December 4, 2010 at 7:22 PM
People often debate the merits of a modern violin vs. an old Italian masterpiece, such as a Stradivari violin. Certainly, masterpieces are being created here and now, right under our noses, by luthiers all over the world. But the old ones have proven themselves.
Putting aside the considerable barriers such as cost and access to such instruments, which would you prefer to have as your primary instrument, given the choice? Arguments point in both directions, and I will give you at least a few of them: a Strad is an object of great beauty, and with so much music having been through that old wood, it tends to respond in fascinating ways. It as a history, it has passed through time and through human hands. At the same time, such instruments can be fussy about the weather and extremely difficult to play because they require so much sensitivity and the ability to adjust to them.
For our purposes, the new instrument that we are talking about is made by a master luthier, using the finest wood. It also is an object of great beauty. It doesn't have a history, but you can be the one to make the first pass at molding its sound. It won't be so fussy, but it also won't have quite the range of overtones as its much-older relative.
Given the choice of which one you would want to live with every day? With barriers to access lifted, which would you choose? And of course, I know that many people would choose neither, preferring a different kind of violin, or something that's not a copy, but this is just for the sake of argument and as a starting point for conversation, so I welcome your comments.
I think few are invulnerable to the romance of the old violin. Also, how do you separate the sheer monetary value issue? The cynical might in any case just take the strad, sell it and buy any number of new or alternative violins - and pay for the journey round the world getting them :)
I could have had the Soames Strad in 1969 for $25,000. We had just bought a home and couldn't afford it. Grrrr. However, I told my wife many times if we had the Strad we would have probably sold it by now and I wouldn't have the violin I have now and love so much.
I would chose the Strad because I'm a violin maker and having unlimited access to such an instrument would be invaluable.
However, if I was a player I would choose whichever sounded best! :)
I voted for the copy because there's always the possibility that something could happen to the violin. I'm not sure I could handle being responsible for preserving centuries of history.
Elise, wow what a great business spirit you have! Excellent idea! As long as it's not a Strad that plays well and that no harm is done to the old instrument in the numerous transactions!
I chose the copy because although I've always dreamt of owning a strad, I don't think I'd be able to live with the responsibility of having such an instrument! I think I'd be scared to even pick it up!
Also, I have a strad copy already and I LOVE it. :)
I voted for a new one but. . . what about the old Strad copies. That might just be the biggest sector that we hear and, thankfully, we can hear a lot of beautiful music!
None. I would prefer an original Del Gesù or a Del Gesù copy...
I agree with Luis, but that aside, I do not believe most of us are in a position to make an educated decision. I have played one Strad; only for a few moments and I would definitely choose my modern Del Gesu copy. I have heard amazing things about some old Italian masterpieces, but were those opinions perhaps biased by the large price tags of the instruments? If some of those old instruments are as amazing as some people say, then maybe it would be a source of great pleasure to play on one every day.
I chose the Strad because the challenge and process of learning from it would be such an amazing experience. But I enjoyed reading everyone's comments because I'm thinking of entering the market for a new (to me, anyway) violin and the comments really give me something to think about.
I had the privilege of playing 2 strads, one DG and 3 copies at the Indianapolis IVCI as part of a blind playing experiment. I could definitely tell the difference between the instruments, but could NOT tell which ones were old....and they were all excellent. My final (blinded) preference was a modern instrument. I think that owning a new, fresh strong instrument that sounds superior to an old italien would be much more comfortable to play for many of the reasons already mentioned. Obviously is we were given the choice of owning as an asset rather than as an instrument, one would sell the Strad...but just along the playing dimension, I think you can find a new intrument to outplay most old instruments, and yet have all the benefits of new...including access to the maker for adjustment/repair.
I would prefer a new custom-made Strad copy by Jan van Rooyen. They are fantastic and would rival any Strad in my opinion.
If only I had the resources.... *sniffles*
Ah well, good thing my Carlo Lamberti Strad copy and I have a good relationship :)
Of course the modern copy of a Strad. I'd rather have a new instrument in favor of the grand Strad because of the costs and maintenance that goes with the Strad...I simply could not afford these expenses. Plus I am known to be a slightly clumsy person and to be entrusted the care of a rare Strad would be like commiting an artistic genocide in my own part.
Would a Pressenda qualify as a Strad copy?
New one. I love the idea of being an eyeblink in the existence of a centuries-old device, but when push comes to shove, I want to have it from kittenhood. :-)
I also want to be able to make it mine. I've been coveting a new L&C viola, and my teacher told me about someone he knows who does excellent custom work as well, which I've been mulling. I'd love to make it mine -- have a goldleaf scarab on the back, put little dots on the edges with a sharpie marker that tell me where to put my shoulder rest (which I've done with mine) without feeling like a vandal, not panicking if it's out of my sight, not panicking if my cat knocks over my case, not worrying about it getting stolen or having to insure it ...
If I'm going to have an old viola, I'd rather it be a junk store find that I work up and tinker with, like a "rescue" viola as opposed to a pampered cat-fancy one.
Another vote here for the new one. First off, Strads have basically become museum pieces, and I would hate to have anything happen to one on my watch. I'm really careful with my instruments, never leaving one in harm's way, but even so . . . Also, I'd rather have a healthy instrument, and not a delicate old hothouse flower that has a sinking spell every time the weather changes.
I voted for Strad. Who wants to wait for 50+ years to see a new violin mature? Also, things that have been used by others for hundreds of years carry so much more meaning than new things just came out of a shop. If a violin is a daily companion, I certainly want one that has character, history and loads of meanings.
Personally, I very much doubt in my late middle age whether I'd ever be able to do justice to a Stradivari violin (or perhaps even a convincing modern replica, for that matter), so, as far as I am concerned, they are better left in the hands of those who are able to get the best out of those instruments and need them for their careers.
An instrument at the top of the pile would, I think, be a burden for the average amateur – the expense of adequate insurance and regular maintenance (neither being insignificant for such instruments), and security, would detract from the enjoyment of playing. I'm sure I'd be better off with an instrument at least a couple of levels down the ladder.
I think it was Peter Charles here who remarked a while ago that in his long experience as a symphony violinist most orchestral pros play instruments in the £3K-£5K range, anything significantly more expensive being the preserve of concert masters and soloists.
But to answer the question, if push came to shove I'd choose the replica, for the reasons I've outlined above.
'I voted for Strad. Who wants to wait for 50+ years to see a new violin mature? Also, things that have been used by others for hundreds of years carry so much more meaning than new things just came out of a shop. If a violin is a daily companion, I certainly want one that has character, history and loads of meanings.'
Ahh, but doesn't it sound exciting when you think of being the first person to put meaning, character and personality into a new instrument? Just having all of the old instruments circling around would mean that there would be only a few violins around and nobody would learn how to play them!
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