The first time I came across a real restoration was at the International Violinmaking Contest in Hradec Králové in 1985. The renowned restorer Roger G. Hargrave acted as a juryman of the contest and he devoted one afternoon to the lecture on application of various techniques on violin restoration. My fascination with this specialization started that day and I desired to try all of the complicated procedures I learned about. I started enthusiastically, but was astonished and disappointed when I found out that the results were not as good as I imagined.
Over the next years I luckily found many colleagues who were just as enthusiastic as I was that advised me in many different dodges and techniques. My stay in Kőln am Rhein, in the workshop of the merchant with antique musical instruments Bernhard von Hünerbein, was very important for me. It was there that Mr. Hünerbein introduced me to many his excellent colleagues. Specifically I would like to mention Sebastian Zens in Kőln am Rhein, Peter Schlarb in Aaachen, Yens Geer, the restorer of the London company Biddulph and the teams from the companies Beare/London, Machold/ Zürich and Köstler/Stuttgart. Thanks to all!
In my own atelier in Prague I learned how to apply this knowledge on a number of repaired violins and thus had the opportunity to repeat the different techniques many times. I was able to fully use this experience during my stay in La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland, in the workshop of Claude Lebet, a merchant with precious musical instruments. I worked on several Stradivari violins, violas and violoncelli. During the three years that I was the head of Claude Lebet’s atelier, I had an opportunity to take care of many wonderfull instruments made by distinguished violin-makers from different periods. To have the chance to take care of the viola by Gaspar da Salo from 1580 and to play it for several days was an unforgetable experience.
I am a supporter of the conservative method when it comes to restoring instruments. This method‘s main goal is not to make an intact instrument out of a damaged one but to make a very well repaired one. The radical, brave techniques enable the restorer to conceal damage but the violin is often in the worse shape after such a repair than it was before. A good restorer limits the extent to which the traces of his work are left behind. He must leave an opportunity for future generations of possibly better violin-makers to still see the original state of the violin.
Getting the instrument back to its healthy condition has an influence exclusively on its tone quality without changing anything more. Every restorer can agree that the worst thing is to work on a botched-up and indelicately repaired instrument. Only the owner of the violin can decide whom he will intrust his instrument to and the condition in which his violin will be handed over to future generations.