Demonstration of 30 Modern Violins Made in Cremona

October 18, 2017, 1:28 PM · Cremona, Italy, which gave the world the great violin maker Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737), has re-emerged in the 21st century as a bustling hub of violin-making. Last week I had the opportunity to hear 30 new Cremonese violins at Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale, California. Below is a series of five videos from that event, showing violinist Martin Beaver demonstrating each of those instruments, with links to each maker.

CremonaYou are welcome to skip down to those videos, but for those who are curious about the small city in northern Italy that has meant so much to violinists and string players, here is the little history: Cremona was the birthplace of some of the world's finest violins, carrying names such as Amati, Bergonzi, Guarneri, Ruggeri and Stradivari. But after its glory days of violin-making in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries, Cremona's violin-making industry fell into relative obscurity for a long period, going well into the 20th century.

What's notable is the way Cremona is working on a comeback this century -- in a big way. In 2013, the €10 million Museo del Violino opened, giving the city a focal point for its celebrated history with the violin, with high-tech exhibits; displays of important historical instruments by Stradivari, Guarneri and Amati; contemporary instruments; and a recital hall where these instruments are played in special recitals. Cremona currently has two schools for training violin makers: the Academia Cremonensis and the Cremona International Violin Making School. And makers are flocking there -- at this point, there are more than 140 violin-making workshops and hundreds of makers.

So what do the new violins from Cremona sound like?

Last week Beaver demonstrated 30 violins made in Cremona, many carrying the seal of the Cremonese guild, the Consorzio Liutai, which certifies qualifying instruments with the hallmark Cremona Liuteria. That certification ensures certain standards: that instruments are handmade by a trained luthier, made with certain materials, using certain techniques, etc.

Martin Beaver
Violinist Martin Beaver, holding a 2002 by Cremonese violin maker Vittorio Villa.


The oldest violin in the exhibit was made in 1998 and the newest in 2017, with prices ranging from $11,500 to $29,000. For me, something noticeably consistent about these violins was the beauty in the craftsmanship. A few examples include Silvio Levaggi's 2011 violin with its striking orange varnish and bird's eye maple; Vittorio Villa's beautifully antiqued Guarneri model made in 2002. A 2017 violin by Giorgio Grisales (current president of the Consorzio Liutai) had a gold-embossed label and bridge. One violin that I thought had an exceptional tone for its price point was made in 2005 by Odin Bykle.

Martin Beaver gave an objective demonstration in which he played each instrument for several minutes and made a good-faith effort to get to the tone in each one. I hope you enjoy discovering the sound of these violins and that it widens the scope of possibilities for those looking for a new instrument at a reasonable price. Thanks to Mike Kelley and Metzler violins for providing the raw video.

PART 1:

Pietro Andreini, 2017
Massimo Ardoli, 2017
Consorzio Liutai, 2015
Michele Ferrari, 2017
Benedicte Friedman, 2016
Giorgio Grisales, 2017
Ricardo Grisales, 2017

PART 2:

Matteo Heyligers, 2016
Massimo Negroni, 2017
Edgar Russ, 2017
Angelo Sperzaga, 2017
Adriano Spadoni, 2017
Andrea Varazzani, 2017

PART 3:

Pietro Rhee, 2009
Andrea Schudtz, 2001
Marco Nolli, 2006
Pascal Hornung, 2002
Yam Uri Raz, 2015
Odin Bykle, 2005

PART 4

Alessio Ferrari, 1998
Pascal Hornung, 2007
Valentinus Natolinus, 2004
Silvio Levaggi, 2011
Raphaël Le Cointe, 2003
Vittorio Villa, 2002

PART 5:

Anna Tartari, 2003
Barbara Piccinotti, 2003
Giorgio Grisales, 2006
Gaspar Borchardt, 2008
Maurizio Vella, 2004

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Replies

October 18, 2017 at 10:50 PM · That Consorzio Liutai 2015 sounded pretty darn good with a penetrating tone (haven't listened to all the videos yet).

But, in comparison to the first two videos, the Odin Bykle violin sounds fantastic, as you said Laurie. He looked like it as much easier to play too, in addition to sounding much, much better than the rest.

October 18, 2017 at 11:40 PM · A lot of them sounded good, and different people had different opinions than I did, so definitely give them all a good listen!

October 19, 2017 at 03:04 AM · Wow it's really hard to evaluate more than a few at a time, at least for me. Martin Beaver is awesome. If he can't find the best sound in a violin, no one can.

October 19, 2017 at 06:25 AM · Yeah, it takes time to go through all the videos carefully. Thank you Laurie, for this wonderful report!

October 19, 2017 at 10:38 AM · Thanks for this wonderful article, Laurie. It confirms that Cremona still has something to say since Andrea Amati invented the violin there around 1530!

I would like to add something about the auditorium of the Museo del Violino. It had originally been a gym, so you can imagine the original acoustics. Industrialist Giovanni Arvedi, the mastermind (and the financer) behind the Museo project spared no expense, hiring non other than the acoustician responsible for Frank Gehry's Disney Hall, Yasuhisa Toyota.

The result is truly superlative - and you can even rent it out yourself for a small fee to try out violins! How cool is that?

October 19, 2017 at 11:39 AM · Hi Laurie,

Very nice! Great to see Martin Beaver!!! He is of course amazing as always, and if there is one person alive that can instantly make any violin sound its best, its him.

Thanks and Cheers!

October 19, 2017 at 04:45 PM · It's very cool, Dimitri, I want to see it in person!

And yes, I was so impressed with the way Martin took care with every instrument, to really find what was in it. He was really objective about the whole demonstration, too, and I think that is helpful.

October 21, 2017 at 07:24 AM · The liquor most analogous to the violin is tequila. I'll have the '07 Pascal Hornung. Maybe a little less spicy, but powerful, no?

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