Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Gemünder, August

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GEMÜNDER, August, violin-maker, b. in Ingelfingen, Würtemberg, Germany, 22 March, 1814; d. in New York city, 7 Sept, 1895. His father being a violin-maker and repairer, August was brought up to the business, to which he succeeded on the death of the former. In 1839 he removed to Regensburg, and, after residing in several other cities in Germany, he emigrated to the United States in 1846. He remained in Springfield, Mass., until 1865, and then established himself in New York city. Mr. Gemünder makes a specialty of copying the old Italian masters, especially the instruments made by Antonius Stradivarius, Joseph Guarnerius, and Paoli Maggini. In 1844 he was asked by a German violinist to make a violin that should not be an imitation, as to tone or any other quality, of the Italian masters. In executing the order, he succeeded in producing an instrument that he preserved as a model. His violins have been used by some of the leading soloists. They possess a pure, even quality of tone, respond easily, and are thought to excel the Italian instruments, from which they are copied, in power. Mr. Gemünder contributed to the trade journals a series of articles, in which he discussed “Old and New Violins,” including a comparison of the tone of those instruments with the human voice; “The Cremona Secret,” a disquisition on the wood used in the manufacture of violins; “The Lost Secret and Common Sense,” with others on Italian varnish, violin construction, etc. He was at one time in partnership with his brother George. — His brother, George, violin-maker, b. in Ingelfingen, Würtemberg, Germany, 13 April, 1816, was a pupil of Baptiste Vuillaume, in Paris, and removed to the United States in 1847, establishing himself in Boston, Mass. In 1851 his violins obtained the prize-medal of the world's fair in London. In 1852 he removed to New York, where he afterward resided. Vuillaume, and other European makers of violins, were in the habit of giving a pseudo-antiquity to their wood by a chemical process, thus gaining a desirable quality of tone; but wood thus treated soon loses its resonance, and after a time the instruments become worthless. Gemünder, however, succeeded in making out of natural wood violins that met every requirement, and in respect of volume, power, equality, and quickness of tone are said to be equal to the work of the best old masters. In the model and finish of his instruments, and especially in the varnish, he was unusually successful, so faithfully reproducing the distinctive characteristics of the old Italian violins that those made by him are not infrequently mistaken for genuine Cremonas. One called the “Kaiser,” finished in 1873 and sent to the Vienna exhibition, was there pronounced an Italian violin of the classic period, it being considered impossible to produce so fine a tone from a new instrument. Mr. Gemünder has also received medals from exhibitions held in Paris (1867), New York (1870), Vienna (1873), Philadelphia (1876 “hors concours”), Amsterdam (1883), Nice (1883-'4), London (1884), New Orleans (1884-'5 “hors concours”), and London (1885). He is the author of “Progress in Violin-making” (Astoria, N. Y., 1881), to which is prefixed an autobiographical sketch.