Since 1988 I have been working intensively with stringed instruments and, in particular, with the greatest of all violin makers: Antonio Stradivari.
Even since childhood, I have been fascinated by the violin, later by the viola, and it has been my good fortune to be born into a musical family. When making music with my siblings and my father, Karl Thöne (composer and student of virtuoso violinist Tibor Varga in Detmold, Germany), the string quartet played a very special role for me.
Thirty years ago, after my viola studies, I went into business for myself; together with my then-business partner, piano expert Ludger de Graaff, I began trading in stringed instruments and pianos. The business in Elten, Germany, near the Dutch border, quickly progressed, with stages in my hometown of Bocholt and then, in 1993, at Velen Castle near Münster, where my focus was solely on stringed instruments. My clients back then already included string players of the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic and many other orchestras, and increasingly—due to the increasing quality of the instruments I was offering—also famous soloists. In 1998 my first publication, Jean Baptiste Vuillaume, was introduced at an exhibition at the Musée de la Cité in Paris, on the occasion of the violin maker’s 200th birthday. Encouraged by the approval of the two Parisian violin experts Etienne Vatelot (1925-2013) and Bernard Millant (1929-2017), I undertook to publish additional works in large format in the years following.
In 2002, I was drawn to the south—to Italy, where I became acquainted with not only the language, but also the most important contemporary violin makers. This new era of construction particularly fascinated me, in addition to that of the old Italians: I was now able to discover and learn to appreciate the power of sculpture in the violin, in the work of some few contemporary instrument makers. These contacts have accompanied me ever since, constantly enriching my knowledge of violin making through the years. This is where, in the seclusion of the Marches along the Adriatic, the large-format reference work Italian & French Violin Makers was created, published in five languages.
Three years later I returned to Germany, bringing with me the many personal friendships I was privileged to gain in Italy. In the Old Town district of Cologne, I first found a new home in Lintgasse, then later near the Frankenturm, in the immediate vicinity of the Cologne Philharmonic on the Rhine River.
The exhibition at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum in Cologne entitled “The Stradivari Myth”, which I had spent two years painstakingly preparing, was cancelled by the Mayor of the City of Cologne for financial reasons, shortly before it opened. The City of Cologne thus missed an extraordinary highlight: with over 50 instruments, it would have been the largest exhibition of Stradivari's instruments that had ever taken place.
At the same time, I was following my passion, creating the project Antonio Stradivari: a 50 kg publication. With initially 145 instruments in their original size, Jost Thoene Verlag published the first four volumes in 2010. The remaining volumes V-VIII then appeared in 2016, a renewed effort accomplished by my ten-person team at the publishing house’s new location at Lake Titisee in the Black Forest. The history of the work, documented in the form of a trailer, grants deep insight into my publishing work.
Today, my focus is on trading in the instruments of the great master.
My many close contacts to the owners of these instruments, carefully maintained over the years, allow me to offer interested investors the most beautiful ones. It has been a particular joy for me to be able to write a deluxe monograph on each exhibit, specially honouring the respective instrument.
None of this would have been possible for me without the support of my family. The strength and positive energy that my wife and my six children give me every day are what keep me going.
I wish to thank all those who have accompanied me on this journey, in both a personal and business capacity, and express my deep appreciation for their wonderful friendship and assistance in the last 30 years. I look forward to continuing our creative and successful cooperation!