In focus: Paul Dörfel

doerfel 2

A 1920 violin made by the Markneukirchen-based luthier Paul Dörfel. Written by Bruce Babbitt

Adolf Paul Dörfel’s birth in 1878 coincided with the rise of a second generation of modern violin-making greatness in the village of Markneukirchen. Born within a decade of Dörfel were Paul Wilhelm Heberlein, his brother Albert Theodor Heberlein, Ernst Heinrich Roth and Paul Knorr. Paul Dörfel served an apprenticeship with his father, Adolf Dörfel, then assisted Adolf Zeitler before moving to Warsaw in 1898. He worked there with Michael Kannich until 1910, when he became an independent craftsman. From 1914 to 1921 he worked in Orenburg, Russia, after which he returned to Markneukirchen.As with many of his contemporaries he was able to enter into a trade agreement with a firm in the US, in this case William Moennig & Son, then growing in prestige. Keeping with a trend to Italianise some of these fine products from Germany, the Moennigs called this artist-grade violin an ‘Eulo Dorfino’. According to my friend and colleague Philip J. Kass, the commercial relationship continued into the 1930s, with the personal relationship between the Moennig and Dörfel families remaining close throughout their lifetimes. After the Second World War, Dörfel, who had already suffered great personal hardships, found himself behind the Iron Curtain, which severely curtailed his career. He died in Markneukirchen in 1967.

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