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Violinist.com Interviews: Vol. 1

Our exclusive, one-on-one interviews with 27 of today's best-known violinists, including Hilary Hahn, Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, David Garrett, Anne Akiko Meyers, Maxim Vengerov, and others.


Ghost Luthiers

Instruments: No dates, fake makers...what's up?

From Orlando Mendoza Jr.
Posted May 23, 2004 at 03:20 PM

I am playing on a Henry Farny violin and on its label says "Paris, France". Take note, no date. I searched about other violins bearing that name and thery are around 1900-1902. But recently, I read an article that says that Henry Farny violins are made by german luthiers probably in Rembert Wurltzer's shop.
Anybody knows it? I also read about Carlo Micelli and it was found that luthier never existed. Could this be true? Are there clowns in the field of luthiers?

From Lefebure Alain
Posted on May 23, 2004 at 03:31 PM
I had a Antonio Stradivarius 1756 that sounded like a soap box. Actually all violins made in the early 1900 had such famous name according to the shape of the violin (but not the factory). There were no many lawyers by those days and the laws not so restrictive (at least in France)
From Michael Avagliano
Posted on May 24, 2004 at 03:24 AM
Many makers and dealers over the years used invented (and sometimes not invented) names on labels. A good part of the time it was meant to denote a particular model or signified a certain line or quality level of instrument from their workshop. Carlo Micelli, Farny, Curatoli, there were a whole bunch.

More recently, in one shop where I worked as a luthier, the owner came up with the idea of creating an entire imaginary family of makers. Since the logo of the shop was a chicken feather, he decided the family name would be Feder (feather in German). There was Aegidius Feder, Matthias Feder, Gustav Feder, etc., etc. Fortunately, he never got around to actually doing it -- a couple centuries from now it could have caused a little confusion.

He did, however, create a pen name for his production bows -- the stamp "La Plume" (of course, it had to be in French for a bow). He used that stamp for about 20 years, and I keep hearing all sorts of stories about where those bows were made from other people -- my favorite being that they were made in a shop in Mirecourt that employed blind people to make the bows!

This business can be a little funny sometimes...

From Emil Chudnovsky
Posted on May 24, 2004 at 09:16 AM
A 1756 Strad? Geez, I knew the man was prolific and productive but don't you think his output might have slowed down a bit two decades after he died??
From Lefebure Alain
Posted on May 24, 2004 at 12:01 PM
The whimsical date might have been a trick to prevent from prosecuting .
From Mike Harris
Posted on May 24, 2004 at 01:44 PM
I had heard that Micelli was an actual luthier, but was a German who "Italianized" his name...is this not so?
From Rebecca Elgin
Posted on May 24, 2004 at 02:53 PM
My violin is a mystery to me. All it says inside is "Regraduated by E. Koder Bryan O." I wonder if he removed any other labels that we inside when it was regraduated.

I know it's a HOPF violin because it's stamped on the back with HOPF! Every time I've gone looking for info on other HOPF violins to compare it to, they have all been in really bad shape and looked nothing like my violin (shape of the instrument, wood, varnish.) I just hate not knowing a thing about it because there aren't any maker labels in it.

Nevertheless, I love my violin for its sound and beauty so I guess I can live without knowing its history.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on May 24, 2004 at 11:01 PM
Speaking of luthiers, perhaps I can get someone to point me in the right direction in finding the maker of my mid-1800's German fiddle. I can only make out a couple of letters, but if I could find a list of makers from that country in that time period, I might be able to decipher it. Anyone know where I could find a directory of makers?
From Stephen Brivati
Posted on May 24, 2004 at 11:39 PM
Greetings,
Rebecca, I was -regraduated- by violnist.com,
Cheers,
Buri
From Stephen Perry
Posted on May 25, 2004 at 11:06 AM
Keep in mind that a label is a piece of paper. Usually held in with hide or other water soluable glue. Soak via a Q tip wetted down, scrape out, then install a new one through the F hole. Not a big deal. Trusting labels alone is a bit foolish in older violins. Interior stamps and brands are a bit more trouble to deal with.

Trade names are common. These weren't necessarily intended to deceive. An importer needs to promote a "brand" of a certain price and quality. Several factories produce suitable instruments. Depending on supply, the brand's labels (e.g., Farny) may go into two or three similar products from different places. This happens today.

Many violins don't have an origin on their labels. Look at web sites listing violins. Difficult to determine where many come from. Indeed, difficult to decide where some come from! Not uncommon for a violin to be carved in the Orient out of European wood, be graduated and varnished in the US and set up with components from several countries.

I suggest not relying on labels.

From Orlando Mendoza Jr.
Posted on May 28, 2004 at 02:32 PM
Guess what? I saw a Henry Farny & Cie CLARINET! Just like my violin!
From parmeeta bhogal
Posted on June 3, 2004 at 10:24 AM
Another site I follow of woodwind had someone come up with the term "CSO" i.e. a clarinet shaped object.
Do you think there might also be VSO s lying around over the centuries?
Ilya Gringolts

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