Carl Wilhelm Blaun Double Bass, Altona-on-Elba anno 1839 – Review

How difficult is it to find an early German instrument of quality?

To come across a German instrument that was constructed before the Second World War is quite difficult - so to find an instrument in exceptional and original condition - such as this instrument by Carl Wilhelm Blaun - that was built seventy-five years before The Great War is a pretty rare find indeed.

It certainly is a very unusual model and without question it is most distinctive too.

Yes - it is quite safe to say that the form and features of this instrument are both unusual and distinctive. If you just think for a moment of what was being created by makers in London at exactly this same time - this was the Golden Age of bass making in England - with makers such as lott, Fendt and Kennedy producing instrument of unsurpassable form, construction and beauty then it seems to suggest that Blaun was making somewhat in isolation with little idea of what other makers were creating in other countries and indeed even those in his own country.

Can you point out some of the interesting features for me please?

Yes there are many but here are a few;

    • The model is gamba-shaped with a flat back and an upper angle crease that inclines by only a few degrees towards the back button.
    • The sides of the upper-block are convex. This has given the upper area of the instrument its distinctive bulbouse appearance. 
    • The back and front is double purfilled in violin purfilling. On the back the inner band appears to be a single thin ebony band, the outer band a double-stringing of violin purfilling. Both purfilling lines terminate in a geometric patern immediately below the back button.
    • The peg box is fitted with highly distinctive rosewood wooden pegs that are origional to the instrument. It can be seen that the ends of the pegs are inlaid with mother-of-pearl dots.
    • The tailpiece is origional to the instrument. It is inlaid with a highly distinctive mother-of-pearl floral design and lower m.o.p-dot.
    • The instrument still retains its origional wooden tailwire-peg.

Are there any labels or inscriptions?

Yes - the instrument bears its origional label on the bass side back that says C.W. Blaun, Altona with 'Anno 1839' written in ink near to the lower edge. On the treble side back an indecipherable ink inscription reads something like 'Repaired by Fage Berg 1965'.

What do the Violin Dictionaries say about Blaun?

Unfortunately not too much - but enough to tell us that Blaun speciallised in the construction of double basses.

    • The Universal Dictionary of Violin Makers & Bow Makers by William Henley (Amati Publishing 1973) has one line as follows 'Double-bass maker at Altona-on-Elbe, 1840-1850.'
    • German & Austrian Violin Makers by Karel Jalovec (1967) writes 'Altona, circa 1840-1847. Skilled doublebass-maker'.
    • Encyclopedia of Violin-Makers by Karel Jalovec (1968) writes 'Good doublebasses'.

So this is a named bass from the first half of the ninteenth century with origional label, distinctive features and in pretty amazing condition. Will it suit me?

We think that this instrument will prove most attractive to a wide variety of people from collectors to Baroque players wanting to find an instrument that has all the great looks and features of a period Vieneese instrument for a fraction of the price.

Oh yes - what about price?

At less than half the cost of a named Classic English instrument from the same period we think that you'll have to agree that this is most attractive too.

Final Summary

One has to say that this is an instruments whose looks are as intrequing as it is to play.

Player Feedback

"What a joy it was to find info about Carl Wilhelm Blaun basses on the internet, at your website. I have a Blaun bass. I understand that his instruments look similar and have the same wondrously short string length. Mine has a darker brown/red-ish/golden varnish and was made in 1844. I have played it full-time professionally in a symphony, opera and chamber work, and have done restoration and improvements including heavy duty steel/brass tuners and a state of the art C extension. I have heretofore been unable to find anything on the internet about his instruments and only one brief entry in an encyclopedia. Oh, joy! You have made my day." - Angel P. - USA. December 2007.

"I think there is a little mistake in the description of the bass made by Wilhelm Blaun. The name of the place is Altona (not Antona). Altona is now a part of Hamburg, but in the early 19th century this little town near the
river Elbe was a part of the Danish Kingdom. I myself a have bass of the same size and short string length as the one shown, mine is made by a Bernard Schuster Pilatuspol, Hamburg. Hope that helps and best wishes from Hamburg." - Thomas F. - Germany. October 2008

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