George Craske (1795-1888), considered the most prolific violin maker in history, is attributed with making an estimated 2,600 instruments over his long career without assistance.
He apprenticed as a young man with William Forster III in London, then made violins for Thomas Dodd's workshop and Muzio Clementi's company, before deciding to leave London to pursue his own business, zigzagging his way across England to work in a numerous locations.
After brief stays in Leeds and Sheffield, Craske traveled south to Bath, where, through the acquaintance of Sir Patrick Blake, he came into contact with violins by Stradivari and Amati, and made copies of them. Sometime before 1830, Craske relocated to Birmingham, where he would remain for over 20 years, and where he is believed to have repaired the Guarneri del Gesù "il Cannone" violin, owned by Niccolò Paganini, who was performing on tour through Great Britain in 1831.
Craske moved further north to Manchester sometime around 1850, finally settling just outside the city in Stockport, where he worked as a reclusive and astonishingly productive maker for the remainder of his career. He produced some truly astonishing copies of the great masters. Joseph Pierce wrote in 1866 how he “has made many violins in imitation of the Cremona makers, some of which have been sold by unscrupulous dealers as genuine instruments”. And Simon Andrew Foster remarked that “We think nothing of him: he has copied Joseph Guarnerius so that people can’t tell the difference and get taken in”.
A visitor to Craske's small cottage reports seeing countless violins stacked inside, some stored within several topless double basses. Craske was eventually discovered by an instrument dealer, George Crompton of Manchester, who recognized Craske's talent and became a trusted friend and business associate. Crompton commissioned instruments from Craske to be sold by his son, Edward Crompton in Manchester, and purchased numerous violins left unlabeled by Craske to sell to Hill & Sons in London.
Of Craskes 2,600 instruments only around 300 were violas, of which this is a classic example. Beautifully made with excellent subtle antiquing and in excellent condition for its age.
It has a warm, rich tone with plenty of focus, power and complexity. It certianly doesn't lack in character and would make an ideal compagnion to all levels of player from advancing student to acomplished professional.
George Craske, England circa 1860