By Andy Fein, Owner and Violin Maker, Fein Violins, Ltd.
Here's another list: Heifetz, Seidel, Vieuxtemps,Elman, Stern, Kochanski, Rosand, Erica Morini, Zimbalist, Kogan, Menuhin,and Vadim Repin. What do they have in common? (OK, besides that most of them are MOTs!) They are all violin soloists that used and loved Kittel bows. And preferred them over any of the French bow makers, including Tourte.
|Yehudi Menuhin and his Kittel bow|
Nicolaus Kittel was a German bow maker that worked in St. Petersburg, Russia from about 1825 to 1868. His bows are very rare.
Besides being very rare, a strange thing about Kittel bows is that they vary greatly in workmanship and subtleties of style. But they are truly magnificent bows. Kittel, like Vuillaume and like the Hills, was not so much a bow maker as a bow designer and had an extraordinarily keen eye for superb Pernambuco, the standard wood for bows for about the last two hundred years. He had bows made for him by Heinrich Knopf, Bausch, Pfretzschner and probably other fine German bow makers.
Kittel bows are usually fairly light (under 60 grams) but very strong and very responsive. A great bow can have a "sound" all its own. Kittel bows often give a rich, dark, "chocolatey" sound.
So how rare are Kittel bows? Incredibly rare. Most dealers and makers only see a few in their lifetime. That compares with dozens of Tourtes and hundreds of Vuillaumes and Hills.
Vuillaume & the Hills employed bow makers right in their workshops. They kept tight rein on the look and quality of their bows. Kittel was often one step removed from his bow makers. His shop was in St. Petersburg and his bow makers were in Eastern Germany. Unquestionably, they worked with Kittel in his shop, but they also worked to his designs in their own shop. I think Kittel had a hand in the finishing and fitting of his bows. There are telltale signs of his work on his bows even though the bows also bear the signs of his other makers. A strange way to make bows. But, it turns out, a very good way to make great bows.
What? He wasn't huddled over his bench turning out "one-offs" in his lonely workshop? Not at all. Like Vuillaume, he was busy running a shop. Nicolaus Kittel was a great bow maker and also violin maker to the Czarist court. His violins are also rare and also fantastic!
|Heifetz:"I prefer my Kittel that Professor Auer gave me a long time ago."|
Klaus Grunke, Josef P. Gabriel, and Yung Chin have written a fantastic book on The Bows of Nikolai Kittel . Get the book! Great research and unbelievable pictures.
|Kittel bows, from the book "The Bows of Nikolai Kitttel"|