The Swedish Violin and Bow Makers' Association (SVSF)

Violin making begins in Sweden

The beginning of violin making in Sweden can be dated around 1650. Most of the pioneer makers were located in Stockholm, which in 1720 was inhabited by no more than 45 000 people. The violin makers' services were demanded by musicians at the court, in the churches and in the houses of a few wealthy citizens.

The first public concert took place in 1731 and around this time, violin making as we recognise it today also began in Sweden. It is worth noting that six years later Antonio Stradivarius died at the age of 93. His long and productive working life marks the beginning of the end of the 150-year long golden period in Cremona.

Violin making declines

From the middle of the 18th century up to our own time, many violin makers and repairmen have come and gone. A noticeable tendency is, however, that the building of new instruments has declined whereas restorations and repairs seem to have increased.

A considerably larger number of 18th century instruments by Öberg are still extant, for example, than are instruments by Lindholm from the 20th century. During the latter period, the production of new instruments became increasingly a matter for amateurs and for factories, which since the 19th century have provided the market with incredible amounts of less exclusive, but well functioning, instruments.

The 20th century was a tough period as regards the production of new quality instruments. Myths about the supremacy of the old instruments have hindered a fair judgement of new quality instruments and left no room for modern violin making to flourish.

Naturally, this is to a great extent a question of money. The antique value has become a major part of an instrument's total value, which thereby has been forced up to exorbitant heights that in no way can be justified by only tonal qualities. If, for example, it is revealed that a genuine Stradivarius violin is a forgery and the real maker remains unknown, the instrument's value will tumble to one percent although the violin's qualities in every other respect are the same

The production of new instruments made by professional violi nmakers has consequently declined during the 20th century. Not surprisingly the Italian makers appear to have been the most successful. A name with a genuine Italian ring is clearly an advantage, and rumour has it that some makers have got themselves an address in Cremona just to prove their Italian origin. Violin makers in other countries choose names for their organisations that hint at an Italian tradition, some people take an Italian stage-name, etcetera.

In her book Fioler from 1981 Ann Nilsson quotes violin maker Bengt Lindholm: "If you want to produce new violins and get reasonably well paid, you will face marketing problems if you do not succeed extremely well". The golden age of violin making has probably passed. Bengt's words summarise the situation around 1980 very well.


The situation for violin making was dark and the production of new instruments had almost been reduced to a spare-time job for repairmen or a hobby. During the two last decades of the 20th century, however, some things happened that proved to be decisive in violin making.

The Swedish Violin and Bow Makers' Association (SVSF) is Founded

Between 1998 and 2003 Irene and Peter Westerlund, Westerlunds Violinverkstad AB, organised a series of lectures led by nine of today's most well-reputed violin and bow makers

The lecturers were

The idea was that these lectures would support and inspire the exclusive group of people to whom violin making and repairs are the only source of income. Another aim was to promote the social intercourse between professionals, who usually work alone. The attendance fee was low so that no one would refrain from coming for economic reasons. The result was even better than expected and the co-operation grew. More information about the lectures

After some time, many of us realised that when the lectures finished the other positive effects risked disappearing. This gave rise to the idea for the first association for professional violin and bow makers in Sweden. After a short meeting and in complete accord on October 19, 2002, the Swedish Violin and Bow Makers' Association (SVSF) was founded.

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