From Sung-Duk Song
Posted September 16, 2007 at 05:13 AM
Is a higher end brazilwood violin bow equivalent in quality and performance to a mid-end pernambucco bow?
Basically, I'm curious if a higher end brazilwood violin bow would equal the performance of about a $3,000-5,000 good pernambucco bow?
I believe you are confused, and understandably so, because there is also the term "Brasilwood" (with an "s" not a "z") With the "s," it is another name for Pernambuco, though rarely used. The one with the "z" doesn't seem to be an official word, but rather something adopted by the industry to denote, as explained above, the later-growth wood of the (yes the same) Pernambuco tree. It is considered inferior.
to make it even more confusing, there is more than one species of Pernambuco! In fact, there are quite a few, and the one used by the old masters hasn't been available for decades. -But this depends upon which book or website you choose to believe. It's incredibly confusing and arcane.
IIRC, Pernambuco is generally denser & has less sap, so it has the preferred weight-to-stiffness ratio.
However, there can be good Brazilwood, and the skill of the maker may mean as much as the wood selection itself. Where does Brazilwood leave off & Pernambuco begin? Well, there's the rub, so best to stick to a known maker, and trust that he selected his blanks well. Then don't worry about what it's called.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it. (but what do I know, I think classical violinist are always out of tune ... )
I think brazilwood is the cheap stuff, but I could be wrong.
Your description is only one of several. Some websites & books agree with you, others are in absolute contradiction. You might be correct, but the most common explanation seems to be as given above, that the late-growth, outer wood of the "Pernambuco" tree is classified (loosely) as "Brazilwood" with a "Z."
-But of course, this is the latewood of a DIFFERENT species of Pernambuco than what Tourte used. He settled on Chaesalpina Echinata Lam, which is evidently not the "true Pernambuco" of today. Hennce, one could correctly say that Brazilwood is a different species altogether, AND one can say that Brazilwood is the late-growth of the SAME species.
Even stranger: Arcos Brasil (a company that probably knows a bit about the subject) equates Brazilwood with true Pernambuco, quote: "The scarcity of historical and botanical information about brazilwood (also known as Pernambuco wood) has created an air of mystery" -And at least one other website backs this up, albeit using the term "Caesalpina Echinata Lam" instead of ""Chaesalpina Echinata Lam"
Makes the head spin.
All that really matters is the quality of the wood itself. The strength-to-weight ratio, the damping factor, the Lucci number (speed of transmission) etc, so again, best to either trust the maker, or audition the bows without worrying about what they are made of.
"Three morphological distinct groups have been detected up to now. The most common variant has been observed at several locations along the Brazilian coast. It has smaller leaflets (figure 7a) and the wood is often an orangy-chestnut color. The second variant differs slightly from the first in its larger leaflets and reddish-orange wood (figure 7b). Individuals with these characteristics were observed only in cultivation at the Sooretama Biological Reserve (Espirito Santo) and Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden. The third variant has large leaflets (figure 7c) up to 12 cm long and blackish-red wood. Several individuals with these marked differences were found in Bahia. Young specimens from this population are under cultivation at the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden."
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