In Focus: A c.1870 viola by Niels Larsen Winther

Front full crop

Jens Stenz looks at the Danish luthier’s instrument

Niels Larsen Winther was born on 3 October 1814 in the village of Igelsø, on the western part of the island of Zealand. He was multitalented and extremely skilled, a locksmith who repaired guns and grandfather clocks, invented tools for agriculture, and made clarinets and flutes as well as all instruments of the violin family. He was also a very active village musician, playing at local dances, weddings and funerals. Reportedly he was at times so overworked that he would fall asleep while playing a minuet, though his fingers would continue playing! He composed several polkas, mazurkas and hopsas, some of which are still performed.

In 1838 Winther married Marie Frederikke Meyer of nearby Holbæk. The couple had no children and in 1852 they divorced – after Marie Frederikke had run away with Winther’s elder brother Christen, a carriage maker and wheelwright in Holbæk. In 1853 Winther married his housekeeper Ane Andersdatter. This marriage produced no children but the couple did raise a foster son. Winther died on 2 November 1880 in poverty – like many other violin makers of the past…

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