H. R. Pfretzschner French Double Bass Bow With Additional German Style Frog In 14ct Gold – Review

Can you tell me a little bit about this bow?

Yes - this is a fairly typical but at the same time quite exceptional example of H. R. Pfretzschner's bass bows. In terms of it being fairly typical the stick is quite long and the head is refined, elegant and quite-petite in style and form. In terms of it being quite exceptional one only needs to look at the quality of the workmanship to know that it is a bow of the highest order.

What do the initials H. R. stand for?

Hermann Richard Pfretzschner was born in Markneukirchen in 1857 and died in 1921. He is the most well recognised member of the Pfretzschner family. His bows are highly regarded by both players and dealers alike for their fine workmanship and for their exceptional playing qualities.

I see that there is a brand on the frog. What does it signify?

In 1901 Pfretzschner received an appointment - “Königlich Sächsicher Hoflieferant” - from the King of Saxony. To mark this honour - bows made after this date were stamped with the Royal Coat of Arms.

So when would you say that this bow dates from?

As 1901 was the year of the Royal Appointment and 1921 was the year that Pfretzschner died - the bow must date from between those two dates.

Can you be more accurate than that?

If we said around about 1910 - then I don’t think we would be too far out. The quality of the wood and a lighter, more delicate style of making suggest earlier rather than later.

Where did H. R. Pfretzschner learn his craft?

  1. R. Pfretzschner learnt bow making from his father Carl Richard Pfretzschner (b-1832, d-1893). It was however - J. B. Vuillaume (b-1798, d-1875) who was the major influence on his making.

What years did Pfretzschner study with Vuillaume?

In 1874 Pfretzschner left Markneukirchen and went to study and work for J.B. Vuillaume in Paris for one year. In 1880, Pfretzschner opened his own shop in Markneukirchen and made bows using the working techniques that he had learnt with Vuillaume.  

Did Pfretzschner himself become influential in any way?

Yes. Pfretzschner's newly learnt skills - did indeed influence the whole direction of German bow making. His shop was an important and highly influential establishment and the workshop employed and helped train some highly skilled and talented makers.

Is it possible to identify any of the makers and apprentices?

Yes - here are a few of the more well recognised;

i) His sons Richard Herman Pfretzschner (b-1876, d-1958) and Berthold Walter Pfretzschner (b-1889, d-1984).

ii) Emil Max Penzel (b-1887, d-1953) worked for a few years from 1903 until about 1906.

iii) Fritz Gütter Senior (b-1890, d-1960) learned bow making between 1904 and 1908.

iv) Paul Richard Heberlein (b-1882, d-1969) learned between 1896 and 1899. After his apprenticeship he remained at the Pfretzschner shop until 1907.

v) Friedrich Fritz Meinel (b-1885, d-1962) is recorded as being an apprentice.

vi) Richard Bässler (b-1891, d-1982) learned the craft of bow making in the H. R. Pfretzschner workshop.

Let’s get back to this particular bow. Can you tell me more about the quality of the stick?  

Yes - the quality of the round stick is superb. It is made from a tightly-grained chestnut-brown pernambuco - that although on the lighter side of making is strong and flexible to perfection. 

What about the head?

To gain the optimum balance in a bow of this length it is simply no use whatsoever in having a large heavy head. In this respect Pfretzschner really is the style master. The perfectly proportioned compact head that we see here is nothing less than an inspired conception. It execution it is elegant and flowing.

So overall you would say that this is a pretty nice bow to have?

Yes indeed. There is little doubt amongst players of German style bows that if you are lucky enough to find one by the old H. R. Pfretzschner, the bow making and the playing qualities of the bow are as good as it gets. There is something magical about these bows. It has to be a combination of the feel in the hand, the superb balance, the weight and the way in which the bow articulates and produces sound with consummate ease.

What reference works did you consult in writing this?

The main reference work that we consulted was “Deutsche Bogenmacher - German Bow Makers 1783-1945” (Volume 1) by Klaus Grünke, C. Hans-Karl Schmidt and Wolfgang Zunterer. Published in 2000 by Walter Lachenmann, Waakirchen. ISBN 3-00-005839-7.

A summary perhaps?

Strong, elegant, refined, flexible, articulate from the hand of H. R. Pfretzschner -  a “Master” - a “Royal” bow maker. This bow is sure to put a smile on the most demanding of pro-players.


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