French-born British musician, instrument-maker, and pioneer in reviving the performance of early music on copies of original instruments. He was made a Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur (1938).
Born in Le Mans into a family of musicians and instrument makers, Dolmetsch soon became a sensitive craftsman. He studied music at the Brussels Conservatory (1881–83) and at the Royal College of Music, London, after which he taught the violin at Dulwich College (1885–89). From 1905 to 1911 he worked in the USA for the firm of Chickering and Sons, Boston, making harpsichords, clavichords, lutes, and viols; he was similarly employed by Étienne Gaveau (1872–1943) in Paris from 1911 to 1914. In 1917 Dolmetsch moved to Haslemere, Surrey, where friends helped him to create a centre for the performance of early music: the Haslemere Festival was first held in 1925. He was married three times, and several of his offspring continued his work, specializing in their own particular fields. His son Carl Dolmetsch (1911–97), a recorder player, later supervised the festivals. Dolmetsch recorders are used in schools in all parts of the world. An intractable man, Dolmetsch met with much prejudice and lack of understanding. However, he succeeded in bringing music of the past back into the concert room.