Lutherie in the Vogtland: Stars of the East
The Vogtland in eastern Germany produced some of the country’s least known and most fascinating instrument makers.Rudolf Hopfner and Monika Lustig use CT scans to lift the lid on their unusual construction methods, and show why they should be more widely studied
Lying in the state of Saxony in eastern Germany, the Vogtland region has for centuries been a well-known centre of musical instrument making. Its origins lie in the 1650s, when a group of twelve violin makers from Graslitz (Kraslice), in neighbouring Bohemia, came to settle there. In 1677 the region’s first violin making guild was founded in Markneukirchen, with a second guild established in Klingenthal about 40 years later. The Upper Vogtland was a remote region in the Erzgebirge mountains, away from the big cities and noble families, and without direct contact with musicians. However, there was a flourishing market for instruments there, as well as dealers: both essential requirements for the development of an instrument manufacturing trade. During the 18th century, a number of extended violin making families developed: the Dörffel, Ficker, Glass, Gütter, Hopf, Reichel, Schoenfelder and Voigt families to name but a few. By the end of that century there were already about 200 masters in the Upper Vogtland. The 19th century was characterised by increased production, owing to the development of an entrepreneurial business model. The dealers were generally pushing for mass production, requiring the makers to economise on materials and speed up the working process, which ultimately had a negative impact on the instruments’ quality.