Rare French bow exhibition visits Sydney

14 March 2012

One of the world's foremost bow makers, Pierre Guillaume from Brussels, will deliver the exhibition's keynote address.
One of the world's foremost bow makers, Pierre Guillaume from Brussels, will deliver the exhibition's keynote address.

Eighty of the finest French violin, viola and cello bows - some worth a quarter of a million dollars and more - will be on show in Sydney later this week when the Sydney Conservatorium of Music hosts an exhibition and conference dedicated to the bow.

The event is presented by the Conservatorium and Lespets-Camden Fine Violins.

Lilly Camden, a partner with Lespets-Camden Fine Violins, commented: "We hear a lot about important instruments by makers such as Stradivari or Guarneri. However the role of the bow seems somewhat more mysterious and certainly less celebrated."

Violinist Goetz Richter, an Associate Professor at the Conservatorium and the conference convener, added:

"Performers are always looking for the perfect bow, just as we are looking for the perfect instrument. Our knowledge, however, is still very incomplete. Many musicians, students and professionals are not really clear about the role, history and importance of the bow.

"This event, which combines artistic creativity with presentation of research, is a great way to bring art and knowledge together in a common purpose."

The collection, the largest ever assembled in Australia, is being brought to Sydney by one of the world's foremost bow makers, Pierre Guillaume. Brussels-based Guillaume will also deliver a keynote address.

The exhibition will include masterpieces by bow makers such as Peccatte, Voirin, Sartory, Lamy and Tourte, with examples of bows from the golden period of French bow making, from the early- to mid-1800s.

"Bow construction changed significantly in the late 18th century," said Associate Professor Richter. "The earlier straight- and convex-shaped bows made way for a more concave model, responding to the aesthetic demands of the time - including the need for stronger projection and more sustained sound production.

"This development in bow construction created its most remarkable examples from the beginning of the 19th century - following the great maker Tourte."

The bows are typically made from Brazilian Pernambuco wood and the hair is usually standard stallion horse hair. Many feature silver, gold and mother of pearl inlays.

One of the bows featured in the exhibition is a gold and tortoiseshell mounted bow made by Eugene Sartory in 1929 and commissioned by Queen Elizabeth of Belgium. It belonged to the famous violinist Eugène Ysaÿe.

Lilly Camden commented: "This collaboration with the Sydney Conservatorium of Music is a wonderful opportunity to welcome one of the great bow experts to Australia and to see - and hear - firsthand such timeless masterpieces that are so important to musical performance."

The exhibition and conference will take place in the afternoons of Friday 16 March and Saturday 17 March at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music in Macquarie Street. Further details are available on the conference website.

Admission to the exhibition and registration for the conference are free, however registration is requested through the online registration form or by contacting Goetz Richter.

Follow University of Sydney Media on Twitter

Interview contacts: Goetz Richter, 02 9351 1293, 0478 032 561, or Lilly Camden, 0400 688 308,

Media enquiries: Kath Kenny, 0478 303 173, 02 9351 1584,