Dear Mr. Puppy,
I hear the 18th century was a very transitional time for bowmakers. Can you tell me what that was like?
Part III of IV:
To draw a good sound with thicker strings the makers made the bow heavier and longer. Sometimes up to 74cm including the button. My old standard concerto bow was 68cm with a weight of around 55 grams. The inward curve or camber of the new bows made it essential to increase the height of the head of the bow and this created many problems for the strength and balance of the bow, A thing that many bow makers in France and the German States struggled with as the new pernambuco wood, unlike snakewood was apt to fail and the heads crack in cold weather. Old Mr. Cramer required his pupils to use the so-called hatchet head bow whose strange form gave extra strength to the tip mortice for those mass barrages of sound of the music that he preferred. The Tourte family made these kinds of bows for the Court musicians, all tarted up with ivory to match the musician’s white make-up powdered wigs and silk embroidered band uniforms, The Germans and English made heavier versions for use in the Opera di Musica and large festival bands. I preferred my old plain Scottish snakewood and ivory bow that I purchased in Edinburgh, it was perfect for playing the repertoire of my friend Mr. Haydn.
*”Ask Mr. Puppy” aka Giuseppe Puppo, an 18th-century concert violinist, answers our questions about his career and times.