The town of Mittenwald in valley of the River Isar in the Zugspitze region of Upper Bavaria, 16 km south-east of Garmisch-Partenkirchen, lies on the road from Augsburg to Innsbruck and the Brenner Pass, one of the most important trading routes between Germany and Italy. From the late seventeenth century it became one of the principal centres in Europe for the manufacture of stringed instruments – violas and cellos as well as violins. The territory belonged to the Prince-Bishops of Freising from the late fourteenth century until 1802-03 when it became part of Bavaria. Leopold Mozart (1719-87), father of the composer, declared that Mittenwald violins were to be found in every city in Europe. The nearby Karwendel Mountains were a source of the various kinds of wood used in making stringed instruments. Mature spruce and maple, grown at high altitudes on northern slopes, cut during the cold months of the year when trees were dormant, and subsequently dried slowly, were ideal materials.
Mathias Kloz (1663-1743), son of a tailor in the town, learned something of the trade in Italy, and in the 1680s became the first to make violins in the town. He taught the trade to his sons Georg Kloz (1687-1731) and Sebastian Kloz (1696-1775), and to other pupils. In the eighteenth century The firm of J Baader & Co, originally a sales agency, became the most important manufacturer. Its violins are inscribed ‘Gegründet 1790’ (founded 1790). The company operated on an industrial scale in the nineteenth century from premises at 155 Obere Markstrasse. It sold violins at low prices and exported instruments on a large scale. The industry declined in the 1920s and 30s, but was revived after the Second World War.
The museum of violin-making was established in 1930 and since 1960 has occupied one of the oldest and most attractive buildings in Mittenwald. It displays a comprehensive collection of Mittenwald violins, including 12 examples from the Kloz period. There are reconstructions of workshops, where wood for stringed instruments was cut and bent, and displays of film and photographic evidence of the trade, together with recordings of some of instruments. The museum has a database of Mittenwald violin-makers based on well-preserved registers of baptisms, marriages and burials.