August Wilhelmj (1845-1908) was a German violinist and teacher, said by some to be the greatest player of his time. Considered a child prodigy aged seven by Henriette Sontag, Franz Liszt later joined her in hailing Wilhelmj as a ‘future Paganini’. From the age of 40 he devoted his time to teaching and was appointed Principal Professor of Violin at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in 1894. Among Wilhelmj’s pupils was Dettmar Dressel, aged about 16 at that time.
Wilhelmj had close contact with bow makers, who sometimes altered their bows to his specifications. This explains the distinctive feature common to many bows made for Wilhelmj and his pupils: having the nose of the frog slanting down. Not simply a result of wear and heavy use, this is a wholly intentional design feature, seen on the world record auction price breaking bow that James Tubbs (1834-1921) presented to Wilhelmj in 1885, and on this Dressel Tubbs. The Pfretzschner family of German bow makers even made a distinctive style of bow called the “Wilhelmj model”, in which the frog is based very much on a James Tubbs and also has the slanting nose.
Rather than pearl, which is normally used for the slide in the frog, several James Tubbs bows were made with a metal slide, and then engraved with part of their history. There are two reports of a Tubbs bow being presented to Dressel by Wilhelmj: according to The Tatler (12th November 1902) Wilhelmj gave one to Dressel a few months after starting training with him, and Dressel spoke of a bow presented to him by Wilhelmj after his debut at St. James’ Hall in November 1897.
- Derek Wilson
Derek Wilson has worked in the bow workshop at J & A Beare since 2000 but began his career at W.E. Hill & Sons from the age of 16, learning bow repairing from fellow Hill bow maker Matthew Coltman and John Stagg. He is co-author of The Hill Bow Makers which is due to be published by the BVMA in April 2016.
Lot 6 - Violin Bow by James Tubbs, c.1894. Engraved: Wilhemj to his pupil Dettmar Dressel. Nose of the Frog originally made in this "filed" style by J. Tubbs especially at Wilhemj's request. Estimate: £11,000-£18,000. BIDDING CLOSES 30 March 2016, 2.40pm.