Copyright © 2015 Kenneth Knussen 

An absolute classic mid-19th century London double bass is now being sold by a retiring professional player. Known for decades as by Bernard Simon Fendt (1800-1852) but now featured in The English Double Bass book by Martin, Lawrence and Martin as by William Valentine (1816-1877)

made for violin maker and dealer, John Hart. 

Valentine is known to have been a specialist double bass maker but an unsung craftsman working for his employers.

If he was indeed responsible for these instruments he was without doubt highly skilled.

This instrument is one of a number I have seen made in the Brescian style with an Italianate rounded off pegbox and narrow, long f-holes. The deep red varnish over a gold ground is also typical.

String Length  108.6cm     Length of Back  113cm   

£95,000

It is a rare to be presented with an instrument that tells you so much about itself but here is a bass by little known maker Joseph Hambleton of Salford (near Manchester) made in 1844. The label also states, Number 36. As I have only heard of one other Hambleton bass I assume the other 35 were mostly violins, violas and cellos. However this is certainly the work of a skilled luthier who has very much been inspired by his London contemporaries rather than the north of England schools of bass making.

As well as Hambleton's label there is an interesting repair label from 1896 inserted by an Hungarian violin maker who settled in Edinburgh in the eighteen-eighties. Interesting because the bass remained in Scotland and eventually found it's way to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.

This double bass is in remarkably good condition and deserves playing in professional orchestras.

 

String length 106cm. Length of Back 113cm.

£67500.

One of the great advantages of the internet from my point of view is the amount of double bass images and information out there that can be used for cross-referencing.

 

This bass has been known as a Hill for many years. There are many Hill basses some of which are questionable but I feel confident in attributing this particular bass to Joseph Hill (1715-1784) who established his own workshop in London in 1753. This instrument is in fine condition and the scroll is amazing.

String Length 106cm. Length of Back 119cm. £65,000.

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James Brown (1804 - 1885) lived and worked in Huddersfield, Yorkshire from the mid 1850s amd made this double bass in 1862 as is clearly stated on it's label. It was originally built with a long body but in 1965 double bass player and instrument maker Robert "Bob" Norris reduced the shoulders of the bass giving it a very manageable short scale length. A photograph of the bass in it's original form can be seen in Raymond Elgar's famous book, "Looking At The Double Bass". 

This instrument has been played all over the world in major London orchestras and is very reasonably priced for sale.

String Length  99.5cm.  Length of Back  113cm.

£59,000

Little is known about this Old English Bass c.1800.

It was obviously made by a craftsman who had access to beautiful woods and a good eye for varnish.

At some point in it's history someone decided to try to pass it off as an Italian bass by making some slight alterations to the scroll and writing, 

                         "Rastelli a Geneva"

at the top of the back on the outside of the instrument. The fact that the Rastelli family came from Genoa is something of a give away but it did convince previous owners to some extent. But this is without question an English instrument, probably London, and it has been well looked after and recently restored internally to make it a very desirable orchestral bass.

 

Length of Back    String Length 

£58,000  

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This instrument has been on the website for some time which surprises me as it a beautiful and well priced double bass. However this has given me time to do a bit more  research into the maker. Originally it was listed as by Marcolongo of Padua and referred to an article written by luthier Stefan Krattenmacher in 2004 for the Bassist magazine in which he suggested that another bass labelled Marcolongo was actually by another maker.

I am now happy to concur with Stefan and say that this instrument is by Antonio Pedrinelli (1781 - 1854) who only began to make instruments towards the end of his life in Venice yet was awarded a prize for his work, sadly in the year of his death. His instruments then passed to dealers who sold his work on.

The scroll is not original, hence the price, but matches the bass well. The bass is full of character and easy to play.

String Length 105cm    Length of Back 114cm  

£55,000

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This is a typical example of big German 5-string basses favoured by the orchestras of that country and occasionally by bass players in the UK. I am reliably informed that the interior of this instrument testifies to it's maker and date of manufacture, Mathias Neuner, Mittenwald 1884.

Mathias Neuner V (1831 - 1890) was a partner in the big Mittenwald firm, Neuner & Horsteiner and was also, at some point, Mayor of Mittenwald apparently.

This bass has a long and colourful history as described in a fascinating essay written by previous owner, Richard Bramhall (deceased) when he decided to sell the bass in 2001. Amongst other things it was played in the BBC Symphony Orchestra in the 1930s followed by many years at the Royal Opera House and then in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. In the 21st Century it has been living and working in Wales.

The bass has lived a life and sounds as big as it looks.

 

String length 110cm. Length of Back 121cm.

£50000.  (Offers Welcome )

This fascinating instrument by William Booth of Leeds (1779-1858) has an interesting history. In the early 19th Century an amateur cellist named Barraud developed an instrument designed to be tuned as a cello but an octave lower so as to play the double bass parts in chamber music. He commissioned various luthiers including Thomas Kennedy and Samuel Gilkes to make such an instrument which became known as a Basso di Camera. The instrument featured is beautifully made and is inscribed inside with the following:

           This Chamber Double Bass

           Made by Wm. Booth. Mill Hill, Leeds.

           In the year of our Lord 1821

           for Dr. Hay of Cambridge

           being the 3rd that has been known

           to be made in this country.

The current owner decided that a three string configuration suited them better but all four string fittings

accompany the chamber bass, as does a 1946 William A. Chanot certificate.

String length 72.5cm. Length of Back 80cm.

£30,000.

This is an excellent of example of a double bass from the workshops of Jerome Thibouville Lamy &Co. Made in the early part of the 20th century these instruments were produced from the hands of a number of instrument makers rather than an individual. Perhaps one carved the scroll while another made the table (front) of bass.

All were highly-trained, skilled workers and this is reflected in the quality of this instrument which, according to the labels, was manufactured in France and sold through the company's London shop in Charterhouse Street by Smithfield Market in the City of London

The bass has a big sound and is in very good condition.

Length of Back  113cm.  String Length  108cm.

£19,000

This J.Thibouville Lamy bass is most unusual in my experience because of it's distinctive Lion's Head scroll. All other aspects are typical including the cello outline at the top of the back of the instrument. Perhaps it was made to special order.

This instrument, like so many others, has a story to tell. For 35 years it was in the bass section of the Royal Engineers Band and has been stamped as such on the back. But French instruments tend to be robust and given it's age which, because of the scroll, I would put at c.1880 it is in a good condition and has given uncomplaining service to it's professional owner who bought it as a first year music college student over 30 years ago. 

 

String length 107cm. Length of Back 112cm.

£18000.

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Regular visitors to this site may recognise this double bass which was advertised here a couple of years ago and was then moved to the Archive page. The current owner has decided that he is now a 5-string player so must let this fine instrument go.

 

It is sometimes a great relief to be able to describe a bass that actually tells you exactly what it is on a clearly written label. In this case we have a German instrument made in the instrument "factory" of Ernst Reinhold Schmidt in Markneukirchen. The label is in English so the bass was made for export probably in the early 20th century.

This handsome instrument is in excellent condition and very well made with beautiful woods. A very good orchestral bass.

Length of Back 115cm.  String Length  108cm

£16,000

A fine example of one of the Bernard Simon Fendt "Maggini" copies made for Thomas Martin in the 70s based on the beautiful original Fendt that belonged to the late Robin McGee and which is now owned by the London Symphony Orchestra.

This bass is dated 1976 and is No.35 according to the label. It was bought new by the much loved and much missed Steve McManus who played it on many, many film sessions amongst his other work.

 

It has been favourably enhanced by restorer Roger Dawson who also fitted the extension and it is in very good condition.

String length 106cm. Length of back 114cm.

 

£12,000

Here we have an early bass by Thomas Martin labelled  "Thomas Martin, Fecit London, Bass 17, Anno 1997Also handwritten on the label "Made for David Fletcher Esq."

David Fletcher (1971 -2009) was to become a very good friend of mine. He became Co-Principal Bass of the National Orchestra of Wales and later Principal Bass of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and I have no doubt he would have gone on to even greater heights had he not died tragically young of a heart condition.

This instrument was made originally as a 5 string bass but was later converted to a four string configuration by Roger Dawson. It is in excellent condition and of course plays very well indeed.

 

String length 106.5cm. Length of Back 117cm.

£12000.

Award winning luthier Mathias Heinicke (1873 - 1956) was born Bohemia, then part of the German speaking Austrian Empire and now the Czech Republic. He learned his craft in nearby Markneukirchen, Saxony (Germany) and was a highly skilled craftsman.

This swellback double bass was made by Heinicke in 1923 in Wildstein (now Skalná) and is in excellent condition. The owner describes the sound as round and full bodied with a singing upper register.

Note the interesting characteristics on the back of the scroll.

Length of Back  112.5cm.  String Length  105.8cm

£12,000

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The Barbé family of France were well respected instrument makers in the 19th Century and produced some excellent double basses in the style of this instrument.

This particular bass is being sold as Barbé School as there is no proof of the actual maker. However it is without doubt a well made viol-shaped bass made in France c.1860 from some very attractive well figured timber. The condition is generally good.

 

String length 107cm. Length of Back 117cm.

£10000.

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Until very recently this instrument was advertised on DoubleBasses.Co.Uk in it's original configuration as a 3-string bass with "cello peg" tuners and a wooden endpin. After much discussion with the owner and luthier Martyn Bailey it was decided to reinvent the bass as a 4-string but still very much for use in the baroque and classical world of period instruments.

Made by Martin Morris, then of Cumbria, in 1984 the bass was designed as a copy of the Gary Karr "Amati" which belonged to the renowned Russian bass soloist, composer and conductor, Serge Koussevitsky. Subsequently that bass proved not to be an Amati but the simple design still has a classic elegance which, combined with the beautiful woods makes it very appealing to the eye. Thanks to Martyn Bailey the instrument now has his own design of Italian style tuners, a baroque fingerboard which matches the original tailpiece, a new endpin unit and is fitted with gut strings.

String Length  103cm.  Length of Back  107cm

£9,500

Mathias Neuner 1884 (ribs1)