Ole Bull’s ‘Pearl’ comes out of the shadows

Posted on March 4th, 2015 by


Bergens Tidende 31 5 15

Bergens Tidende 31 5 15

Bergen-May 2015. The Violin goes home!

 

31 5 15 Article in Bergens Tidende

Article about the work, and the violin meeting its case, with Schak Bull, in today's Bergens Tidende 31 5 16

Article about the work, and the violin meeting its case, with Schak Bull, in today’s Bergens Tidende 31 5 16

With Ole Bull's Amati and his bow, in the Nursery at Lysoen. 28 5 15

With Ole Bull’s Amati and his bow, in the Nursery at Lysoen. 28 5 15

May 28th-Lysøen

Talking about Bull's Amati, on its first visit to Lysoen for over 130 years. 28 5 15

Talking about Bull’s Amati, on its first visit to Lysoen for over 130 years. 28 5 15

Ole Bull’s Amati, back at Lysøen. Interviewing with the team from Bergens Tidende, with the Bull’s case, embroidered ‘Nikolaus Amati 1647, which the violin fit perfectly, with his Great grandaughter Olea, and his brother’s great grandson, Schak, and the Bow. And (posed for) in the Nursery.

With Schak Bull and Olea Smith Kaland-Bull's great-grand-nephew and great granddaughter, with the violin, the bow, and the case! 28 5 15

With Schak Bull and Olea Smith Kaland-Bull’s great-grand-nephew and great granddaughter, with the violin, the bow, and the case! 28 5 15

 

And then today, the most exciting event to date. We drove out, with the violin, the bull bow, and a cameraman and journalists, to Bull’s island, Lysoen, to go back to the music room he built for himself. Then, after playing the violin in his wonderful music room, we went to the double violin case, with the embroidered cover ‘Nikolaus Amati 1647’, and, as you can imagine, the violin fitted the case, like a glove.

The violin fits perfectly in the case designed for it, embroidered 'Nikolaus Amati 1647' With Schak Bull

The violin fits perfectly in the case designed for it, embroidered ‘Nikolaus Amati 1647’ With Schak Bull

 

In the room, as well as the journalists, the directors of the museums, was Schak Bull, and Olea Smith-Kaland, Bull’s great grandaughter, who lives in Vermont, who had made sure that she was in Norway for this event. The director of the Grieg Museum, the Bull House, and other museums here, said that the violin in the room, returning to the case, and the sheer drama of the sound, was the most moving archaeological event he had ever experienced.

The Violin at Edvard Grieg’s house

The first note's on Bull's violin, back in Bergen after a century. Troldsalen (Troldhaugen-Grieg's House) 26 5 15

The first note’s on Bull’s violin, back in Bergen after a century. Troldsalen (Troldhaugen-Grieg’s House) 26 5 15

I was not supposed to be at the Bergen International Festival this year. However, they were so excited, when they found out about the violin that they immediately asked me to bring it, and set up a number of amazing events. The first of this, yesterday, was to play at the re-opening of the recital hall, Troldsalen, at Edvard Grieg’s house, Troldhaugen, a short drive out of town. I played a number of his works, and Locatelli, and it was clear that this was something well beyond me, that his violin spoke very deeply to the room. A number of people confessed to me that the violin moved them to tears.

Introducing one of the worlds great violin. 27 5 15

Introducing one of the worlds great violin. 27 5 15

The Bow

Today-27th May, I was invited to meet Schak Bull, the great grandson of Ole Bull’s brother. He  is the custodian of what seems to be the one surviving Ole Bull bow. so this was a first chance to reunite these two instruments.

Scarcely daring to breathe-as two instruments talked to each other. Ole Bull's bow, and his Amati, back together. 27 5 15

Scarcely daring to breathe-as two instruments talked to each other. Ole Bull’s bow, and his Amati, back together. 27 5 15

For now, I just want to offer a few reflections on this bow, and my first reactions to it, which hopefully, will mature with time.

The heel of the bow 27 5 15

The heel of the bow 27 5 15

First of all, it is worth saying that I am no stranger to the ups and downs of meeting a new instrument. First of all, there’s elation and discovery, then frustration, then, if it’s a great instrument, enlightenment. This bow is very special. The hair length, is roughly 2 cm longer than the bows that I play. I have encounter this before, most particularly, with Fritz Kreisler’s bows at the Libray of Congress in Washington DC. However, there’s an important difference I must mention straighaway. The Kreisler bows (both of which are Hill ‘Fleurs de Lys’) have been extended, by the simple means an additional ring between the stick and the tightening screw. The Ole Bull bow has been designed like this. The results are clean contrary. The Kreisler bows glue themselves to the string. The Ole Bull stick is so unique (sorry, I know that’s tautologous), that I am almost lost for words. But I will try.

But first, a surprising diversion.

Paganini's bow-Palazzo Tursi, Genova, Drawn PSS 2005

Paganini’s bow-Palazzo Tursi, Genova, Drawn PSS 2005

It is pretty clear, and for this, I must say THANKYOU to the great Ole Bull expert Harald Herresthal, that this bow was made for Bull in Paris. Herresthal’s essay ‘Ole Bulls bue’ (in ‘Bergen-Bull-Bergenserne’ Bergens Historiske Forening, Bodoni Forlag, Bergen 2010 Pp.102-113) is required reading on this subject. In it, he makes a powerful case for this bow being a product of the bowmaker Pierre Simon (1808-1991), and perhaps dating from the 1850s. Simon was one of the bowmakers who made bows for the greatest of all French violin makers, and close friend of Ole Bull’s Jean Baptiste Vuillaume. Bull spent considerable time, at Vuillaume’s workbench, particularly in the summer of 1848, when he made two violins under the master’s tutelage, and Vuillaume made the astonishing, and huge violin now to be found at Lysoen.

The tip of the Ole Bull bow 27 5 15

The tip of the Ole Bull bow 27 5 15

Playing this bow, I could only be reminded of the sadly shattered bow once owned by Niccolo Paganini, whose shards are now to be found in the Palazzo Tursi, in Genova. This bow is not typical of the bows which Paganini used for concert work, (which tended towards earlier models-what sometimes are called ‘swan head’ bows). However it is, like the Bull bow, about 2 cm longer in the hair; and when I played the copies made by the living Belgian archetier, Pierre Guillaume, suprisingly lively. Before I return to the Bull bow, I would just like to offer this; that violinists who had the chance to talk, to work with Vuillaume seem to have been predisposed to ask for bows which suited their purposes, and in the case of these two bows, we have examples of two virtuosi of different gernerations and schools, both obtaining long bows, each of which, in their own ways, can be described as ‘T0urte-models’.

By way of comparison, a Pierre Simon violin bow of 1855

By way of comparison, a Pierre Simon violin bow of 1855

So, how does this bow function. All I can over at the moment are undigested bullet points.

1. It’s heavy (66g), which was something which Bull recommended. And as Bull suggested, this weight means that the bow can do the work. However, and this is the surprise, the weight is very much in the extreme lower half.

2. Following on from this-this bow has the most fantastic, lyrical flying spiccator in the middle of the stick.

3. For riccochet, it bounces long, but fast, with very little effort, and almost no need to ‘throw’ the stick.

4. Despite all the weight in the heel, the point of the bow is very stable and focused, with no trace of the ‘tremor’ which is the bane of many a stick at the tip.

5. For all of the equality of usefulness, in all parts of the stick, I would have to say that this bow works in ‘registers’, that each segment of the hair and the stick, has its own qualities of colour and enunciation, like a Pleyel piano of the 1830s or 40s.

6. After playing it for about an hour, I found that my triceps were very ‘worked out’. I  have very strong arms, but this was a surprise, and I reflected on Bull’s athletic approach to the violin. This is not a bow for the weak.

But, of course the exciting thing was the meeting of violin and bow. This is one of those moments when I sense a ‘meeting of minds’ and do my best not to either get on the way, or get hurt. This is an explosive combination, and I will explore it more, tomorrow, when both instruments come out to Lysoen!

It was best summed up by Schak Bull. When I played him Bull’s version of ‘Fanitulla’ (scordatura AEAE), he said: ‘I have a chill in my spine, from that piece’ and went to get a sweater. Then he recited:  hine hårde dager/da ved øldrikk og svir/hallingdølens knivblad/satt løst i hans slir, -/da kvinnene til gilde bar likskjorten med, /hvori de kunne legge /sin husbonde ned…’, the terrifying lines from Jørgen Moe, 1813-1882.

Ole Bull's 'Pearl' . London 5 5 15

Ole Bull’s ‘Pearl’ . London 5 5 15

Ole Bull's Amati, back in Bergen. Practice, with a view, before leaving for Troldhaugen 26 5 15

Ole Bull’s Amati, back in Bergen. Practice, with a view, before leaving for Troldhaugen 26 5 15

Ole Bull’s ‘Pearl’ in public for the first time in a century

With the 1647 Niccolo Amati (Ole Bull's 'Pearl'). Royal Academy of Music Museum 12 5 15

With the 1647 Niccolo Amati (Ole Bull’s ‘Pearl’). Royal Academy of Music Museum 12 5 15

Today at the Royal Academy of Music Museum, I introduced the extraordinary 1647 Niccolo Amati.

Playing 'Saeterjentens Sondag'

Playing ‘Saeterjentens Sondag’

Edited Outtakes from first recording day-12 May 2015

Ole Bull-Siciliana for Glinka (Seville 1847)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ole Bull-Fanitullen (Scordatura  AEAE)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ole Bull-Guitar Serenade

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ole Bull-Quartet for One Violin

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Ole Bull-Halling

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Ole Bull-Springdands

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Ole Bull-Students Halling

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.


Ole Bull-Springdands

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Thorgeir Audunsson ‘Mollarguten’/tr. Halvorsen-‘Bridal March’

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Anders Heyerdahl – ‘Nissespel’ Op 11 (Scordatura AEACSHARP)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Ole Bull/Peter Sheppard Skaerved-American Fantasy (Jordan is a hard road to travel, The Hazel Dell, Home Sweet Home, Arkansas Traveller, Pop Goes the Weasel + Capriccio from the Wesley Album, Recitativo from ‘Niagara’, Cadenza from Ganz Album)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

What has this violin got to do with a street in Wapping, Madison Wisconsin, and a Norwegian Patriot?. On the 12th May I will be talking about it at SOUNDBOX. Tuesday 12th May 1230pm Royal Academy of Music Museum-String Gallery-Admission Free

Ole Bull, in the 1860s (Carte-de-viste). Holding a Grand pattern Amati, which may be the 'Pearl'

Ole Bull, in the 1860s (Carte-de-visite). Holding a Grand pattern Amati, which may be the ‘Pearl’. Note the distinctive ‘scoop’ towards the edges and the F-holes, which certainly match

 

In 1827, this violin was sold in a famous auction, by Sir William Curtis (1752-1829)(‘Billy Biscuit’). Curtis was a self-made man, twice Lord Mayor of London, an MP, and a close friend of George IV. He had built his fortune from a Wapping bakery, from which he supplied the Royal Navy with Ship’s Biscuits.

 Sir William Curtis,by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey, pencil, 1827

Sir William Curtis,by Sir Francis Leggatt Chantrey, pencil, 1827

Ole Bull's Pearl 30 4 15

Ole Bull’s Pearl 30 4 15

bridge

Ole Bull-Et Saeterbesog (i-phone recording, courtesy of Marius Skaerved) 4 3 15

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

IMG_5985_Edited

Label

Label

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The very first notes that I played on this violin, which has not been played on for years. This is just recorded in a small carpeted room, with an i-phone). I had no idea what the violin was going to do, and it did this.

Niccolo Amati 1647 ‘Ole Bull’ (Pearl)

Revealing the deeply 'scooped' back.

Revealing the deeply ‘scooped’ back.

The 1647 Amati was a favourite of Ole Bull’s. Today, I had the chance to play this violin, which has barely been seen in public seen his death in 1880, for the first time. There is so much to say about this instrument. But for now, here are the photos which Marius Skaerved took of this exciting event for me.

When this violin was sold in 1827, it was bought (for an extraordinary sum) to make sure that George IV did not buy it, and further endanger the finances of the royal household. It was sold by Sir William Curtis, one of the richest men in the City, Lord Mayor a couple of times, who was known as ‘Biscuit Billy’ as his wealth had been based on being the main supplier of Ship’s Biscuits to the Royal Navy during the Napoleonic Wars. Billy was a self made man; his bakeries were close to where he was born, in Wapping, actually (and here it gets little spooky), right where I am writing this, on what is now Brewhouse Lane.

Much too excited

Much too excited

Scroll

Scroll

Right ribs

Right ribs

F Holes

F Holes

Scroll in action

Scroll in action

Back-one piece

Back-one piece

 

I have been waiting to see this instrument for two years.

I have been waiting to see this instrument for two years.

The first moment with a violin in the hand is so wonderful.

Ribs and bacm

Ribs and back

The case he made for this instrument, and the 1732 del Gesu-note the embroidery 'Niccolo Amati 1647'

The case he made for this instrument, and the 1732 del Gesu-note the embroidery ‘Niccolo Amati 1647’