Double Bass by Josef Ohrbacher, Korneuburg, Austria circa 1900
This most unusual and interesting instrument bears two identification labels on the central back brace. The first provides the makers name and address and that he made ‘super-fine instruments’. The second bears the name ‘Jos Bapt. Schweitzer’ followed by ‘Carlo Antonio Testore copy, Fecit ad forman Pestini 1854 op1’. This second label does cause confusion, for when one reads about J. B Schweitzer (b-1790, d-1864) he is acknowledged as being a particularly fine maker and was one of the first makers to adopt the Stradivari model in favour of the Stainer model. Indeed, his work had a huge influence on makers all over central Europe throughout the nineteenth century. This in turn led to his name being used extensively by factory merchants throughout Saxony and the Tyrol to produce ordinary factory-made imitations in his style. It seems then, that this double bass is one of those copies.
Even though this is a J. B Schweitzer copy it is still very unusual in two respects. The first is, if a maker is going to pass an instrument off as a copy, he wouldn’t put his own label inside it. The second unusual thing is that in over forty years of violin dealing, this is the first and only J.B. Schweitzer copy double bass that we have ever seen.
Moving on to the actual instrument it is visually very, very interesting. To start with just take a look at the way in which the wood has been cut on the front. It is what is known as plain-sawn wood, often termed “slab-cut”, which it is a cut that shows markings of an elliptical nature. Next take a look at the pronounced edge work on the front, the slightly exaggerated fluting in the wings of the lower F’s, the interesting neck block with its five distinctive facets and the open peg box. All these features and especially the exotic markings of the wood, immediately make us think that this is an important instrument
It is after all a copy of a Carlo Antonio Testore, so in this respect we have to say that the maker has succeeded.
As for the actual quality of the work and materials, then these are not the greatest by any means and we have to accept that this is indeed a copy of J.B. Schweitzer’s work and unfortunately not the real thing. Still, on the positive side, this is a most interesting instrument especially from a research and visual perspective.
In terms of sound, the instrument is on the sweet and focused side of things, but hay we’re not exactly asking a lot of money for what is a named early-twentieth century instrument that is essentially, still in its original condition.
LOB (length of back) - 108.0cm
Width across upper bouts - 45.6cm
Width across middle bouts - 29.6cm
Width across lower bouts - 60.8cm
Depth of lower ribs inc both plates - 20.4cm
Body stop - 68.0cm
String length - 108.0cm
Reference number #2888