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The bow makers (part 5)

The fifth and last part of the Pfretzschner family history has its origin with Johann Gottfried and establishes the line of the famous bow makers, whose bows still enjoy an extraordinary reputation worldwide and are highly appreciated by professional musicians.

Johann Gottfried is born on 14.07.1733 as the first son of Johann Elias II in Markneukirchen. Like his father, he learns the craft of violin making and is admitted to the violin makers' guild on 05.10.1751 as a master. Lütgendorff writes about him that he was one of the Neukirchen violin makers who liked to state "Cremona" as the place of origin and appointed Jacob Stainer as the inventor of the violin. He seems to have been talented and probably knew Italian violins. On his labels of paper he wrote the name sometimes with and sometimes without a "z". On 20.11.1760 he married Maria Sophie Müller née Tümmler from Adorf and had a son with her, Carl Wilhelm I. Johann Gottfried died very early in 1771 at the age of 38. Carl Wilhelm I (* 19.09.1766) also becomes a violin maker, but he is not mentioned in the master books. Presumably he earned his money rather as a merchant and accis collector. On 13.11.1791 he marries Anna Magdalena Ebner, the daughter of Johann Christian Ebner from Markneukirchen. Together they have a daughter, Johanna Christiane, and a son, who has the same name as the father. Johanna Christiane (*1.1.1793) marries, according to Heberlein, the master violin maker Carl Friedrich Ficker, called "Ficker Hans'l. (According to Zoebisch this is not correct). Carl Wilhelm II is born on 01.8.1795 and learns the profession of violin maker. He is also not mentioned in the master books. His children Christian August, Carl Richard and Heinrich Anton are the result of his marriage to Christiane Caroline Adler. The first-born becomes postal secretary and goes to Leipzig, where he marries Rosalie Luise Reuter. Heinrich Anton becomes a privateer and has a son of the same name, who later becomes a lemonade dealer. Carl Richard, the middle son of Carl Wilhelm II, is born on 15.02.1835 and becomes the first bow maker of the family. However, he only made very simple bows and lives with his family in the simplest of circumstances. 1856 he marries Caroline Dölling with whom he has a son, Hermann Richard Pfretzschner, the later founder of the workshop H.R. Pfretzschner. Carl Richard dies relatively early, at the age of 58.

Hermann Richard Pfretzschner was born on 28.02.1857 in Markneukirchen. His musical talent in playing the violin became apparent at a very early age. After his school education he learns the craft of bow making in his father's workshop. But he wanted to learn even more about bow making and in 1872 he went to Paris for further apprenticeship with J. B. Vuillaume. When he returned to Markneukirchen, he worked in his father's workshop until he opened his own shop in his home town in 1880. In just a few years, thanks to outstanding craftsmanship and careful stylistic research, he succeeded in gaining respect and building up an excellent reputation. In 1901 he is appointed official supplier to the Saxon court. He works his bows after J. B. Vuillaume, Tourte and Voirin and after his own model the so-called Wilhelmi bows for artists who really meet high demands and are equal to the best French and English bows. Its sticks are not varnished and are stamped black with the name H.R. Pfretzschner. From 1901 on, the Saxon royal coat of arms is burned into the frog of the bows. On 13.11.1880 Hermann Richard marries Auguste Bertha née Weller and has four children, Wilhelm August, Richard Hermann, Berthold Walter and Bertha Helene, who marries Artur Albin Dölling in 1920. Wilhelm August is born on 11.02.1871. He probably learns the craft of the bow maker and later becomes a Manufacturer of bows and produces bows of different qualities. Unfortunately no more detailed information can be found about this. It is astonishing, however, that there are still many bows from this manufacture stamped with W.A. Pfretzschner in circulation, and that prices for them are sometimes almost as high as for bows from the H.R. Pfretzschner workshop. On the web pages of The Violin Connection of Southern Africa I have found a very special one. Through the eye in the frog you can see a photo of Wilhelm August.

Wilhelm August marries Sophie Bertha Reichel and has with her the sons Hans and Willi Armin about whom nothing more is known.

The two other sons Richard Hermann (*20.12.1878) and Berthold Walter (*27.06.1889) also become bow makers and work in their father's workshop. In 1911 the company, which had grown in the meantime, was awarded the title of "Grossherzoglich Sächsischer Hoflieferant" (supplier to the court of the Grand Duke of Saxony) and maintained its own studio in Dresden. After returning from the First World War, the two sons take over the workshop, Hermann Richard dies in 1921. Both brothers have one son and one daughter each. Both Theodor Hermann (*1915), son of Richard Hermann, and Horst Richard (*1914), son of Berthold Walter, also learned the craft of bow making and worked in their fathers' business from 1928/1930 on. Theodor Hermann married in 1948 but remained childless. It is not known how long he worked in the family business, but there are bows with the brandmark T.H. Pfretzschner, indicating that he later worked independently. Horst Richard married in 1939 and had three children, Heinz Horst, Agathe and Hermann Richard, who were born in 1941, 1943 and 1947. However, the consequences of the Second World War and the political system of the GDR that prevailed afterwards forced Horst Richard Pfretzschner, the then owner of the H.R. Pfretzschner workshop, to give up self-employment in 1966. He joined the "PGH Sinfonia", which was nationalized in 1972 to the "VEB" and integrated into the "VEB Musima" in 1985. Nevertheless, the two sons continued the family tradition and learned the profession of a bowmaker. While Heinz Pfretzschner continues to work in the meanwhile nationalized company, the younger brother Hermann Richard decides to leave the GDR before the reunification and becomes at home in Bavaria.

Today the masterly Pfretzschner bows are produced by Heinz Pfretzschner and his son René Heinz under the name H. Pfretzschner Markneukirchen.

Under the name H.R. Pfretzschner you can find the page with the same name on the Internet.

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