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2019 Conference: Early Violin Making in Northern Europe, 1560-1725

  • The Catholic Chaplaincy St Aldates Oxford OX1 1RD (map)
BVMA Conference 2019 Collier banner.jpg

British Violin Making Association 2019 Oxford Conference: Early Violin Making in Northern Europe, 1560-1725. This year’s conference brings together experts on the seventeenth-century Northern European schools of making from around the continent, and celebrates the interrelationships and stylistic commonalities that exist between French, Dutch, British, Flemish and Belgian makers. Taking place at the usual venue of the Catholic Chaplaincy in Oxford, the two day event will include round table discussions and an informal exhibition of instruments.

Come on Friday night, and try if you can to stay over until Monday. More than 150 attended the last conference in Oxford in 2017.

Marc Rosenteil | PARIS
Jan Strick | BRUSSELS
Benjamin Hebbert | LONDON
Hubert de Launay | AMSTERDAM
Urs Langenbacher | FÜSSEN
Jan Bartos & Honorata Stalimerska | POLAND

Tickets available via the TicketTailor website.


We are delighted to invite you to the British Violin Making Association’s 2019 Conference, Early Violin Makers in Northern Europe 1560-1725. This will be the second time in recent years that we have held a two-day conference in Oxford. We hope you will come along to enjoy the conference, and to take part in the social gathering that is all a part of it. The 2017 Messiah conference was an enormous success. Let’s make this one just as good.

The idea of the conference evolved from a discussion that I had with Brussel’s-based luthier Jan Strick, that touched on the similarities between English, Belgian and Parisian work. With Shem Mackey we had long talked about the apparent English precedents that are found in the work of the Parisian viol maker, Michel Collichon. Overall we formed an opinion that we would get a better view of Northern European instrument making of the Seventeenth Century if we collaborated and looked for the common threads that go from one country to the next.

I should be clear that the subject of Northern European making is a huge one, and in organising a conference such as this the absences in the programme seem to widen the more that we think about them, but it is the first conference of its type to cover this type of subject in violin making, and we have prepared plenty of time for showing instruments and for round-table discussions that should hope to broaden our understanding. I do find them to be more engaging and lively than endless lectures. It may well be that it is a subject that we will return to in some way in coming years. However, I wanted to keep the number of speakers down to a manageable size, as too many talks can overburden a conference weekend.

Jan Strick will be presenting his research on Brussels makers and Hubert de Launay will be talking about violin making in Amsterdam. Paris and the French provincial makers will be examined by Marc Rosensteil, whilst Jan Bartos and Honorata Stalmierska will be talking about violin making in the Kingdom of Poland, an area that extended as far as Lithuania in the Seventeenth Century. Finally, I have asked the lute maker Urs Langenbacher to start off the conference with some of his studies into the instrument making guild in Füssen and its diaspora of makers who travelled as far and wide as Venice and London from the sixteenth century. Regrettably, I’ve tried to get someone else to talk about English making, but the ball has been firmly thrown back in my court over this, so I hope to present something provocative and original.

We will also have a small informal exhibition of instruments brought by speakers and attendees. If you have an interesting example that you can make available over the weekend, please let us know in advance so that we can make appropriate arrangements for its display.

Benjamin Hebbert - Conference Chair



Urs Langenbacher (FÜSSEN): Urs Langenbacher is a master luthier for plucked instruments, who is working in Füssen for 25 years now. He is now sharing his workshop with master luthier Pierre Chaubert, the one who has brought the tradition to life again after a long break of 116 years in 1982.

He is building classical guitars, lutes and mandolins. His work has been awarded the gold- and silvermedal in Baveno Italy and the German “Musikinstrumentenpreis 2008“. His instrument photografie can be found in the just recently published book “Füssen Lute and Violin making – a European Legacy“. He would like to introduce you to the history related to the Füssen luthiers which is closely connected to most of the other European centres of lutherie. The numerous new sources who have been opened up the last years will give the chance to add new facts to the story and to clear up with some wrong imaginations. He will talk about a time before violin making which obviously influenced the uprising bowed instrument making all over Europe.


Marc Rosensteil (PARIS): Marc began his apprenticeship with René Morizot in Mirecourt’s Violin Making School. He was Etienne Vatelot first assistant from 1977 to 1982.

He is actively researching the work of French violin makers from the 17th century. Also their names are known from Mirecourt, Nancy or Paris archives, there are uncertainties as to attribute instruments to one or the other. He is also laureate and president of the «Meilleur Ouvrier de France» violinmaker and bowmaker award.


Jan Strick (BRUSSELS): In 1977 Jan Strick’s passion and talent for lutherie were recognised by the Liège-based bow maker and violin restorer Jacques Bernard. On Bernard’s advice, Jan studied in Mirecourt and Angers, in the purest traditions of French lutherie.

After Bernard retired, Jan succeeded him at Maison Bernard, which in 1986 was relocated to Brussels. Jan is in contact with numerous musicians and luthiers in Europe, Asia and America, and maintains a close relationship with the esteemed Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, whereby competitors can benefit from Jan’s services for the duration of the contest. This has created international friendships that have developed over the years.


Benjamin Hebbert (LONDON): During training as an instrument maker at Guildhall University (formerly London College of Furniture), Ben began his investigations into the seventeenth century London maker, Barak Norman. This led to studying historical musicology under Peter Holman at Leeds University to get a wider view on music in 17th century London and ultimately to an Arts & Humanities Research Council studentship to the University of Oxford to pursue postgraduate research on early English makers (chiefly of the violin and viol). He will complete his doctoral studies one day, but in the meantime he was awarded fellowships to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Art History and Conservation Science to work with their instrument collections, before heading the London office of Christie’s Musical Fine Musical Instrument Department and thereafter running the musical instrument making course at West Dean College where he lectured on all manner of things from the history of decorative arts to conservation ethics. He is now setup in London as a consultant and dealer and as a regular lecturer on all things violin related. In his spare time is chairman of the BVMA.   


Hubert de Launay (AMSTERDAM): In 2003, knowing that I wanted to be a musical instrumentmaker, I started a four-year programme at the Furniture college of Amsterdam as we do not have a violinmaking school in the Netherlands. During a year-long work-placement with double bass experts Harry Jansen & Melle Wondergem I knew I wanted to specialise in bowed instrument. At the age of 19 I applied for the three-year programme at West Dean college where I learned baroque musical instrument making under the guidance of Roger Rose & Shem Mackey. After college I briefly went back to the Netherlands to work for Guust Francoise but I strongly felt that I wanted to go back to the UK. I had the good fortune to work with John Dilworth and the late Michael Byrd. It was a John’s workshop were I developed my interest in research and expertise. My initial research started small, focusing only on one maker but it soon expended covering the entire Amsterdam School as I noticed many details were missing or simply wrong.

At the end of 2014 I decided to go back to the Netherlands as my research demanded me to be closer to historical Dutch instruments & collections. I was able to join the team at Andreas Post violins where I worked just over four years, also continuing my research on a weekly basis at the Municipal Museum in The Hague which houses over 3000 instruments. In January this year I started my own workshop in Utrecht where I’m focusing on expertise, restoration and new making influenced by our rich Dutch violinmaking tradition. In the last 10 years I have discovered many new details surrounding the makers of the early Dutch school which I’m planning on publishing in the future.


Jan Bartos (POLAND): Jan Bartos was born in Poland and went on to study for his violinmaking diploma at University level at the Poznan Academy of Music. He went on to spend ten years with Eric Blot in Cremona as head of the workshop where he developed a deep-rooted understanding of the construction and restoration of stringed instruments and had the opportunity to work on and be inspired by the great italian masters - Stradivari, Guarneri, Bergonzi, Amati etc. 

In partnership with the National Museum in Poznan he worked on a book which was published in 2016: "The Polish School of Violin Making from Groblicz to Dankwart” - a book which highlights the work of Polish makers from the 17th and 18th centuries. In 2007 he opened his workshop in the Marais district in the heart of Paris at 60 rue du Vertbois, where he continues to make his instruments and carries out his research on acoustics and varnish fabrication and application. He is currently preparing his doctorate thesis. 

Honorata Stalmierska (POLAND) Honorata Stalmierska was born in 1960 in Poland. She graduated from the Ignacy Jan Paderewski Academy of Music in Poznan and received her PhD in violin making in 1993. She is currently a professor and head of the department of violin-making at her Alma Mater. Her work includes teaching and conducting academic research. She is the co-author of the book Polish School of Violin-Making, Instruments by Groblicz and Dankwart Masters, published in 2016.

As a member of the Polish Violin Makers Association (ZPAL), French Association des Luthiers et Archetiers pour le Departement de la Facture Instrumentale and British Violin Making Association, she constantly participates in seminars and exhibitions throughout Europe, where she presents her own instruments and gives presentations about polish violin making school. She was a jury member of the National Kaminski Violin Making Competition in Poznan and the International Violin Making Competition Viola’s 16 in Paris.

Besides her academic work, Honorata Stalmierska runs her own violin making workshop, where she builds and repairs instruments. Her artistic output consists of over hundred instruments, including violins, violas, viola d’amore, viola da gamba and classical and historical guitars. She specializes in making copies of old instruments.

In and Around Oxford

We like Oxford as a conference venue because it is fairly accessible to everywhere, and out of term time there are extremely good options for accommodation to suit any budget, so there are very few limits on how it works.



As in former Oxford events we’ve gone against the idea of having a formal dinner, and suggest that people break out in groups and explore the city for supper time, the Chequers Pub on the High Street from around 8pm as the BVMA ‘clubhouse’. It is nice and central and big enough for all of us. Please try and avoid eating there, as the kitchen gets easily overwhelmed by too many violin makers at once and you can end up waiting a long time whilst everyone else is having fun. Instead explore Cornmarket (the pedestrian street directly North of the conference venue) and beyond that, George Street for easy places to eat. Kebab vans are a peculiarity of Oxford, but it is unseemly to eat from them unless you’ve had too much to drink.


During the conference our amazing team of volunteers will be organising coffee, tea and a sandwich lunch included in the price of the ticket. If the weather is good, taking a picnic in Christ Church Meadow across the road is quite a good idea.



The train services to Oxford are pretty good. It is about a 15 minut walk ino the centre of town from the station and then South down St Aldates towards Old Tom Tower, the gatehouse to Christ Church. The Old Palace, where the Catholic Chaplaincy is, is just across the road and down a bit further.


If you are arriving by Car, Oxford is famously unfriendly for cars, but it has brilliant Park & Rise with really good 24-hour security. It’s about a 20 minute ride into town from any of the car parks. Parking in town is expensive and scarce.


If you are arriving by Air, there is an hourly bus from either Heathrow or Gatwick Airport direct to Oxford, which is run by the Oxford Bus Company. For more information visit their website

National Express runs coaches from other airports, but Heathrow and Gatwick are frankly your best options.



Arrival & The Ashmolean.

The Ashmolean is open daily until 5pm, but it is unlikely that there will be time during the conference to seriously study the Hill Collection. We think that on the Friday (hint, hint) that you’ll be likely to find colleagues there in the afternoon, and that may be the best time to visit during the weekend.


We plan to do something on Friday evening, and details will be announced sooner or later, otherwise expect to rendezvous in the Mitre pub and you are sure to find colleagues and violin makers from around the world.  



Rumour has it that there was quite a party at the campsite up Abingdon Road during the Messiah conference in 2017 thanks to enterprising students having a barbeque and … oh well. There are also some terrifically expensive hotels if you feel the urge but the main attraction of Oxford are University rooms available for rent from £37.00 per night. Book early to find the best deals, and it is quite possible to end up with a really central room in one of the famous ancient Oxford colleges.


University Rooms are available for rent from £37.00 per night:
Book early to find the best deals. 

Camping –  £7.35 to £12.45 per night (85 pitches)
Oxford Camping and Caravanning Club Site
426 Abingdon Road
Oxford OX1 4XG     Tel 01865 244 088
The campsite is 1.7 miles away from the venue, with buses every few minutes.

YHA Youth Hostel – from £18.00 per night
YHA Oxford
2a Botley Road
Oxford OX2 2AB             Tel 0345 371 9131

Oxford Backpackers Hostel – from £18 per night
9a Hythe Bridge Street
OX1 2EW                               Tel 01865 721 761