My new old German violin and it’s story

by | Feb 28, 2015 | 22 comments

Sometimes you don’t find an instrument, but an instrument finds you and this was the case for me

mijn viool oude staatA man came into my violin shop with his granddad’s violin. His granddad played in the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra his entire life during the first half of the 20th century. It was a German violin from 1840. The instrument had not been played on for almost half a century.

When he brought in the instrument, I was enthousiastic about the sound after it’s 50 years of silence, but I wasn’t really looking for a new violin and I was completely out of money anyway.

Three years the violin has been in my shop…

Clients liked it, but nobody bought it

I didn’t really understand why as it was and is so beautiful

The violin just remained there. I had some money issues in those years: I worked 7 days a week, but could hardly pay my bills. I didn’t even think about buying this violin… I didn’t think about buying anything actually. I was just trying to survive. Dark days.

A couple of months ago I just started playing this violin… I didn’t know why…

I think because it had to be silent for decades, so I might bring some life to it. Every day the sound opened up and became more beautiful.

Exactly in the week I played on this violin my shop was so busy and people bought so many expensive (and beautiful!) stuff. Besides that lots of students enrolled in my violin studio. I think I didn’t make so much money in one week before. It was crazy… suddenly I could pay my bills again and had something extra.

I pulled money from everywhere, but it was hardly enough to pay for the violin.

I just counted everything I got and could get and did a bid on the violin… way lower than what it was worth according to the luthier’s valuation

Hi! I'm Zlata

Classical violinist helping you overcome technical struggles and play with feeling by improving your bow technique.

The bid got accepted!

The owner just wanted it to be in a good place. The violin was mine! I was so happy!

mijn viool nieuwe staatI went to a luthier and had it repaired. In this article you can see the before and after picture.

I enjoy the sound so much. It was an impulse purchase and I didn’t even really compare it to other violins. That wasn’t necessary…

I knew this violin was for me, the violin knew it was for me, the owner knew it and the Universe made it possible

I hope this story inspires you and beautiful things like this will happen to you too.

This is why I run a violin shop for over ten years: I want to create much more of these stories.

Do you have a violin with a special story?

Share it in the comments below!


  1. Pam

    Hello Zlata,
    Congratulations on your new violin…the story is just wonderful!

    I’m an adult learner (56 years), just started learning to play a few months ago, and my violin is a 1930’s German made. My violin’s story is similar in that it hasn’t been played for about 30 years, although I very little of its history.

    I have wanted to play for about a year and it was one of those things too, where we had to wait for the finances to come together. We had a very limited budget and my husband wanted me to have something a bit above a student violin in case I really liked playing. Plus, he didn’t want to hear me screeching on a student model! Finally with the finances, I started looking on craigslist and other places with my teacher’s guidance on what to look for. The DAY I had the money, this instrument came up in the craigslist search. It had the original case and even 30 year old rosin! I took it to a luthier for some work and it has the most beautiful sound! He had to play it for me because at the time I didn’t know how to draw a bow or anything… a totally ‘from scratch’ student here :).

    Like you, I knew that violin was for me, and don’t take for granted the gift that God has given me. I’m so excited to learn how to play and get these beautiful sounds out of it.

    I love your website and look forward to getting your emails, and I find your site a tremendous resource (my husband actually found it several months ago). I’ve also read your Weight vs Pressure Workshop material and you are spot on on that. I need to look into it more, but hope to join your academy in the near future.

    Thank you for all you do.

    • Violinist Zlata

      I love your story, Pam! Often these things get together, probably because we get a little help from somewhere.

      Enjoy all the good stuff on my website :).

      All the best,


  2. Blair Faulk

    Congratulations on your ‘new’ violin! Actually, I didn’t find this posting until today (June, 2015), but you originally posted it on my birthday! The violin looks lovely and I’m sure in your hands, it sings like an angel!
    I have enjoyed Violin Lounge a lot. I like the way you focus on beauty. My grandfather was a ‘fiddler’ in a Country band. I inherited his violin, but never took it up until I graduated and got married, long ago.
    Unfortunately, there was no Violin Lounge then because there was no Internet! I tried to teach myself with a book (Wohlfahrt), since I could already play the guitar. I didn’t know about resin or tightening the hair, so you can imagine how scratchy it sounded! After a day or two, my newly-wed wife gave me a choice: I could learn to play the violin, or stay married! I laid the violin down and it was later lost in a house fire.
    Now, I have a couple of violins, but I’m learning so much from Violin Lounge that I had to stop and salute you on your new ‘old’ violin. “A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases…”!

    • Violinist Zlata

      Thanks for sharing your story and very good that you picked up the violin anyway.

      All the best,


  3. Derek

    You didn’t honour the maker by putting his name.

  4. Thomas Volkema

    My brother-in-law had an old violin in an old case which had belonged to his mother. He was going to throw it away, but I offered to try and clean it a bit and put on some new strings. Some of the glue was cracked and I brought it to a well-know Danish luthier here in Holland, Michigan….Henning Christiansen. He repaired it and made a new bridge and said it was a very nice violin from Czechoslovakia about 1917. I think he said the maker was Karl Neumann. But he showed me something so interesting. The back looked like a beautiful piece of wood, but he showed me how the entire back of the violin had been painted to look like wood grain before it was varnished….it was not wood grain at all. He said the painting was a true work of art!! Still he said to never sell it because the tone was so wonderful.

  5. Sandra Lorene

    Lovely story! I inherited a violin of my grandfather’s after my parents have both passed away. He immigrated from Germany and was said to have played it after Sunday dinners just after the turn of the century in Johnstown, a steel town in Western Pennsylvania. He had moved there to work in the steel mills and was a small man in height, but was said to have very large hands. I was too young to know him, but I am excited to have the violin and maybe I can send you a photo. No one in my family plays the violin — sadly! But I may have it restored nonetheless.

    • Violinist Zlata Brouwer

      Thanks for sharing your story, Sandra, didn’t it inspire you to start the violin yourself? Good that you’ve restored the instrument!

  6. Debbie Dey

    That is an amazing story. You have a gorgeous violin with a great history and now a beautiful new life.

  7. Thisbe

    Such a moving story about your violin! I love the stories behind… My violin has also a story: my daddy bought it in his early twenties (around 1955) in Salzburg, where he studied at the Academy of Arts, in the famous castle on the mountain. He was a stone-cutter and sculptor and had to work very hard. He was the oldest son of 9 children, almost no money but his friendly employer in The Netherlands gave him the opportunity to follow summer-school at the Academy in Salzburg. There he entered a small violin-shop, owned by an old lady, “Frau Geige”. She told him this was a very good and old violin, and it was not to expensive. My dad tried to play on it now and than. When he came home again he was busy with working. He met my mom, I arrived and the violin was always hanging on the wall in our living-room. It had to wait there patiently for almost 50 years before I decided to play on it. My daddy was so happy, the violin finally could breathe and open up. For 1,5 years I made my dad (and mom) happy with playing the pieces I learned. He was so proud! After we had enjoyed a concert in the Concertgebouw Amsterdam he completely unexpected passed away. Every day I miss him. But I am grateful he made me the person I am, he gave me everything that makes me happy: LOVE for classical music, art, good food, nature, travelling and so much more… Yes, and a violin!

    • Violinist Zlata Brouwer

      It’s so great to play on an instrument with a story and memories, certainly if it’s a personal one like your dad’s.

  8. Stewart Holder

    Hello Zlata,

    May I give you my little story in order to share with others ?

    April 22 1994 :the day after my 48th birthday and whilst sitting in my VW Beetle at the traffic lights I heard a voice in my head from Heaven (yes): tighten your seat belt. Then wham my car was hit with such great force that It was shunted into the rear of the car in front. To cut a long story short this resulted in moderate brain damage (in those days it was just referred to as an Head Injury) ! The effects are still present but manageable. The voice from above saved me from hitting the old fashioned shatter glass wind screen that would have resulted in far worse. The rear of the driver’s seat almost sheared and was left in a very large angle pointing to the rear almost touching the rear seat.
    The point of my message is the recovery stage and the three ladies who helped me regain some direction.
    My dear Mother gave me £220 to buy another violin. However I had previously seen a fine violin for £800: so I thought: just what would I find?
    A stroke of luck came when my darling wife Josie and I visited a music shop in Chester (UK) and she managed to persuade the Luthier to part with it for £25. It was dirty and appeared to have been on display for years. It is a German Factory Strad with a label showing 1886. You see it was on display as a advertisement for her talent as a repair specialist. Of course I needed to buy the case, bridge, chin rest, rosin and strings which took up the rest of the money.
    It sounded (or rather I sounded terrible.
    We visited Salisbury and in a bookshop found a very slim volume of Kato Havas’ New Approach to Violin Playing.
    We eventually met the great pedagog and with attending some workshops found a glorious tone.
    This was much better than that of 1960 when I was the School Orchestra Leader.
    So many thanks to my Mother Charlotte, my workshop leader Kato Havas (sadly died 31December 2019) and not to forget my continued inspiration and loving wife Josie without whom I would not be as fit as I am now.

  9. Greg Marsee

    I loved your story. Would you be interested in recording yourself reading it? I’ve began a violin repair channel on youtube and I think it would be an excellent voice over to one of my videos. I would give a link to your page as well if you wanted. Please let me know if you would like to collaborate on this. Thanks and best of luck!

  10. Joanna

    Hi Zlata, I loved your violin story.
    My violin is very unique too. During March 2020 in NZ we had our first lockdown. I had just bought a 1/4 size violin for my daughter’s birthday and I realized I could buy a cheap violin for me and teach her the little I learned as a child. (I was in an orchestra as a teenager but then never played again for 20 years). So I tried a couple of violins but nothing stuck. Then I saw a very old german violin with a lions head scroll on Trademe for $400 NZ dollars. It was a lot for something with a barely held on fingerboard, no strings, scuffed and marked. But it captured me and I wanted to give it another life.
    I bought it, but we have no luthiers here so I removed it’s fingerboard(so easily! the hide glue was so brittle!!), sanded it, refinished it, restored it’s colour where it needed it and relined and covered it’s case and gave it beautiful accessories and strings. I spent so much time researching how to do it all right and I learnt so much.

    Finally someone gave me a visiting luthiers number and he set my soundpost for me and now this violin is worth triple what I paid and I absolutely adore it. It’s fully one of a kind and lives in a 1 of a kind case. I play it every day and am slowly becoming worthy of playing it!!
    My daughter however, quit after 6 months lol. (oh dear). But i’m very happy it got me back to playing and now I wouldn’t be without it. I would love to show you a picture of it sometime.

    • Zlata

      Wow, that’s great, Joanna!

  11. Debra Best

    I have a violin that my grandfather brought back from Germany after WW II. I can’t find any info about it on the web. Marking inside says:

    Papensfleg 8 Fernruf

    Can anyone guide me to get more info?

    • Zlata

      I don’t have info on this specific instrument, but I’m sure if you visit a violin shop or luthier they can tell you more.



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