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Martin Biller

Growing up in a musical family, I started to play the violin at 6 years of age, which added to my motivation and love for the violin and the making of it. Violin making has been in my family since the early part of the last century, with my great grandfather, Karl Zunterer, working in this trade.
I was accepted as an apprentice at the famous "Geigenbauschule", a violin making school in Mittenwald, my hometown. My training included: the making and varnishing of stringed instruments, as well as repairing and restoring of antique instruments. On February the 17th, 1978 I graduated successfully after three and a half years of schooling.
Following my graduation, at the age of 18, I moved to Cologne (Germany), to work as a journeyman for Wolfgang Bünnagel. His extensive knowledge of repair techniques as well as introducing me to the working world was of great value to my growth as a journeyman.
In October 1982, the opportunity arose for me to work for Michael Becker, in Park Ridge, IL (USA). During the next three years of working with Michael Becker, I acquired greater expertise in repairing and restoring antique instruments.
On October 1985, the renowned 3rd generation establishment of violinmakers & dealers, Fritz Reuter & Sons, engaged me to do repair and restoration work, as well as make new instruments.
In January 2000 I opened my own business.  Making new instruments and repairing and restoring old, antique violas d'amore.  I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pursue my childhood aspiration and follow in the footsteps of my great grandfather.

Viola d'amore interests

Ever since I went to the Violinmaking School I have been fascinated with the beautifully ornamented and fantastically shaped instruments on display there.  One instrument in particular that has captured my imagination was a stripped (back and sides) viola d'amore with an inverted lower bought and a ‘flaming sword’ f-hole.  I asked for permission to make an instrument like that.  Which was granted and so, I made my first viola d’amore while still at the violin making school.
One part of the viola d’amore that is quite different is the scroll.  Because of the many strings ether 6 melody and 6 sympathetic or 7 melody and 7 sympathetic, the peg box has to be much longer than on the violin.  One aspect that I love is the great variety of Heads.  Very few have a violin shaped scroll.  So, you can let the imagination run free.  There are no limits and restrictions, in contrast to the violin based instruments! 


Viola d’amore models used for new construction
- “1783 Tomaso Eberle” copie
- “Jean Baptiste Deshayes Salomon”  (Paris, ca 1740)  modeled after…
- “Renaissance” model used at the violinmaking school in Mittenwald.



1. Elena Kraineva
Where from: Bloomington, Indiana, USA
Credentials: I am a Doctoral Candidate in Viola Performance at IU Jacobs School of Music.
Member of Atlanta Baroque Orchestra. Perform with New Trinity Baroque (Atlanta),
Indianapolis Baroque orchestra and give solo recitals.
Originally I am from Russia. Studied with Atar Arad, Stanley Ritchie and Michael Kimber.
Comment about my Violas d'amore: This is a  beautifully crafted instrument with a bright and sweet upper register and a mysterious low tone. It is built and set up the way that is very comfortable for playing on the low strings and provides the performers with the technical freedom.
I love this instrument. Since it is a newly built viola d'amore, it keeps surprising me in the most pleasant ways.

2. Mary Utiger
Where from: Munich, Germany
Credentials: Professor for Baroque Violin and Viola
Comment about my Violas d'amore:  Martin Biller's Viola d'amore has a wonderfull, warm and even tone. I have purchased two of them for the Musikhochschule in Munich. I have never seen a better value at such a fair price! I highly recommend his instruments. 

3. Patrick Jordan
Where from: Toronto, ON Canada
Credentials: Co-principal viola, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Principal viola, Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra
Principal Viola, Carmel (California) Bach Festival
Violist, Eybler Quartet
Academic Faculty, Glenn Gould Professional School, Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto
Positive comment about my Violas d'amore
:  I have owned two of Martin Biller’s violas d'amore. The first one was excellent and totally satisfying. The second was, to my surprise and delight, even better. If you can make it to Carmel in the summer of 2011, you'll hear Martin’s d'amore in the St. John Passion of J.S. Bach

4. Thomas Georgi
Where from: Toronto, Canada
Credentials: Member of the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra since 1989
Positive comments about my Violas d’amore:  Martin, I don't know of anyone else, anywhere, doing work of the quality that you are doing. Your instruments are a pleasure to make music on. 

5. Paul Miller
Where from: Currently on the faculty of the University of Colorado, Boulder.
 Originally from Poughkeepsie, New York.
Credentials: BA, Vassar College (1998), MA in viola performance, Eastman
School of Music (2006), PhD, music theory, Eastman School of Music (2009).
Winner of a 'Stipendiumpreis' on viola and viola d'amore at the 2006
Darmstadt Ferienkurse für neue Musik.
Positive comment: Beautiful construction, extremely comfortable to hold and
to play, resonant and clear tone.  The sound Projects as well in a small room as in a large cathedral.  The case out of quilted maple is a unique and beautiful accessory to this marvelous instrument.


Martin Biller
110 Spruce Ave
Waukegan, IL 60087

martin@martinbillerviolins. com


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