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48 ~ The Caldwell Collection of Viols

5. Bass viol by Joachim Tielke, Hamburg, c. 1685


This was our most famous and often-told story. It would be a Stradin-the-attic story, but in this case the instrument in question was by Joachim Tielke, one of the greatest makers of viols. Early in our first year as a young married couple in Philadelphia, Jim got a phone call from Sol Schoenbach, a famous bassoonist and then the director of the Settlement Music School. Sols school had been offered an old gamba by a woman who lived in the Main Line area. He knew that his community music school had no use for such a gift and that Jim was interested in viols. He gave us her number, we called her, and she invited us out to see it. She was the daughter-in-law of Dr. Edward Keffer, a prominent dentist and amateur violinist, who served as concertmaster of the Philadelphia Symphony Society in the 1890s and who later was one of the founders of the Philadelphia Orchestra. She was dealing with the estate of her late husband, also a well-known dentist who had died in 1967. Mrs. Keffer showed us a beautifully-made wooden studio case with silver hinges, opened it, and there was a lovely gamba-shaped instrument that had been turned into a cello. It was not unusual for viols to sustain this affront, so we were not disturbed by it. We did see that it was a very good-looking instrument with interesting applied wood carvings on the arched back. It had one large crack on the back from the case being too snug but was otherwise in good shape. It had no label. She told us that she remembered that the only time it was used was during the Christmas season for carols. Since it had been turned into a cello there were only four pegs in the attractive pegbox with a nice womans head. She also showed us a magnificent carved viol head mounted on a stand, sitting on the mantel. We had a very pleasant conversation. Jim was a very entertaining young man who often charmed older women with his enthusiasm. We eventually got around to negotiating the price, and since she had been willing to give it to a school she asked only for a nominal amount. We were grateful because we knew that it would need a major restoration. We assumed that the gamba head on the mantel was the original one and asked to buy it as well. To our dismay she said she wanted to keep it in the family so her children would have something by which to remember their father. So we went home quite excited , but not completely satisfied. I will remind the reader that in 1967 we were still novice collectors and, although we knew the name Tielke,

5. Bass viol by Joachim Tielke, Hamburg, c. 1685 ~ 49

we had never seen one of his viols, or even a picture of one. We had absolutely no idea what this pretty viol was. Jim stewed over the head on the mantel and about a week later he called on Mrs. Keffer again to plead with her not to keep these parts of the old instrument separated forever. She answered that she had already decided she would sell the head to us. In fact, she said that her maid had convinced her by saying, That boy had tears in his eyes! Our next step was to take the viol to New York to Jacques Francais, the well-known violin dealer. He examined it and declared that he thought it might be 19th century because of the decorative carvings on the arched back. He proclaimed that all viols have flat backs and that when we had it restored we should be sure to have a flat back put onto it. Of course we believed him. This was 1968, and whom else might we believe? So we sent it to a restorer we had heard about in Boston, Lloyd Adams, and made arrangements for him to change it back into a six-string viol and replace that 19th-century arched back with a proper flat back. And we went off to Switzerland for our first summer of study with August Wenzinger. While we were in Basel, Wenzinger, who knew that we were looking for antique viols, took us to visit a colleague of his who was selling his Tielke viol in Bern. We were very eager to see a Tielke. By this time we knew what an important maker he was, but had still never seen another of his instruments. Imagine our surprise when the owner took the instrument out of its case and we saw nearly identical carvings on an arched back! As we examined the viol we saw more and more similarities and the realization that we had found a Tielke in the attic flooded over us. We immediately made our first transatlantic phone call! Luckily, Lloyd Adams had not yet replaced the back, and now started working in earnest on restoring a Tielke viol. We also realized that the ladys head on the viol resembled a Tielke head much more than did the highly carved Italianate one that was still mounted on a stand on our mantel. (It took us a number of years to discover that the mounted head was by John Rose and to reunite it with its own viol!) Adams did a wonderful job with the body but after playing the instrument for a year we were frustrated with the sound and determined it needed a longer string length. By that time we had been told about Paul Reichlin, a young man in Switzerland who was making a name for himself in instrument restora-

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tion. He worked at his familys farm outside Zurich and we took the viol to him for a new neck and pegbox. He offered to make an inlaid fingerboard and tailpiece, which he would copy after the Tielke in the Basel Museum. It would not be made of the original tortoiseshell and ivory, but from bone and two types of wood. We were thrilled with the final product. The Tielke sounded marvelous and now looked as good as it should. In the late 1960s Gnther Hellwig, a viol maker and historian in Lbeck, Germany, was researching his landmark catalogue of Tielkes work and came to Washington D.C., where we then lived, to see our viol. We ourselves were convinced that we owned a genuine Tielke, but did not yet have the sanction of an expert. He spent about thirty seconds examining it and said, yes, it was a Tielke. He showed us all the features beyond the carved, arched back that established its pedigree. For example, the grain on one bout is contrary to the grain on the other ribs. The shape has the correct asymmetry, and he even gave an approximate date of 1680 based on the placement of the C holes, which is different from what Tielke used on subsequent viols. He thought it was the first instrument with an arched back and on this basis he did not like Pauls choice of model for the fingerboard and tailpiece, declaring that the viol was too early for such an elaborate pattern. However, Hellwigs son, Friedemann, now believes that our instrument was made a few years later, about 1685. Since that time I have played this viol more than any other. It continues to amaze me with its range of color and responsiveness. I have put together a program of unaccompanied music that I call The Amber Viol, in which I speculate on the viols history, using the choice of music to trace its movements throughout the world. I know that Mrs. Keffers father-in-law bought it at auction in London in the 1880s and that a Philadelphia luthier named Charles Albert made the change to a cello. As part of that work he made an ingenious device to mount on the shoulder to create a cello-like feel for the players left hand without damaging the original instrument. The object is made of a beautiful maple, complete with purfling. He proudly attached his printed label (with July and the final 8 added by hand): Repaired by C.F. Albert, 206 S. 9th St. Violin Maker and Repairer Philadelphia, July 1888

5. Bass viol by Joachim Tielke, Hamburg, c. 1685 ~ 51

The instrument itself contains a similar label, recording that Albert worked on it again more than twenty years later, in December 1909.

The Instrument
The table is carved from two unmatched pieces with 10 to 6 growth rings per cm, the grain on the treble side being slightly wavy. The table seems to have been slightly reduced in size at one time. The soundholes are C shaped. There is seven-strip alternating dark-light purfling abutting a finish edging of bone. Gnther Hellwig thought that the bone edge might have been an addition to disguise the alteration. The back is in the typical vaulted style associated with Tielke, made from two pieces of maple with a broad flame sloping down from the center seam. The bend was achieved by both bending and carving. There is no purfling, but there are three large fretwork designs of maple applied to the top, center, and base of the back. The ribs are of maple with a regular narrow flame sloping slightly towards the bottom block on all bouts except the center treble, on which the slope is reversed. Internally the construction is typical of Tielke with, in place of a usual viol back brace, a large round patch of spruce with grain in a longitudinal direction. There are marks in the upper and lower parts of the back where there have been similar large patches, also typical of Tielke. The neck is of maple and is a modern replacement. The female head is in the style of Tielke and appears to be quite old, and the modern back and sides of the pegbox are decorated with relief carving and a stippled ground. The six modern pegs are of ebony with bone pips at both ends. The ebony and maple marquetry fingerboard and tailpiece are modern reproductions of the Tielke viol in Basels Historisches Museum. The ebony hookbar is set into a narrow strip of dark wood inset between the two lower ribs. The varnish is a golden mid-brown color. Body length Body width upper bout center bout 67.0 30.6 21.5 Rib height top block upper corners lower corners

7.9 12.1 12.6

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lower bout

37.9

bottom block String length

11.8 67.7

There is no label. Bought in September 1967 from Mrs. Brooks Keffer, Philadelphia

The Maker
Joachim Tielke has long been acknowledged as one of the most highly regarded and important viol makers of the baroque period in Germany. He was and still is famous especially for the extraordinarily lavish decoration found on most of his bowed and plucked string instruments, of which a total of more than 150 have survived into modern times. Most of these are documented in Gnther Hellwigs 1980 monograph on Tielke, whose instruments he had spent many years studying and restoring. In 2011 the authors son, Friedemann Hellwig, himself a distinguished conservator of musical instruments, published an extensively revised and expanded edition, which remains the only book devoted entirely to a luthier whose primary product was viols. Tielke was born in 1641 in Knigsberg, a city located on the Baltic Sea in East Prussia (since World War II part of Russia and known as Kaliningrad), where his father Gottfried was a judge. By about 1666 he had moved to Hamburg, where the following year he married Catharina Fleischer, daughter of the instrument maker Christoph Fleischer and later aunt of the harpsichord-making brothers Johann Christoph and Carl Conrad Fleischer. Both spouses lived long enough to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1717, for which occasion a book of congratulations was printed that serves as an important source of biographical information. Joachim died in 1719 and Catherina in 1724; although none of their children took up the family trade, the oldest son (named Gottfried after his grandfather) became a professional gambist and worked at the court of Hesse-Kassel beginning about 1700, just after the death of the internationally famous viol player August Khnel, who had been Kapellmeister there. Tielke became a citizen of Hamburg in 1669, and his earliest known instruments date from that same year. Friedemann Hellwigs book records 93 extant bass viols or fragments thereof, 3 barytons, and 8 smaller instruments that are an early form of viola damore without sympathetic strings, as well as 5 violins and a cello, 3 pochettes, and 56

5. Bass viol by Joachim Tielke, Hamburg, c. 1685 ~ 53

IV.5.1719 IV.5.2022

plucked instruments (including lutes, theorbos, guitars, and citterns). Most of the viols are decorated with bas-relief carving and elaborate inlays, using ivory, mother of pearl, and exotic woods, supplemented at times by precious materials such as gold, silver, and even jewels. Nearly all have carved heads atop their pegboxes, usually either an easily-recognizable woman wearing a pearl necklace or else a lion. From the mid1680s onward they normally have arched backs, with a patch inside to provide a flat surface for the soundpost to rest on. Most were made with six strings, but at least three were originally built as seven-string models. Body lengths vary from 59 to 71 cm, revealing that these instruments were not made on a mold. The Caldwell Collections c. 1685 bass is noteworthy for being one of the earliest to incorporate an arched back, and the fifteenth-oldest surviving viol overall. The 1691 bass is likewise distinctive as one of only four built with a striped back and ribs, in this case using a layout of 13 staves on the back and 7 on the ribs that is matched only by an instrument dated 1697 and now in the Leipzig musical instrument museum. Apart from violins and pochettes, about half of Tielkes smaller bowed instruments have a body length of about 34 cm, while the rest are slightly larger at about 39 cm. Most have rib heights ranging from 3.5 to 4.5 cm, comparable to that of a viola and thus suitable for playing under the chin. In contrast, the Caldwell Collections example, in addition to being the earliest of this group, is significantly deeper, measuring fully 6.4 cm. For this reason Jim Caldwell felt that it should be considered Tielkes only surviving true treble viol, intended to be played on the legs rather than on the shoulder. (It is also currently unique in having six rather than five strings.) However, recent research by Kai Kpp and others suggests that the majority of smaller German bowed-string instruments from the late 17th and early 18th centuries that are clearly not violins and violas should instead be classified as violas damore. At that time sympathetic strings had not yet become the defining feature of this type of instrument, whose distinctive sound was instead due to the use of metal for its bowed strings, which typically numbered no more than five rather than the six or seven that would later become standard.

54 ~ The Caldwell Collection of Viols