Auprès de ma blonde, or The Makarov Guitar

Published by Legacy of Matanya Ophee on

by Johann Gottfried Scherzer

This is the third guitar by Johann Gotffried Scherzer that I was able to acquire. As you can see, the year of construction is not marked on the label. This is unusual, since my other two Scherzers have the year clearly marked and as far as I know, all other Scherzers, in museums and in private hands, are so marked. The lack of this marking leads me to think that this is in fact the very guitar that was made by Scherzer in 1856 for the Brussels Competition organized by Nikolai Petrovich Makarov, where it won the first prize. Far fetched? probably. But it seems to me that according to the Makarov memoirs, the entire affair of submitting this guitar to the competition was done in a great hurry, and the maker simply forgot to write the year.

There are other clues. The fate of Makarov’s collection of manuscripts and guitars is fairly accurately described in various entries in the Yablokov Dictionary. Around 1930, it was in the possession of one amateur guitarist named Andrei Mikhailovich Vozdvizhensky, a train engineer in his day job, on the Moscow–Novosibirsk line. In 1930, after returning from Moscow, he was arrested in Novosibirsk and eventually banished to the gulag from which he never returned.

As Makarov tells us, the guitar originally had a double neck, with six string over the regular finger board and 4 free floating (theorboed) basses. As you can see on the front view here, the triangle where the neck slides into the body is much too wide for a single neck. See for example this copy of my other Scherzer guitar, made by Garry Southwell.

According to information provided by Yablokov, the original neck was discarded and the guitar was fitted with  a neck for a seven-string guitar, but later converted to a six-string configuration. This is affirmed by the presence of seven tuning keys and by visible evidence that originally there were seven peg holes on the bridge, that were plugged up and the bridge re-drilled for six strings. (replacing the seven-slot nut with a six-slot one did not require any major surgery.

Scale is 650, which is longer than my other Scherzers (640) and the spacing between the strings is normal for standard modern guitars. This would indicate to me that the conversion from 7 to 6 was done sometimes in the 1920-30, perhaps under the influence of Segovia’s visits to the SU.

As far as I know, no other Scherzer guitar exhibits these same characteristics as described by Yablokov. All of which supports my hunch that what I have in my hands is the very guitar made by Scherzer for Makarov and on which Johann Kaspar Mertz may have played himself before it went out of Vienna.

Forgot to mention: it is an incredible sounding instrument. No amount of verbiage would do justice to this magical sound. You’ll just have to play it yourself to realize what it was Makarov was talking about.

Last Modified: 02/22/2008 08:13:59 PM


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