German Mandolin Makers

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German mandolin building: An introduction.

   Central Europe is exposed to the westerlies of the North Atlantic Drift, which means that Germany is in the path of winds that blow over the Atlantic ocean and bring relatively warm and humid air masses onto the continent. As a consequence, maritime climate influences prevail. This means that extremes in rainfall and temperatures are rare. It is more typically exposed to more moderate conditions. Precipitation is evenly distributed over the year, with an average rainfall of about 500 - 700 mm per year in the Northern Lowlands. In the Central Uplands they may get as much as 1000 - 1500 mm in the higher lying areas, and in the Alps they can reach more than 2000 mm. As a general observation it can be said that precipitation diminishes west to east, where the climate becomes gradually more continental.

   Mean temperatures in January are generally below zero in the eastern parts of the Northern Lowlands, whereas in the western parts they stay above. Due to higher altitudes in the south, Bavaria and the alpine region have the lowest mean temperatures during the winter, but even there they will not fall much below -5 degrees Celsius.  Extreme drops are seldom but may occur. The historical importance of the forests can be seen from the frequent use of the suffix -"wald" (means forest) in place-names, e.g. Schwarzwald (black forest), Bayerischer Wald (Bavarian forest), Thüringer Wald (Thuringian forest) and many others. This 'even' temperature,  facilitates the slow growth of straight, close-grained, pines, and hence the location of the instrument-making industry.

Germany   Saxony

      A surprising fact is that Germany, despite its high population density, still has 29% of its land mass covered by woods and forestsIt is probably for these climatic and geographical reasons, that during the last century, the European country most famous for producing mandolins after Italy, was Germany. During the period of the existence of E. Germany, there was practically a factory-scale production of instruments around Markneukirchen in Saxony. Sadly, due to the principles of the regime, individual luthiers, some of whom were excellent, were prohibited from putting their names in their creations. Thus there are many German mandolins still in existence, and amongst them, some of excellent quality made by master luthiers.

Famous Firms

Herwiga: Wilhelm Herwig of Markneukirchen 
According to German sources in 1890 Wilhelm Herwig founded a company, which consisted of the company Glaesel and Herwig Markneukirchen. The company was called HERWIGA. It was a pure publishing company. Herwig was a musician and merchant and used the instruments of home workers, a practice typical of Markneukirchen at the time. The trading company was taken over 1972 by MUSIMA.

Perlgold: Kustema: Kurt Stengel of Markneukirchen Musima: is a brand name of musical instruments from the former GDR. The brand name is an abbreviation of the manufacturing company, the former VEB-Musima of Markneukirchen.
Musima was founded in 1952 as a trust company with 20 employees.
Otwin: Otto Windisch founded the company in Schilback in 1886. His brother Paul Windisch took over the ffirm in 1903, opening a factory in Schoeneck. This site quickly became the main one, with a world-wide reputation. In 1973, the company was taken over by VEB Sinfonia from Markneukirchen . Framus: fopunded by Fred Wilfer and violin makers from Schonbach, in Erlangen, Bavaria, in 1946. It went bankrupt in the late 70s, after being the biggest European guitar makers in the 60s.

The Company was relaunched in 1995.

Gewa: the company was founded in 1925 by George Walther in Adorf.
Marcelli Migma: this was originally a co-operative of musical instrument makers of Markneukirchen founded in 1943. It still exists, and has connections with many of the mastercraftsmen of the region. Dofra: the firm of Franz Dotzauer, 5 generations of luthiers and still in business. Hopf: violin makers for 300 years in Klingenthal, the firm, C. Robert Hopf, was nationalized in 1972 becaming part of the combined works ‘VEB Musikinstrumentenbau Markneukirchen'. Arcus:
Goldklang: label used by the company F. & R. Enders (Friedrich and Reinhard Enders) in 1920s at Erlbacher Str. 796 (now 48), in Mark Neukirchen. Later may have been used again by other companies.
Edelklang: sold by Johannes Adler but thought to have been made by Otto Windisch. Dreima: There was in the 1930s, a company in Mark Neukirchen, called  'A. E. Dreier', hence Dreima. It was a musical instrument components factory, mading tailpiece, fretwire, etc.  Instruments were not made. These components were sold to various instrument makers, in Mark Neukirchen.
Glockenruff: Ernst Hess:

Meinel and Herold: