Wolfgang Schnabl was born in Bubenreuth on the 20th November 1963 in his family home, which also housed his father’s violin making workshop. His father began violin making after the war and by Wolfgang’s birth was already one of the most outstanding violin making masters in Bubenreuth, the Franconian heart of violin making. Wolfgang’s mother, Irmgard, also worked in the violin making business, thereby virtually laying the interest in violin making in Wolfgang’s cradle. At 6, Wolfgang began violin lessons with various tutors, and soon after began working with wood and tools, in particular the fretsaw. As a boy he developed a deep appreciation of the use of wood and tools, and was lured by the smell in the air of violin making through spending many hours in his father’s workshop.
The art form of instrument making fascinated Wolfgang from an early age, matching his own innate desire for perfection. Stradivari and Montagnana were the most significant models to interest Wolfgang. In the case of Stradivari instruments it was the exceptional craftsmanship as an artform, in the case of Montagnana instruments he was fascinated by the sound itself, the appearance of the instruments, and the fine craftsmanship. Eventually this fascination of violin making led him in his father’s footsteps, although he had originally begun an apprenticeship at Siemens. When his father, Reinhold Schnabl, won the 3rd prize for one of his violins in 1982 at a violin making competition in Cremona, 19 year old Wolfgang accompanied his father on the trip to Italy and was most impressed.
“There I was, in the heart of violin making, and I realized that with my father’s success and the workshop and wood at home, I simply must continue this tradition,” tells Wolfgang. Still during his apprenticeship at Siemens Wolfgang applied to the prestigious violin making school in Mittenwald and was accepted almost immediately. “For the entrance examination I had to play violin, undertake simple craft tests, for example with the fretsaw, and drawings of a violin scroll. Luckily I had already learned these things from my father”, says Wolfgang, “so it was not a problem”.
From September 1984 to February 1988 he studied at the national violin making school in Mittenwald, alongside makers such as Roland Sandner, Franz Reindl and Andreas Fuerst. Also in his semester were Jan Spidlen and Gertrud Reuter.
In the years 1989/90 he worked in the workshop of Premysl O.Spidlen in Prague, which was an important milestone in his professional development. In 1991 he traveled to Joseph Kun in Ottawa, Canada, where he learned many useful techniques.
Quite early in Wolfgang’s career he distinguished himself in cello construction in particular. He entered his very first handmade cello at an international competition in Paris in 1991, and was awarded 5th place. In 1996 he obtained his master’s degree, and since 1998 has owned and run his own workshop in Bubenreuth.