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Janine Jansen awarded a Diapason d’Or

Many congratulations to Janine Jansen for being awarded a Diapason d’Or for her recent recording of Brahms and Bartok, recorded on a fine Stradivari violin on loan from a generous patron of the Beare’s International Violin Society.

Janine CD

Loan recipient of the Beare’s International Violin Society, Janine Jansen is pictured here with J & A Beare Managing Director Steven Smith.


Remembering Rostropovich…

Our Managing Director Simon Morris recounts his memories of Mstislav ‘Slava’ Rostropovich, from playing for him in a televised masterclass to selling him a Pietro Guarneri of Venice cello in 2003.

I first saw Rostropovich perform in the late 1970s when I was a teenager. He played Dvořák’s Cello Concerto and it remains one of the most extraordinary concert experiences of my life. It was not just his remarkable technique and musicianship that so impressed me but his ability to grab the audience from the first very note and hold their full atention to the very end of the piece.

I first met Rostropovich in 1981-2 when I was principal cellist at the Britten-Pears orchestra in Aldeburgh where he was conducting. A couple of years later I also played for him in a televised masterclass in Aldeburgh. That was a nerve-wracking experience… I remember the player before me starting to tune up with great panache. Slava stopped him (before the musician had actually played a proper note) and said: ‘you have such beautiful face but you make such ugly sound’. Oh dear. This was not going to be easy…

It was many years later (around 2003) when he dropped into J & A Beare on Queen Anne Street to have his cello cleaned before performing for her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace. At the time we had the most exceptional Pietro Guarneri of Venice cello for sale, which he took the opportunity to try. He was immediately smitten and so began a journey… He first took it to his London house to try it there, and then on to his Paris apartment. In Paris he asked his wife and I to compare the tone of his cello with the Guarneri, asking us to judge their respective sounds by marking our scores on a piece of paper, while he played in the next room. He looked at our ‘scores’ and said: ‘I want this cello’.

Next stop on the journey was New York and Delaware to complete the sale. After a very entertaining day I asked Slava what his next concert was. He had several performances coming up where, again, he would play Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, including a concert in Chicago. I asked him which cello he would play to which he replied: ‘Oh, this wonderful Guarneri of course’. ‘But’, I said, ‘you have only played on it for a few minutes and it is a big uncut cello with a long stop’. ‘No problem,’ he said. He was never precious about the challenges of changing instruments.

The Hill Bow Makers by Derek Wilson and John Milnes

We are pleased to announce that our bow expert, Derek Wilson, has recently co-authored a long-awaited reference book on bows made at W.E. Hill & Sons. Written in collaboration with fellow researcher John Milnes and published by the BVMA, the book presents original research, newly discovered materials and a close examination of many Hill bows. It features:

  • Maps showing the location of Hill properties
  • Labelled view of the Hanwell workshop
  • A timeline of the makers’ lives and careers
  • Photographic catalogue of the makers’ marks
  • Detailed guide to Hill bow characteristics
  • 48 excellent example of Hill bows
  • Guide to the name stamps

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    All orders can be made at the website. Standard edition £90, leather bound deluxe edition £250.

    Derek has worked in the bow workshop at J & A Beare since 2000 but began his career at W.E. Hill & Sons from the age of 16, learning bow repairing from fellow Hill bow maker Matthew Coltman and John Stagg. In 1985 Derek left Hill’s to set up a bow department for Peter Benedek in Munich, returning to the UK in 1990 and settling first on the Isle of Wight, and, from 2000, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. He has taught on professional development courses in Toronto, Canada and West Dean, East Sussex, UK, and along with The Hill Bow Makers, is co-author with Tim Baker of the bow chapter in Musical Instruments in the Ashmolean Museum (Oxford: Oxford Musical Instrument Publishing 2011).

    Beare’s Luthier Andrea Ortona talks about his copy of a Guarneri Kemp violin

    This Saturday one of our luthiers, Andrea Ortona, will be appearing on BBC Radio 3 to talk about the journey and craftsmanship behind his copy of a Guarneri Kemp violin, originally made in 1738.

    In this 30-minute feature as part of Between The Ears, Andrea talks to producer Melanie Harris about the ancient and modern methods used to build the instrument. He is joined by violinist Laurent Quenelle from the London Symphony Orchestra who tries out the violin in the studio.


    Violinist Laurent Quenelle with Andrea’a Guarneri Kemp copy

    Andrea Ortona and Laurent Quenelle. Photograph taken during recording for Between The Ears.










    Between The Ears: First Find Your Tree

    Saturday 19 March, 9.30pm-10.00pm
    BBC Radio 3

    Find out more and listen live at


    Andrea Ortona has been violin maker and restorer for 30 years and began working at J & A Beare in 2010. His technique is a unique personal combination of the old Italian violin making tradition and modern acoustic research. Having trained at the Violin Making School of Cremona, he opened a workshop in Venice. He now has a workshop near Oxford. He has worked on acoustic research with Carleen Hutchins in the USA and as a restorer for F. Leonard, and taught varnish retouch and acoustic set up in Cremona. He has lectured and run workshops in Italy, Austria and UK. Andrea’s new instruments are represented by Beare’s.

    Stradivari’s 1715 ‘Schneiderhan’ violin to be lent to the Senior Prize Winner of the Menuhin Competition London 2016

    As a principal sponsor of the Menuhin Competition London 2016, we are delighted to announce that the Senior Prize Winner will receive Antonio Stradivari’s 1715 ‘Schneiderhan’ violin, on a one-year loan from a generous patron of the Beare’s International Violin Society.

    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

    Click here to find out more about the Menuhin Competition London 2016 and their exciting programme of events.

    J & A Beare become a Silver Sponsor of the Violin Channel

    We are delighted to announce our Silver Sponsorship of the Violin Channel, one of the world’s largest violin, strings & classical music news sources.

    J & A Beare have had a close relationship with the Violin Channel since 2014, meeting them regularly at exhibitions and on trips to New York. We look forward to an exciting year with them ahead!


    Find out more at

    Beares Auctions launch ‘MOTO PERPETUO’

    Last week our boutique online auction house, Beares Auctions, launched a brand new 24/7 service that offers a continuous selection of fine instruments and bows all year round: MOTO PERPETUO.1

    Rather than adhering to specified auction periods, the sale runs continuously throughout the year. Each lot has an independent bidding period and many items also include an initial ‘Buy Now’ option too. Sellers are invited to consign their items for immediate sale in auction at any time of the year 2with a 0% seller’s commission. Buyers too can browse and bid continuously on an ever-changing catalogue of interesting instruments and bows.

    Beares Auctions have also introduced an innovative rating system: instruments and bows are judged by J & A Beare’s experts and consultants according to specified criteria. Their views are condensed into a user-friendly score which is applied to each of the lots on offer.

    Further support is provided to prospective buyers by way of a new auction and retail price guide. This draws on records that are either publicly available or derive from J & A Beare’s own archives and communications with other retailers.

    See also:

    ‘Beares Auctions Heads in New Direction with Launch of Moto Perpetuo’, Strings Magazine, 23 February 2016

    ‘Beares Auctions launches new perpetual service’, Strad Magazine, 23 February 2016

    Emmanuel Tjeknavorian receives fine Stradivari on long-term loan

    J & A Beare is delighted to facilitate the long-term loan of a fine Stradivari from a generous patron of the Beare’s International Violin Society to violinist Emmanuel Tjeknavorian. For a full biography of Emmanuel visit

    He is pictured here with Beare’s Managing Director Steven Smith, playing impromptu duets earlier this month!

    Emmanuel and Steve-2

    Beare’s Bow Prize – 100 Year Celebration

    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


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