Wilhelm Durrschmidt Double Bass, Markneukirchen anno 1929 – Review

One can't miss the original label on the inside back of this instrument for it measures approximately 20cm x 8xm in size. On the label the printing states ‘Wilhelm Durrschmidt, Gigen und Lautenmacher, Markneukirchen /Sa. anno 1929'. The initials DW are hand written in ink towards the left hand side and there is a decorative border.

According to the volume on German and Austrian Violin Makers by Karel Jalovec (pub 1967) Wilhelm August Durrschmidt was born on 11-03-1863 and died on the 17-10-1937. In 1887 Durrschmidt founded a workshop in Markneukirchen from which he made stringed instruments, lutes and parts of instruments for assembly. He was also a supplier of wood and tools for violin making.

On page 59 Jalovec writes ‘Though individual parts of his instruments were roughly done by others - as was the custom in Markneukirchen - he is nevertheless one of the more skilful Markneukirchen makers'. Indeed this smallish, viol shaped instrument with a rounded or "swell" back is well made from materials of a good quality. The table shows spruce of a good even grain while the back and ribs show maple with a faint but attractive figure. The varnish is in excellent condition and is of a golden-brown colour over a yellow ground. There are outside linings which add strength and robustness to the instrument and the peg-box is fitted with the original brass half-plates.

Although there are few signs of damage evident to the outside of this instrument, a certain amount of corrective work and improvements to the inside of the instrument have been necessary to enable The Contrabass Shoppe to present it in the A1 condition that you now find it.  The work includes half-edging and the replacement of the edges to the majority of the table. A patch has been fitted to the sound post area, there has been fairly extensive re-thicknessing work to reduce an overly thick and inflexible table and the bass bar has seen some re-profiling work done to it. In addition the neck has been re-set to the correct angle and one bottom rib has been shortened very slightly. Cleaning work has been performed followed by varnish work to touch in the areas where necessary. A new top nut has been fitted, the fingerboard has been "shot" and a post and bridge have been fitted.  Phew! Quite a lot of work in fact for something that on outside appearances didn't look as though it needed anything doing to it. And so how much exactly did that amount of work cost? Tony Houska explains the philosophy behind The Contrabass Shoppe. "Although the work set me back UK£2,600 at least I can assure any prospective customer that this instrument is in excellent structural condition - which is the way all our instruments are presented and the way I believe a customer should be entitled to find them. As for sound quality on the Durrschmidt, I am happy to tell you that it is also in excellent shape".

Besides the impressive label, the inside back bears a rather flamboyant pencil inscription from a previous restorer stating ‘Repaired Dresden' and followed by an undecipherable signature.

To summarise the above then, this is a nicely presented instrument in excellent structural condition.

The nicely sloped shoulders, the easy production of a  complete range of volumes and the incredibly small string length (only 40.75in) make this instrument an absolute pleasure to play. Who said that double stopping in thirds and fourths on the double bass was difficult?

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