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Like fathers, like sons

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the death of Emile Auguste Ouchard, as well as the 40th of his son Bernard – both regarded as among the 20th century’s finest bow makers. Thomas Martin, Andrew McGill, Martin Lawrence and George Martin examine the legacy of the Ouchard dynasty, particularly focusing on their double bass bows

The Ouchard family of Mirecourt can accurately be described as a dynasty. This great family helped shape almost a century of French bow making and spread its influence far across the globe. Through its main characters, Emile Francois, Emile Auguste, Bernard and Jean Claude, we can trace the development of the Ouchard bow making style, from its humble origins in bows produced within a larger firm, to a distinctive model setting an example for generations of bow makers to come. In this article we take a particular look at the double bass bows of the Ouchard family, an often overlooked but intriguing part of the Ouchards’ rich history.

At the end of the 19th century, the Ouchards were known only within their native Mirecourt as a family of lace makers and lathe workers, although being in such a centre of musical instrument production they would have doubtless been acquainted with the numerous luthiers and bow makers operating in the town. It was in this trade that Emile Francois Ouchard was apprenticed at the age of 13, working with local bow making firm Cuniot-Hury under the guidance of Eug筥 Cuniot. Emile Francois had been born to single mother Adele Marguerite Ouchard on 30 April 1872, and it was perhaps this lack of a father that prompted Adele to seek employment for her son in the bow making business rather than encouraging him to follow her into the traditionally feminine career of lace making. It was here that the young Emile Francois flourished, soon mastering his technique and producing a large number of bows under the Cuniot-Hury name.

Emile Franpois stayed at Cuniot-Hury for 24 years, and was by all accounts firmly settled in his life. He married Josephine Collin on 9 January 1896, and over the next decade the couple had one son, Emile Auguste, and six daughters, Marguerite-Eugenie, Jeanne Juliette, Madeleine Maria Augustine, Louise Josephine, and Marie-Therese. Josephine Collin may well have been a relative of Mirecourt violin maker Claude Nicolas Collin, as it was not unusual for violin making families to unite through marriage. Marguerite-Eugenie, for instance, was married to bow maker Franpois Lotte, and Marie-Therese wed bow maker Paul Morizot. Work at Cuniot-Hury was good; although bows were produced under the company brand, individual bow makers were allowed a degree of independence in their work and Emile Franpois might well have stayed an employee of the firm for all its benefits, had it not been for the death of Eugene Cuniot in 1910, whose sole child was only eight years old at the time. The business passed to Cuniot’s widow, Franpoise Hury, and as one of their most talented employees Emile Franpois was invited to help in running it, allowing him to enjoy an even greater artistic and, crucially, economic freedom than he had previously experienced.

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About The Strad

We examine the 1677 ‘Romanov’ Nicolò Amati viola and the Royal Danish Orchestra’s instrument collection. Manfred Honeck explains how playing viola informs his conducting and Linus Roth discusses Weinberg. Plus the first in a two-part Berg Masterclass, with Leila Josefowicz.