From Allen Liang
Posted September 5, 2009 at 02:23 AM
Hi all: Has anyone tried violins by the CA-based maker Mario Miralles? He has supposely a 12-year waiting list (I heard Caitlin Tully has a violin from him, is she currently concertizing on it?).
It is hard to understand this maker because few ever see his violins. It seems that he will only make fiddles for the very elite, or the LA Philharmonic, at least that is what my former teacher thought.
I also have been told that the concertmaster for the LA Phil uses one of his fiddles as his backup fiddle, but I do not know this for sure.
Where are those guys who use to post on here who had tried so many modern fiddles? It was so much fun to see their posts, and so much help too.
Where is David Burgess to shed some light on this when you need him? LOL
If you want the best quality: Instead of selecting a maker who has a twelve year waiting list, I'd suggest finding one who is sold out for life. LOL
(sorry, that's kind of an inside joke among makers, about those who brag about their waiting lists, which can be either real or promotional)
Seriously, I've met Mario a few times, and he seems like a great guy. The last time, a bunch of us played softball in a parking garage at a convention. It's been many many years since I've seen one of his fiddles.
I'm also drawing back a bit from expressing public opinions about individual makers. It gets me into too much trouble, sometimes with friends who are makers. A short list of makers who are highly regarded by their peers, and by the musicians involved, can be had from the various violin making competitions.
I get a little bit judgmental sometimes about makers who select clients based on their position and promotional value (and reading an earlier post, I have no idea whether this applies to Mario). There are some darned good makers who treat students and amateurs the same way that they treat the stars, realizing that love of music, and the love of fine violins, is the bigger picture. Who supports the stars? Many times, it's the amateur musicians, even if they only played the "song flute" in grade school.
One of the best sounding Strads I know of is owned by an amateur player. Lovely guy. The world might be a slightly worse place if he didn't own it, and wasn't so enthusiastic about sharing it with other fiddle freaks.
David, when I looked up Mario on things like VSA contests, I saw nothing. Nothing. Should this mean anything to us?
As for the wait, yes he says he has a 12 year wait, which seems a bit hard to believe. Sorry.
I hope he doesn't collect deposits and hold them for 12 years. That kind of float financed Warren Buffett's insurance fortune.
What DOES he make, anyway? Clean sui generis models, bench copies, ???
Here is a 2007 Mario Miralles':
"David, when I looked up Mario on things like VSA contests, I saw nothing. Nothing. Should this mean anything to us?"
"Absence of wins" might not be the best way to use the competitions. I don't know of any of the competitions which maintain an on-line list of everyone who has entered, (although the VSA has a printed list available at each competition). Without access to such a listing, it's pretty hard to know whether a maker didn't win because the judges weren't crazy about the fiddle, or because the maker had nothing entered.
Almost everyone I know has entered at one time or another though (a little hint). The last VSA competition, for instance, had 487 entries from 25 countries, so that gives an idea of the level of participation.
Also keep in mind that a violin competition isn't quite like using a tape measure to find the biggest pumpkin at the county fair. ;-) It involves subjective opinions, hopefully from those who are well qualified to offer such opinions. The VSA maintains a list of past judges www.vsa.to/pastjudges.htm , so you can make your own determination whether these are people whose opinions you wish to consider.
If I was outside the trade, I think I'd use competitions in the same way that I might use "Consumer Reports" magazine. In their articles, not every product on the market is tested every time. Their "best buy" might not be the right thing for you. But some very useful patterns and information emerge none-the-less. It's a whole lot better than trying to put twenty washing machines through a battery of tests myself! :-)
It's probably also worth remembering that while gold medalists are likely very good, so too would be the guy who always finishes 4th out of 400+ but is never listed as a winner.
BTW, I have no idea what a maker would think about the Miralles pictured, but I like it.
Hard to understand why he has such a long waiting list?
As for the pic: I like the back, but the front does little for me. Then again, sound is everything.
Has anyone actually heard of what his violins sound like?
I have known the Miralles family for years, and have played several of Mario's violins. They are lovely, with a powerful but smooth, round sound that was a joy to produce. The waiting list is long, though I'm not sure about the 12 year mark. However, I think the reason he's made them for LA's "elite" is not that he's exclusive, but simply because his contacts included members of the USC faculty and the Phil. So when the instruments were available, those were the people who tried and loved them, and word went around. Play one if you have a chance; it's a pleasure.
I was lucky enough to have been in L.A. when a few players were doing all they could to play a heck of a lot of moderns and, in turn, get a good read on what kind of fiddle many makers made. During this period of time I played 3 of his fiddles. I thought they were very good, as I thought many makers were very good. In the end I loved the fiddles made by Bellini, Needham, Burges, Curtin, and Zygmuntowicz, most because these fiddles seemed to respond quicker and project more than the others. I also thought the tone on these violins was beyond great. But to each his own.
As for his wait: I do not think that it is anything like 12 years. But from what I understand he makes a very limited amount of fiddles each year, which means time waiting for one of his instruments.
A detour onto Bellini-- did you prefer his Strad or Guarneri models?
I did not like all the Bellinis we played, but I did like a few of them a lot.....the one I liked best was based on the Lord Wilton, and I later learned that it had once been owned by Ricci. I would have bought it but it was not for sale. Likewise, the three great Zygmuntowicz that we played were not for sale, either. When I get my money together I will commission a fiddle from Needham.
Scott, I agree with your playing analogy. If I don't keep at it full-time, or even take a week off to attend a convention, I feel like I've gotten "out of shape". Like playing, a certain amount of repetition is required to keep the speed and familiarity up.
If your question relates to Mario, I don't run into him very often, and have no idea how many instruments he makes.
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