A Rare Late 18th Century Viola by Carl Christian Hopf, Klingenthal Circa 1790. 15”
Perhaps the best sounding instrument of its size I have has the pleasure of playing, this rare late 18th century viola by Carl Christian Hopf was made in Klingenthal around 1790. The Hopf family dynasty can be traced through the years to the formation of Upper Voigtland first violin making guild, established in 1669 by expatriates of Graslitz who had begun to settle in Klingenthal not even two decades prior, following after the Markneukirchen guild in 1677. Early violins from Klingenthal often took a more boxy, squared appearance as a function of both their construction methods and forebears, namely but by no means limited to Caspar Hopf, a founding member of the guild there whose surname had hitherto been Hobe before emigration from Bohemia. Though David Christian Hopf Sr., and jr echo through history as the most famous members of the Hopf family, the prolific dynasty produced eight generations of makers with many extended members also participating in the trade. Examples of Carl Christian Hopf are far and few between, with most specimens available for viewing in museums, speaking to both the quality of his work and its overall scarcity in the 21st century.
With a single piece back of irregular flame measuring just over 15” in length, this petite viola boasts a golden brown varnish similar to that of the Davids’ more desirable work and possesses a voice that at once belies its smaller size and evokes a woody quality from the classic alto timbre. Crisp response with enough resistance to power through more demanding passages but demonstrating a very lyrical quality that soars when paired with the general ease of play. Further, branded CCH below the button, the maker’s initials. It presents in generally well preserved condition, with some expected older, minor repairs. Characteristically consistent f holes, flared and following the regions aesthetic with distinct tool marks on the inside edges. The scroll, later, and possibly by a member of the Hammig or Ficker family in Markneukirchen, circa 1820. Played professionally by two generations of the same family in Michigan, New York, and Florida before arriving at Cohen Violins.