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A Revolution in Bowmaking

August 31, 2012 | By Benoit Rolland Studio
The violin bow’s fundamental design has remained static since the end of the 18th century, when the form of the modern bow was first created by François-Xavier Tourte, in Paris. Designed to allow violinists, violists, and cellists to play with far greater ease and comfort, the new ‘Galliane’ bow (Patent Pending) represents one of the most significant changes in the history of the form of the bow. Yumi Okada, winner of the Soloist Competition of Japan, calls the new bow “ergonomic...simply revolutionary… the new bow has the ability to produce great music, and transform classical music in a progressive way.”

Developed over a long period of contemplation, and in collaboration with artists at the highest levels of classical music performance and pedagogy, the new frog angles the bow hair at 15 degrees without modifying the balance point of the bow. Conventionally, the ‘Frog’ (a piece of ebony that allows the player to hold the bow) is square to the hair ribbon, requiring the player to tilt their wrist back in order to use the full width of the bow hair. With a minimal change in the bow’s geometry that will be invisible to the audience, ‘Galliane’ makes the use of the full width immediately accessible, without requiring musicians to make any changes in their technique. This provides more evenness and traction in the stroke of the bow and makes the most difficult spiccato and staccato playing easier. Additionally, it expands the range of sensations that transfer from the instrument to the player, increasing the potential musical expressiveness of the performer and the fullness of the sound of the playing

‘Galliane’ will be offered both as an option accompanying Rolland fine bows and as an option to fit onto all existing bows, freely available to all bow makers and luthiers.

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The ‘Galliane’ frog fits into Benoit Rolland’s long tradition of creating bows both as a craftsman and as a musician in his own right. It is the latest high-point in a 41-year career spanning the creation of 1800 handmade pernambuco bows and several major technological innovations.

With perfect pitch, he learned language and music simultaneously. At sixteen, he graduated from the Conservatoire de Paris and Versailles with a focus on violin and composition. As a young violinist, he learned that a bow can influence the behavior of both the violin and the player. Joining the bowmaking school of Mirecourt in 1971, Benoît learned bowmaking from Bernard Ouchard, the last historical French master. Upon graduating from Mirecourt, Benoît returned to Paris, where he opened his own studio in 1976, on rue de Laborde. He soon became the youngest person ever nominated Meilleur Ouvrier de France in the history of the competition (Best Artisan of France). He received in 1993 the rare national title of Maitre Archetier d’Art. As International awards followed, Lord Yehudi Menuhin, Arthur Grumiaux, Slava Rostropovitch, Christian Ferras, Ivry Gitlis, Stephane Grapelli and other leading musicians became familiar sights at Rolland’s studio.

Since 2001 he has focused on understanding several parameters that give him a novel grasp on designing bows, culminating in 2008, with his “Signature” line of bows that addresses the ever increasing requirements of solo playing. Each bow now accomplishes a chosen sound and a determined playing style, drawing on Benoit’s training as a musician. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, in Boston, has honored Rolland’s bow-making as a contemporary art form combining music and sculpture. His clients range from professional orchestral musicians and worldwide soloists to collectors investing in his bows. In March 2009, Sotheby’s London auctioned four Rolland bows as part of the estate of a collector; the gold mounted violin bow made by Benoit in 1987 broke a record: for the first time on the auction market, a modern bow reached a value higher than that of one of the old masters. In 2011 and 2012 several winners of major international competitions chose to compete with Rolland bows.

Long after Josef Suk called Rolland bows “fantastic”, they captivate younger generations of star string players, including Anne-Sophie Mutter, Lynn Harrell, Miriam Fried, Malcolm Lowe, Christian Tetzlaff, Lisa Batiachvili, Julia Fischer, Arabella Steinbacher, Kim Kashkashian, and Narek Hakhnazaryan.




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