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Exhibition in the Museum of Music History of bows made by Hungarian masters and bows made in Hungary

’ – 30 Hungarian bows’ permanent exhibition at the Museum of Music History was opened on the 15th of April, 2016

1014 Budapest, Táncsics Mihály utca 7., Open from Tuesdays to Sundays from 10AM to 4PM

This is how it began

I came up with the idea of an exhibition on bowmaking in 2004. This is when I participated in a bowmaking competition with my apprentices and they made some really nice bows for this event. I decided to keep these bows as the base of a future collection of Hungarian bows.

Also, I started collecting unfinished (at various stages) sticks, frogs and other materials which could be used for presenting the process of bowmaking later on.

As years passed materials were added to the collection which grew richer by various bows – one by Géza Sáli, two others by Gábor Fodor and Tibor Kovács.

My intentions for an exhibition grew stronger but there were always some more urgent, important tasks around my family or in the workshop.


The idea takes shape

It was in 2013 when I learnt it from Lajos Földesi that he had donated the equipment of the late Pilát/Sáránszky workshop to the Museum of Music History and the workshop would be reconstructed in the museum. I felt this could be the ideal place for the bowmaking exhibition as well, so I contacted Anna Baranyi, Director of the Museum, who confirmed her support.

As a result of ongoing work commitments in 2014 and the first half of 2015 it wasn’t until the summer of 2015 when with my colleagues at the Society of Hungarian Violin Makers we decided to undertake such an adventure.

The work started at the beginning of July, 2015. Bows and information were gathered. While searching for Mihály Bodák on the Internet I came across the first Szepessy bow. Later on Helge Netland, Swedish bowmaker in Switzerland gave me the contact details of Attila Szitha, bowmaker living in Milan. Harm Bakker let me know about László Tucsni, who constructs bows in the Netherlands. I managed to get in touch with Paul Sadka again. I spent hours on the phone with János Markus-Barbarossa learning a lot especially about the Braun and the Elek bowmaking families. I telephoned Zoltán Kodaj and Hans Rombach living in Vienna and Péter Benedek in Munich with my questions. With the help of Marci Thököly-Faragó we contacted the Reményi family in Canada if they would be kind enough to provide us with some data as well as bows. At the end of August Andris Nagy found a Sadka bow, Feri Kőrösi donated a Bergmann cello bow to us and with his mediation a Sáránszky bow was sent by a kind donator.

The sourcebook

On a nice September evening in a friendly pub in Pest Balázs Gollob and Tamás Guminár mentioned Dr András Tímár and his book ’The History of Hungarian Violin Making’. I purchased the book the following day and two days later I was talking to the author. Mr Tímár generously gave permission to cite from his work. This sourcebook was the base of our research.

Hunting and collecting

The hunting season started in September. I had this naive idea that no comtamporary bowmaker could resist my attractive request to donate a bow for free to the collection instead of selling it to buy bread for his children. I was not dissapointed, almost everybody I contacted with my absurd request said yes. And later they kept their promise. Thanks for everybody!

Not only did we hunt for bows but for datas, photos as well. There have been a few developments in the history of Hungarian bow making in the last thirty years since Dr Tímár’s book was first published. We could add almost two dozens of biographies to the database and we learnt some new information about some old makers.


A job which can’t be done by one in a year can be accomplished by a team in a couple of days. Those who had the chance to be involved in a big project with ten or twenty people know this great feeling. To be successful there need to be one or two people who can clearly see the goals and can motivate others.

I experienced plenty of good intentions and helpfulness during our project. The task seemed to be a lot bigger than expected, but help came always at the right time. I got to know many nice people and got in touch again with many old friends. I had conversations with a lot of ’informants’, I made interviews for the biographies, I was investigating, searching for information whether someone might reveal an unknown or forgotten master.

I visited Péter Benedek, a cheerful Hungarian violin making master living in Munich to learn everything he knows about old Hungarian bowmaking and also with the hope to receive a few bows from him. I met a kind German colleague, Klaus Grünke twice to find out which bows had been made in Germany and in Hungary. I took great pleasure in all visits.

We are on the web

Information was coming together, it was time to share it with the public . We made three facebook profiles in three languages, Hungarian, German and English. Now we had to compose the texts, well, clearly, interestingly enough and without any professional mistakes. I was never the man of words, I was taught three languages at school, I learnt only one there. Now I had to write texts in three languages for the whole world.

Initially, the Hungarian texts were proofread by my wife with less and less ambition, but fortunately help came in the right moment again and Andris Nagy took over this job. German texts were corrected from the beginnings by my kind sister, Eva Esser, often smiling at her brother’s clumsy style. English texts were proofread by Diane Messias, British comedian until the middle of October, but due to her other commitments she couldn’t take more. I suspended writing English texts then.

By that time I worked full-time on the exhibition, only Tamás Sziráki worked in our workshop. Tamás was also a great help in the project, he took the photo series of ’bows so far’.

Things omitted

Although plenty of information was compiled about the process of bowmaking, the ambitious and enjoyable presentation of it would have taken more effort than the creation of the bow exhibition. We reached our limits with the bows part, so finally we omitted this section.

My wife was grumbling more and more

By the end of November most of the bows had arrived, so in December we took the bows to Gábor Horváth who took fascinating photos of them. I was constantly on the phone, writing e-mails and creating texts. My wife is sensible and quick to notice if things are heading the wrong way. And she felt that I didn’t spend any time with her or the children but only with And I was just going on day and night. By Christmas I was totally burnt out. And when I was complaining to her that I put so much energy into this project with hardly any results she was the one to cheer me up. She said when people put so much love and energy into something it must work out well.

So for a month I had a break from the project, I was a decent father and husband again. In addition to that I made bows again! My soul can take rest like that.

The finish line

At the end of 2016 we were heading towards the finish line with some fresh energy. I was composing the raw ’Teutonic-Hungarian’ texts, I drove András Nagy crazy, yet he held on, corrected and proofread them.The proofread text was forwarded to our newest team member, Noémi Kósa for English translation. I wrote the German translations based on Andris’s texts. The texts were ready, Gábor Horváth accomplished the final finishing of the photos, now we only had to upload this big amount of texts and photos to our website. So far we had sent everything piece by piece to our webdesigner, Mr X and he uploaded them. Now articles on thirty bows, some seventy biographies, nearly three hundred new photos labelled in three languages had to be uploaded - we could not expect it from a friend who might have not even touched a bow in his life to do everything voluntarily. So I took this job which meant not only a lot of engagement but an interesting task to an IT-ignorant head of team. Just like with so many other things Tamás Sziráki proved to be a great help. In the meantime I kept in touch with Anna Baranyi, Director of the Museum of Music History and Péter Gerő, who created the showcases. The finish was approaching fast and I’m struggling with a last major topic: what’s the deal and what did we learn?


We managed to compile the biographies of 72 masters which can be found under ’Biographies’ section on our site. Photo documentation of a master’s life and work is published here as well. Portraits of masters can be found under ’News’ section. We have seen the works of 48 workshops, we present the photos of bows by 37 masters and 30 bows are on display and can be seen at the exhibition in the Museum of Music History. These 30 bows are presented in details in high resolution photos under ’Bows’ section.

Why is such an exhibition and database useful at all?

A couple of obsessed ’professional idiots’ like me follow the developments of our project with great interest. (I’m sure their number is a one digit number.) However, if even violin making colleagues start yawning at the great amount of photos and texts then what would it say to the non-professionals? I believe that our bow exhibition is a special part of the musical instrument collection of the museum. And of course a professional database like ours can be very useful. Most musicians have an intimate relationship with their instruments, their bows and it is a pleasure for them to learn as much as possible about them, to know by whom and when they were made.

Recently I had a phone conversation with Bence Holló, who mentioned that he had just seen a bow stamped Császár in his workshop and he didn’t have a clue who Császár was. It immediately rang the bell: 1910-? László Császár is on our website under the biographies section but without any photos. I jumped on the opportunity at once and asked Bence to borrow the bow from its owner to take photos and publish them on our site. That night while sipping a glass of wine I had the idea to search for CSÁSZÁR BOW on Google. The fourth hit lead to our site to his biography. It was worthwile to do this job - musicians using Hungarian bows would be delighted to learn more about them with the help of our database.

The opening ceremony

The big day arrived on the 15th of April. Starting with a conference in friendly atmosphere I introduced the bow collection and the outlines of Hungarian bowmaking. Some of the bows were demonstrated in details using a projector, helping the audiance to see them through the eyes of a bowmaker. At the end of the conference visitors could hold and inspect the bows, then the collection was placed into showcases.

After the conference Anna Baranyi, Director of the Museum, Szabolcs Bárdi, President of the Society of Hungarian Violin Makers and myself opened the exhibition. At the end of the ceremony to my greatest surprise I was awarded with the title ’Master with golden wreath’ by Tibor Semmelweis, representing the profession and as the president of the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Department of Craftsmanship. This is an incredible honour and makes me feel very proud. Many thanks for the award!

After the opening ceremony we held a reception with a modest but high standard buffet including Viktória Emese Gál’s salty rolls, sausages of Mangalica from Káptalantóti and other delicacies.My white riesling wine especially bottled for this occasion together with our ’pálinka’ made with Feri Kőrösi were also successful. The reception became a cheerful party later on, colleagues of the museum, bow and violin makers, visitors and the team had a long chat into the night about the museum, music, instrument making and other important aspects of life.


There are lots of people who made this exhibition possible, and I am very grateful to each one of them even though some might not be mentioned by name

No exhibition without bows

Péter Benedek, József Horváth, Károly Gáspár, Balázs Gollob, Lajos Kónya, Ferenc Kőrösi, János Lakatos, László Lakatos, János Martin, János Mezei, Sándor Radics, Pál Rácz and László Várady-Szabó – by bow donations they hugely enriched the exhibition. Thank you very much.

I would like to thank Dr András Tímár for the concise database and Klaus Grünke for his professional support.

From the Museum of Music History Anna Baranyi, Director and Péter Gerő, restorer contributed the most for this exhibition.Thank you.

Thanks to György Ács and his son Bálint Ács for making the short film about the VEGA BACH BOW.

I would like to thank the team of

Eva Esser (my sister and German proofreader), Gábor Horváth (our brilliant photographer), Noémi Kósa (English translator), Ferenc Kőrösi (an all-round support and friend, also our chief caterer), Judit Marczika (my patient wife and spiritual support and Hungarian proofreader in the beginning), Diane Messias (English proofreader in the beginning), András Nagy (Hungarian proofreader and my biggest adviser in design with infallible taste), Tamás Sziráki (my general help and support) and our brilliant web and graphic designer, Mister X.

Others contributing to the exhibition

Szabolcs Bárdi, Zsófia Borz, Péter Daróczi, Joachim Sinus Dennemann, Harm Bakker, Bence Holló, Tamás Ferencz, Gábor Fodor, Tamás Guminár, Antal Horváth, Péter Iványi, Tibor Juhos, Zoltán Kodaj, Tibor Kovács, János Markus Barbarossa, György Mihály, Géza Molnár, László Német, Helge Netland, Lajos Oláh, Károly Péteri, Nikola Popara, Hans Rombach, Paul Sadka, Géza Sáli, Attila Szitha, Péter Szűcs, Mária Tassy, Márton Thököly Faragó, László Tucsni, Viktória Emese Gáll and János Zsoldos. Thank you!

Kindest regards,

Bernd Etzler, Exhibition Curator

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cikk | by Dr. Radut