Since 1762, the name Hill has represented a combination of craftsmanship and the highest standards of expertise that the firm continues to offer, with a long and distinguished history of instrument and bow making.
The owners and directors of W. E. Hill & Sons – Simon Morris, Steven Smith, Stefan-Peter Greiner, Derek Wilson, and Robert Brewer Young – have broad experience in expertise, appraisal, violin and bow making, restoration, and conservation.
The year 2018 marked the return of W. E. Hill & Sons to London. The new workshop is located in the historic coach house and stables of Burgh House in Hampstead, London, which dates back to 1704.
Using the resources provided by the Hill archive, access to rare instruments and centuries of experience allows W. E. Hill & Sons to provide the music world with the finest instruments, bows, and accessories.
After the launch of the book “The Hill Bow Makers: 1880 – 1962” earlier this year, Beare’s bow restorer Derek Wilson and co-author John Milnes opened their ‘Fiddle Sticks’ exhibition in Oxford this weekend. The exhibition focuses on the story of bow making at the Hill firm and even features a recreated workshop space.
Bows at W.E. Hill & Sons
The firm was founded by William Ebsworth Hill, whose father, grandfather and great-grandfather had made violins, violas and cellos in London since around 1750. Four of William’s sons, Arthur, Alfred, William and Walter, joined their father in the family firm.
For nearly a century the Hill firm had London showrooms in New Bond Street, where the world’s musicians came to buy and sell historic instruments and bows by the great Italian, French and English makers.
The Hills also built a large workshop in Hanwell (Ealing), in West London, to make new instruments, bows and accessories. Eventually the firm employed up to 50 people in the two establishments.
This exhibition focuses on their success as bow makers in the period 1880-1962 and features their most influential bow maker: William Charles Retford (1875-1970).
The exhibition is open from 3rd – 30th September 2016 at Bate Collection, OXFORD OX1 1DB.
We were delighted to welcome the 2CELLOS to Beare’s last week for a tour of our workshops and to try out a selection of our finest Italian cellos in preparation for their new album with the London Symphony Orchestra.
After choosing to perform on cellos by Stradivari and Amati, they headed off to their recording at AIR Studios with conductor Robin Smith and the LSO in full force. Looking forward to hearing the album!
We are very grateful to Maxim Vengerov who took time out of his busy schedule to play the Golden period Stradivari violin for us at the Royal Academy of Music. You can watch the full video below or alternatively please visit our YouTube channel.
There is nothing like a 301-year-old violin sound, and the ‘Schneiderhan’ has wonderful colours. For the First Prize Winner to play this Strad is the next step of their development and is the greatest gift a violinist could have at the start of their career.
A word of advice to the winner of the ‘Schneiderhan’: remember the instrument owns the violinist! The instrument was my best teacher. Get to know each other and the violin will mould to your playing with its own distinct voice. No one will ever play the same sound – that is the beauty of a Strad.
The Menuhin Competition was created by a legend of the violin world, and it is his legacy to his art and the great tradition of violin playing. I wish all the participants the very best of luck, and, hard to do I know, to just enjoy yourselves!— Maxim Vengerov
The ‘Schneiderhan’ gets its name from the Austrian violinist Wolfgang Schneiderhan, first concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony Orchestra and leader of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, who owned and played the instrument for around nine years during the 1950s and 60s. The violin has a colourful past with a variety of ownership, including musicians, dealers and noblemen alike. The fact that it was owned and played by some great musicians is testimony to its fine craftsmanship and rich tonal qualities.
J & A Beare are delighted to be sponsors of the Menuhin Competition London 2016. The firm has long enjoyed a close connection with the most established soloists but we are also very keen to encourage and support younger players at the beginning of their careers. The Menuhin Competition is a great way to do this as it is so much more than just a competition – as past entrants have often told us — Steven Smith and Simon Morris, Managing Directors
Every year since 1912 J & A Beare has gifted the most promising graduating student from the Royal Academy of Music a specially made, engraved violin bow; a collaboration that continues to this day. This week we were delighted to celebrate over 100 years of friendship with the Academy and present this year’s winner, Marta Kowalczyk, with her prize: a gold engraved violin bow made by one of our leading archetiers, Derek Wilson.
Inviting all of the past Prize Winners to our shop in Marylebone, the 100-year celebrations turned out to be quite the reunion for many of the Royal Academy of Music alumni. With Prize Winners and representatives from all generations joining together for the occasion, the evening included performances by this year’s winner, Marta Kowalczyk, lots of celebratory cake and a virtuosic performance of Happy Birthday by Kristine Balanas (2012 Prize Winner) and Julia Pusker (2014 Prize Winner).
Since 2012 all the bows awarded for the prize have been made by Beare’s bow-maker Derek Wilson, before which they were made by bow-makers such as Tim Baker, Johannes S. Finkel and James Tubbs. Past prize winners include the founding member of the Fidelio Quartet Clarence Myerscough (1952), Canadian-born violinist Frederick Grinke (1933), conductor and violinist Kenneth Sillito (1959), and Watson Forbes (1931), the distinguished veteran of the viola and arranger of hundreds of works for young musicians, who was also Head of Music at BBC Scotland. To see a full list of the Prize Winners, click here.
A silver and ebony mounted violin bow made by François Xavier Tourte (c.1825) was sold on Monday for a new world record auction price of $288,000 USD. The bow is believed to have been owned by the celebrated Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman and bears his engraved initials on the ferule.
Purchased by a professional violinist, the bow was one of 40 items sold during the auction – including instruments by Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume, Giovanni Tononi, Ansaldo Poggi, Enrico Rocca, Luigi Piatellini and Peter Greiner, and bows by Joseph Henry, James Tubbs and Eugène Sartory – earning a total of $2.7m.
J & A Beare is delighted to support the 2016 Menuhin Competition, now returning to London for the first time since 2004.
Through Beare’s International Violin Society, the Senior Section winner of the competition this year will be loaned a golden period Stadivarius violin for the duration of one year. Details of the Strad will be announced in early March 2016.
The competition showcases the brightest of upcoming talent, with young violinists of any nationality invited to enter. Many winners have gone on to achieve major international recognition. By loaning a Strad to the winner, Beare’s hopes to give the winner the best start for the beginning their career.
French violinist Maurice Hasson gave what was billed as the final concert of his long and distinguished career at the Wigmore Hall, London on 17th April 2015. He played on a very fine Stradivari violin, known as the ‘Lady Jeanne’, loaned for the occasion by the Beare’s International Violin Society.
Hasson, who turns 81 this year, began playing aged 11 and by the age of 13 had entered the Paris Conservatoire, where he won the Prix d’Honneur and the Grand Prix for chamber music. In 1973 he moved to London, where he played his first recital at the Wigmore Hall with Ernst Lush.
Prior to the concert, Maurice dropped into Beare’s with his accompanying pianist, Tadashi Imai. Reflecting on playing his final concert at the same venue where he first gained an agent, he told us: “I started my career at the Wigmore Hall in 1973. I remember it was in the afternoon and I performed with the great pianist Ernest Lush, who played with all the greatest violinists of that time. It was a great pleasure and so I wanted to give my last concert in London at the Wigmore Hall. But I shall probably play another concert again. I will never stop playing.”
Maurice also talked with us about playing the legendary ‘Lady Jeanne’ Stradivari, loaned for the occasion by Beare’s International Violin Society. Made by Stradivari in 1731, it is believed that its name, ‘Lady Jeanne’, was bestowed on the violin by a previous owner, in honour of his wife.
Hasson is no stranger to the demands of playing such a mighty instrument as the ‘Lady Jeanne’, having played a 1727 Strad throughout his years as a soloist.
Following the concert, he commented on playing it:
“I was very happy to play that immense Strad, the ‘Lady Jeanne’, which gave me the greatest pleasure. I have played Strads for forty years of my life, so I know how to play a Strad. You don’t play a Strad like that from one day to another; you must learn to play them. This one was a very strong Strad, but at the same time it had a great quality of sensitivity and clarity. It was a true pleasure, and in the Debussy [Sonata in G minor], I could not dream of a better instrument because it was so transparent, so impressionistic. And on this Strad I enjoyed enormously the power of the violin; it was enormous, fantastic.”
Maurice Hasson with pianist Tadashi Imai at the Wigmore Hall
Hasson is also due to retire from his teaching post at the Royal Academy of Music this summer, having been professor of violin there for 29 years. The concert, then, was doubly an emotional experience:
“To describe the final concert is pretty difficult. It was very emotional because a lot of my great colleagues were attending, a lot of violinists, my students, family, friends: it was a sold out concert. I enjoy very much playing with Tadashi Imai, the great pianist, a great colleague, and I appreciate very much his work.
Before the concert I was, I must say, under an unusually great pressure, not because of it being the last concert, but because all my friends, my colleagues, my family were there. But we always have pressure before a concert and we need it, that state of emotion and stress.
Great advice was given to me by a great violinist, Henryk Szeryng, my professor, who said that if you love the violin and you love music, you must have a little bit of courage, you must concentrate. If you have the courage to concentrate and to decide to enjoy what you are playing, after a few seconds, you forget the stress. And it happened like that. Immediately, I was into what I was going to do and I wanted to enjoy myself. If you enjoy yourself, the people enjoy [it] also. You transmit what you feel. And personally, I consider that concert that night as one of my best recitals, musically, technically, emotionally speaking. I think I was doing the concert quite imaginatively. During the concert, suddenly I discovered some new colour of harmony and I changed fingering, still with plenty of confidence.
So it was a great artistic fiesta, if I can say so. I am very pleased. Saying that it is my last concert, I don’t think so, from time to time I will give a concert.”
The concert programme:
Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) ~ Violin Sonata No. 1 in A major Op. 13
Claude Debussy (1862-1918) ~ Violin Sonata in G minor
César Franck (1822-1890) ~ Sonata in A major for piano and violin
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) ~ Tzigane
Maria Theresia Paradis ~ Sicilienne in E flat major
Maurice Ravel ~ Vocalise-étude en forme de Habanera
Beare’s Managing Director Steven Smith with Maurice Hasson and the ‘Lady Jeanne’ Strad after the concert, with Steven’s wife and violin professor of the Royal Academy of Music So-Ock Kim
A charity event to be held on the 28th May 2015 at St James’s Church, Piccadilly, London
Beare’s director Simon Morris will be playing at this charity concert, among past and present members of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields, with proceeds going directly to the DEC for distribution to Nepal.