Italian Double Bass by Gabriele Pareschi, Piacenza anno 1979 – Review

How do you know that this double bass was made by G. Pareschi?

The instrument bears its original label on the inside bass-side back. The large printed label reads;

Tel ---

Is the printed label signed at all?

Yes. Immediately after his surname the maker has written his signature diagonally across a short length of stave that commences with a treble clef.

Are there any other labels?

There is a second makers label affixed to the upper inside block. It is identical to the one in the standard position.

Scroll inscription – Italian Double Bass by Gabriele Pareschi, Piacenza anno 1979

Are there any brands?

Yes. PARESCHI is branded onto the button of the peg box.

There are certainly no question marks about its authenticity then. What can you tell me about Pareschi double basses?

Pareschi double basses were "the-fashion" instrument to have and be seen with in England during the 70's and 80's. Indeed many of the students doing the audition circuit, semi-pro players and pros drove all the way over to Italy to pick their new acquisition up directly from the maker.

Why didn't players simply buy a bass in England?

The 70's and 80's saw an explosion of people take up the double bass and it was pretty difficult to find anything of age or quality. If your teacher was able to find one double bass for you just bought it because there was literally nothing else available. As a consequence the order books of specialist bass maker Ernest Francis Lant of Sevenoaks and of Ronald Prentice of Ash Priors in Somerset bulged which meant for the player there was more often than not a wait of unacceptable length.

So supply and demand for new instruments forced players to look around?

Yes - and once the word got round that Pareschi was making good looking, good sounding instruments orders rapidly began to flood in.

Do you think that there was the feeling that owning something Italian was more special, more magical, perhaps more mystical in comparison to the modern English instruments being produced?

Yes indeed. If you had a Pareschi double bass - it made you feel really good that your colleagues were quite jealous.

What will I like about the instrument?

It is a really comfortable instrument to play and the quality of the sound is top-notch.

Tell me about the instrument please?

This is a violin shaped instrument with a swell two-piece back. The instrument is covered in a very respectable amber-red spirit varnish over a yellow ground. The peg-box features a rather pointed button. The peg-box cheeks are fitted with four separate machines with fixed position worms on chrome quarter-plates.

I can see darker areas underneath the varnish. Is that in the wood or underneath the varnish?

It would appear that Pareschi has tried to enhance the quality or appearance of what is essentially quite plain materials by applying a variety of brush strokes and what can only be described as blotches of darker varnish onto one or two of the lower layers of varnish. The effect is most obvious around the bridge area of the table but it can also be seen in the corner-tips of the table, along the edges and seams of the ribs and around the edge work of the back.

Is it possible that Pareschi was trying to give this instrument a more antiqued look?

Yes. Possibly it was a bit of both disguise of plain wood, give it the illusion of more age scenario. Indeed instrument makers have been doing exactly the same thing throughout the centuries with varying degrees of success.

Are the machines the original?

Yes they are.

They are quite distinctive. Have you seen them on other double basses made by Pareschi?

Yes. In addition to them being very distinctive the worms need to be turned the opposite way from what you would normally do.

How unusual. Why would that be?

The thread on the worms have been cut to face the opposite way from what they should have been.

Do you think that this was a mistake in the manufacture process?

If as we suspect the cogs were specially commissioned by Pareschi rather than bought commercially then it does seem to suggest that there was either a design error or a communication error between client and manufacturer.

I've noticed some bushing work in the peg box which suggests that the machines have been moved. If as you say they are the original machines why has somebody gone and moved them?

Originally the G and D machines would have been positioned lower than the E and A machines. Obviously a former owner didn't like this non-standard arrangement and at some point had them repositioned to the more conventional positions.

So machines that turn the wrong way and an unusual reverse position for the cogs. Do you think that Pareschi was a left hander?

Quite honestly I don't know - but its a good theory.

I've seen another double bass that looks identical to this one but the owner is calling it a Gaetano Pareschi. Is the owner mistaken?

If the instrument is pretty much identical to this one and being called a Gaetano Pareschi - then the owner is definitely mistaken.

Inside label – Italian Double Bass by Gabriele Pareschi, Piacenza anno 1979

Why would the owner call it a Gaetano if it wasn't one?

If one examines the two labels inside one of his double basses they are always printed G. Pareschi - but obviously we don't know what name the G stands for. If we then look at his hand written signature opposite the printed G. Pareschi its squiggly style is so illegible we are still none the wiser.

OK - but surely you can find out the Christian name when you look through a few reference works?

Well you would have thought so but this is where the problem lies for in all the dictionaries and reference works available only Gaetano Pareschi is recorded - hence everybody immediately jumps to the conclusion that this must be the maker of their instrument.

OK - I'm following you so far. So how did you find out about Gabriele Pareschi?

In the truly splendid and well researched volume Un Secolo di Liuteria Italiana 1860-1960. Volume 1, Emilia Romagna by Eric Blot (Pub by Editrice Turris 1994. ISBN 88-7929-026-6) there is a chapter on Gaetano Pareschi and his dates are provided as b-1900, d-1987. If Gaetano had in fact made this double bass we can easily work out that he would have been 79 years of age when he built it. This is of course possible although when you look at the style and robustness of the work on our double bass it does suggest otherwise.

What else can you learn from the Blot book?

The text and colour plates tell us that Gaetano lived and worked in Ferrara, that his best period was between 1930 and 1960 and that he was a well above average craftsman. Essentially it says; 'In 1974 he moved to Cavacurta (Milano) and stopped working'.

Right on the button man. Did you by any chance write to Mr Blot and ask him if he had any information on the G. Pareschi of Piacenza?

Yes. I e-mail Mr Blot but unfortunately he elected not to reply.

Shame. Was anybody else able to help with this conundrum?

A web search on G. Pareschi took me to the biographical page of the highly regard Italian double bass maker and restorer Sergio Scaramelli. On the page Mr Scaramelli informs us that in his student days he frequently visited the workshop of Gaetano Pareschi in Ferrara.

Does Sergio Scaramelli write anything else about Gaetano Pareschi on his web pages?

On his archive pages he features some pictures of a splendid double bass by Gaetano and writes that it is only one of four double basses that he made. He also informs us that the model is his own personal one and that it is made in the typical style of the Ferrara school.

Did you by any chance write to Mr Scaramelli and ask him if he had any information on the G. Pareschi of Piacenza?

Yes indeed.

Go on then. What did he say?

Mr Scaramelli was more than helpful. Please note that although Mr Scaramelli has an excellent command of English some of his sentence construction is not quite as clear as it could be so I have taken the liberty of improving their intended meaning as follows; "His name is Gabriele Pareschi and he was the son of Gaetano. He was born and lived in Ferrara and moved to Piacenza in about 1975. I knew him personally and even ordered two double basses from him in 1979. The model was exactly the same as yours but the wood was different."

Was Mr Scaramelli able to provide any more information?

In a later e-mail Mr Scaramelli wrote; "Unfortunately I don't know the date of his birth or death. I knew him when he was in Piacenza. In 1981 he went to live near Cremona in a village called Cavacurta. He had a brother called Giancarlo who was the first violinist in the orchestra of Rio de Janerio. His father was not his teacher and he did not copy his father's models. He can be considered self-taught. In total he made about 60 double basses, 20 cellos and some violins on his own personal forms. The double basses are almost always the same shape with high shoulders and the varnish is modern violin making rather than classic. He frequently used wood such as African walnut and Canadian Douglas fir."

That was really decent of Mr Scaramelli to help like that.

Yes indeed. A very big thank you Mr Scaramelli.

So a production of about 60 double basses. That's quite a lot wouldn't you say?

Yes indeed. To make that number of double basses plus other instruments in a lifetime is pretty good going.

In any of your reference works is there any clue as to the year Gabriele may have been born?

The Brompton's Book of Violin and Bow Makers by John Dilworth published in 2012 by Usk Publishing (ISBN 978-0-9573499-0-2) records that Gabriele had another brother who was also a violin maker and as follows; 'Pareschi, Renato b. 1922 San Giovanni in Persiceto, Italy. Son and pupil of Gaetano Pareschi above (Geatano is the previous entry). Also guided by N. Carletti. Classical and personal models. Prize awarded in Bagnacavallo 1972."

By this I presume that you are suggesting that all three brothers would have been born within a few years of each other?

Yes - that is the line of thought. The fact that there was another violin maker in the family is of interest in any case.

I must say - it does seem strange that Gabriele Pareschi is not even mentioned in the same reference work?

Yes - considering and that his brother is mentioned - it is very odd. Considering the fact that he was such prolific maker is another reason that it is so odd.

Thank you for all the research. How about a final summary?

It is always nice to have something Italian particularly when it comes to instruments of the violin family. They often have magical even mystical connotations. This decently made instrument by Gabriele Pareschi produces a really excellent warm and rewarding sound. Furthermore it is a very comfortable instrument to play. For the up and coming young professional this would make an excellent lifelong companion.

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