In Focus: a 1759 viola by Petter Hellstedt

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Stefan Lindholm examines an instrument by the Swedish maker

Sweden’s first public concerts took place in Stockholm in 1731 and soon music life in the capital was flourishing. Many musical instruments came from abroad but in 1756 there was a ban on imports, which immediately gave rise to the culture of violin making in Sweden. By the end of the 18th century there were a dozen different workshops in Stockholm alone. 

The workshop of Petter Hellstedt may have produced almost 1,200 instruments over his 35-year career. Evidence for this claim comes from a 1762 appeal to the Stockholm manufacturers’ court in which Hellstedt complained about an apprentice who evaded doing a full week’s work. He states: ‘an apprentice should make at least three if not four violins per week’. Given the number of bowed instruments produced, it is exciting to imagine the musical life in Stockholm in the second half of the 18th century, a city with only 60,000 inhabitants in 1750.

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