and deep-dark red-brown colour. Splendid stuff indeed.

Have you done anything to the instrument at all?

Yes - the instrument has been fully upgraded to modern day concert standards. In brief we've set the instrument up with a new neck, fingerboard, bridge and post and the peg box is now adorned with a stunning set of new English machines set on brass half plates. Internally improvements have been made to the acoustics by means of judicious regraduation work and the replacement of the original bass bar.

Phew - all in all that was quite a bit of work then?

Yes indeed it was. But in our opinion it has been worth all the effort - for the instrument is now structurally in A1 condition.

Tell me about the sound again?

The quality of sound is simply awesome. There is huge 'octobass' like sound which can only be described as glorious and reverent. There is plenty of volume and the tone is rather like a fine red wine - mature and full-bodied.

Would I want this instrument?

Named instruments by Ferdinand Seitz are considered highly desirable property right around the world. With volume and tonal qualities at the very highest level - this instrument will help establish and elevate the foundational or core-sound of any opera orchestra.

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