Giovanni and Francesco Grancino, cc. 1670-1685

Bought in a severely distressed condition from a perpetual traveller during November 1995, this exceedingly rare instrument was quite an astonishing find.

Just about falling to pieces when one lifted it up by hand to examine it, and still in its original three string form with thick gut strings wrapped around its wooden barrels, we estimate that this instrument must have been lying around neglected and unplayed for between 60 to 100 years, quite possibly more.

Even though it was cocooned in an excessively heavy, wooden, "coffin-type" travel case, that had in all probability been made for the instrument, there were open cracks that had never before seen glue, heavily corroded screws and nails aplenty that held the table and back down to the ribs and blocks, worm damage to the back, white emulsion paint damage to the treble-side lower table and centre rib and a thick red paint job to the heavily mutilated scroll and peg box.

Was this pile of bits salvageable at all I questioned myself as I began writing out a fairly substantial cheque, for what amounted to little more than a couple of boxes of kindling wood. If it were at all feasible, it would definitely be a long term project a colossal challenge, a gamble with odds so poor that even the most intrepid of bookmakers would have rebuffed the proposition. Not only would a reconstruction project – "A total rebuild." – of such immense proportions involve many, many long hours of dedicated restoration work, but in-depth thought, analysis and careful consideration with regard the optimum approach would all be necessary throughout proceedings.

Commencing in mid June 1999 the project finally got underway. Over 800 hours of almost undivided attention were committed to this one instrument over the next nine and a half months by Martyn Bailey - one of the finest and most professional of the worlds very few dedicated double bass restorers - and a total expenditure of 24K(1) - a UK, if not a world record price for a bass restoration - has been lavished on this one project. Every repair technique known plus many more have been utilised to return this long lost treasure back to its former glory albeit in the guise of a four stringed instrument suitable only for the most discerning of players.

The most pleasing aspect about a good restorers work is that it is difficult to see exactly what has been done. It is only after a project has been completed, when the instrument concerned is viewed and commented upon will a restorer learn (2) - if he has accomplished his job with finesse. "What have you done to it" or "Gosh - but it looks to be in absolutely fabulous condition" are the highest accolades that can be awarded. This most certainly is the case with this instrument and our warmest congratulations are offered to Martyn. In addition we thank Peter Barnaby of Louth in Lincolnshire for accepting our commission to design, make and finish by hand a unique set of cogs for this very special instrument. Inspired by two Classical 17th century "Gull-wing" designs, each cog and worm is a work of art in its own right. Collectively they complement the instrument perfectly.

So what did we believe the instrument to be? The external features of this instrument were to point strongly to the makers Giovanni and Francesco Grancino of Milan and suggest that this was an instrument of well over 300 years in age. Yes, more than three centuries old. Confirmation was to be provided when the table was removed revealing all the original methods of construction. Of most significant value was the fact that both the top and bottom blocks, the four corner blocks, the linings, centre brace and bass bar were all completely original. Few Classical instruments are able to boast retention of all of their original features yet here was a rare opportunity, a fantastic chance to closely inspect, document and question at first hand, the internal fundamentals of an exceedingly rare Brothers Grancino double bass prior to its restoration. In this respect Director Anthony Houska of "The Contrabass Shoppe" is currently writing a thesis that examines both the external and internal features of the instrument. This will be combined with an extensive documentation of the many exciting and innovative techniques utilised throughout the restoration by Martyn Bailey. We are greatly indebted to him for divulging these "Techniques of the trade" for this purpose and thank him once again for his patience during Anthony's quest.

So what if it looks great. What about the sound? Well for an instrument that has just undergone the equivalent of a heart bypass operation and brain surgery at the same time, the sound is surprisingly mature and rounded yet with a wonderful touch of clarity and brightness. There is also the added benefit of an absolute evenness over the entire tonal range and an instant response to bow movements that produces really excellent articulation. To both the undoubted visual and tonal excellence Martyn modestly comments, "We (3) have the technology".

The Contrabass Shoppe welcomes all persons wishing to play and envelop themselves in the "Grancino Experience". This is an opportunity that every serious bassist should not miss for it is indeed the most rare and exquisite of all our instruments. Please contact us for an appointment.






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Body: 43.5 inches / 110.8 cm.

Fingerboard: 40 inches / 101.6 cm.



Si ringrazia The Contrabass Shoppe e Mr. Toni Houska per la gentile concessione.