Jacob Steiner's violins (and their sound)Instruments: Looking for information on Jacob Steiner's violins and the sound they make
From Peter Lynch
Does anyone have any information on people who play his instruments, or contemporary makers who base their violins on his. Who are they, what recording are there of this sound.
After "test driving" a number of violins, I am much more drawn to the mellow, sweeter sounding ones and thought that from the written descriptions, Steiner's violins make a sound that I would enjoy. Any input about this would be greatly appreciated.
From Joseph FrankeLinda Quan of the Aulos Ensemble plays a Stainer. She recorded a Bach accompanied sonata on it for Musical Heritage.
Posted on November 13, 2004 at 09:41 PM
From Thomas McEvilleyI have never played a satisfactory sounding Stainer copy, and I have tried many fine ones by master makers.
Posted on November 14, 2004 at 08:36 AM
From Melanie KaboyFrom what I know, there are two different makes that are being spoken of in this thread - Steiner and Stainer. I believe the post was originally talking about the former - Steiner. From what I've heard, Steiner violins are rather rugged and not as refined as some violins with a rather cruel sound. Am I right or totally off base?
Posted on November 15, 2004 at 01:38 PM
From Peter LynchSorry, I was meaning Jacob Stainer, the maker who some think apprenticed with Amati
Posted on November 15, 2004 at 03:03 PM
From K GStainers were once very highly sought-after. They still have a good reputation. But they were overtaken by Strads and Guarneris beginning in the late 18th century. I once read that the average price of a Stainer actually declined in the 19th century, the only instrument by a major maker to do so. Violinists such as Viotti (with Strads) and Paganini (with Guarneris) liked the greater power of these instruments for concerts. In general, Stainer copies are less highly regarded and also cheper than copies of the others. That said, there are people that like them. I recently played a very nice copy by a British violin maker.
Posted on November 15, 2004 at 05:35 PM
From Tom HolzmanI think Bach may have owned a Stainer.
Posted on November 15, 2004 at 07:25 PM
From Sam LiStainer, Steiner, To-may-to, To-mah-to. It’s the same guy. Bach loved his Stainer as did Mozart. Authentic Stainers have some of the prettiest scrolls you’ve ever seen. They are considered by many to be in the same class as the ones by the holy trinity from Cremona. Anything with the name – either spelling – stamped on the back is a copy, and most of them were crude. The tops and backs have a much higher arch than the Cremonese pieces. That and probably the environment and wood in the Austrian Alps gave his violins their flute-like sound. Once upon a time a Stainer commanded four times the price of a Strad.
Posted on November 17, 2004 at 01:44 AM
From Preston HawesNow I Understand
Posted on November 17, 2004 at 06:09 AM
From Laurie NilesHe earned so many demerits in the past that he has an automatic demerit.
Posted on November 17, 2004 at 02:23 AM
From Preston HawesGotcha,
Posted on November 17, 2004 at 06:08 AM
My bad. I still don't get this moderation system. Work it off Sam...Work it off. lol
From Kelsey Z.I own a Stainer copy and have played a real Stainer. I actually liked my Stainer copy better then the real Stainer, but the real one hadn't been played very much at allin a very long time and wasn't too responsive.
Posted on November 17, 2004 at 04:18 PM
My copy, which I own, I played on for two years or so. It had a very rich, warm sound but it got quite muddy in the higher positions. It responded easily though and it was a good violin for me. :)
From Tom HolzmanThere is a CD of Mozart's piano quartets on which the musicians are playing Mozart's piano, violin and viola and a cello from the period. You could listen to the CD and get an idea from it of what the violin sounded like.
Posted on November 17, 2004 at 04:21 PM
From Richard PerrasInformation on Jacobus Stainer can be found at
Posted on November 25, 2004 at 06:55 PM
From Maximillian TresmondThe Stainer violin was the supreme baroque instrument - him and Amati. During the baroque era, they were much more sought after than Stradivari or Guarneri (this frustrated A. Stradivari to a great degree).
Posted on November 26, 2004 at 12:12 AM
The Strads and Guarneri's are great for a concert hall, but the Stainer, as a baroque violin, can produce both rich, lute, and flute tones at command.
As a further note, Mozart played no Stainer, he had a Klotz
From N.A. Mohr"After "test driving" a number of violins, I am much more drawn to the mellow, sweeter sounding ones "
Posted on November 26, 2004 at 12:54 PM
...isn't this the 'wrong' sound for a violin? Aren't they supposed to be shrill? (In a good way...)...:D
From Lefebure AlainI am quiet puzzled.
Posted on November 27, 2004 at 01:12 PM
It seems there are two Stainer and Steiner named Jacobus or Jakobus. The former beeing the Amati'pupils
but both would be of great reputation . I personnally have a vln carved "Stainer" on the back but no coat of arms nor label .It's in a poor condition with a F hole larger the this other,,wonderful varnish on the back,totally ruined on the top ,the wood is crude in some place. the sound is good but not powerful.
What puzzles me is the description of a "Steiner" which exactly fits to my Stainer.
Morever some Steiner seems of high quality for some and Study vln for other.
From Peter LynchIs there a right sound for a violon? To me a "shrill sound" even in a good way seems unpleasant. Although I am only a beginner in playing, I know what sound good to my ear. The most pleasing to me is a sound with a sweetness to it. Maybe I'm not using the correct term. But a singing quality with subtly, richness and warmth, that pulls me to it, not jarrs me away from it. Maybe this is just an unsophisticated notion based on a personal preference. Any others have input on this.
Posted on November 27, 2004 at 02:08 PM
From Clare ChuPeter, in the violin world there is a lot of mystique, prestige, acquired taste, snobbery, etc. Often times there is that "emperor has no clothes" conundrum in that if everyone thinks a certain sound is THE sound, then no one wants to appear unlearned and unable to distinguish. You must use your own ears, both playing, and more importantly have an unbiased person play it from a distance. Of course the connoisseurs will claim that they have heightened sense of distinctions. But at the end, you need to trust your own ears for your own personal instrument. Unless you're a soloist and need to be heard about orchestras in large concert halls, you will probably enjoy your sound much better and learn faster with a more pleasing to you violin. The reason for the shrillness (in a good way), is for cutting above a large orchestra, or other string instruments, when playing solo. Power, projection is important for them, and any temporary hearing loss for the player is par for the course of being a professional. :-)
Posted on November 27, 2004 at 05:11 PM
From N.A. Mohr...I wasn't in any way, shape or form thinking 'snobby' at all (I'm not even close enough to being a good player to have any aspirations of snobbiness :D)...just suggesting that since a violin is the soprano of the string family it should sound like a soprano (er, a good soprano)...and to my ear, sopranos are shrill...
Posted on November 27, 2004 at 05:35 PM
...but yes of course you need to play a violin you like the sound of, that's very important. I'm always astounded at how the sound and projection varies from one instrument to another...
...I'd then only suggest that if you choose a to play a particular instrument that doesn't quite sound like a good example of what a 'typical' good violin should sound like, that you're aware of it...
...awareness helps prevent those nasty little surprises down the road (...it's been 30 years and I'm still reeling from the realization that The Village People are not 'good' music...:D)
From Peter LynchI'm not a fan of the village people, but how do you know that the village people are not good music?
Posted on November 29, 2004 at 11:58 PM
From Clare ChuSorry, I wasn't meaning anyone on this board is snobby. I just got back from reading Fritz-Reuter critique of violin merchandising http://www.fritz-reuter.com/reports/rin037.htm
Posted on November 30, 2004 at 02:16 AM
Of course a certain brightness, and sizzling sound is what a violin should have, being soprano. But... shrill harshness is not pleasant. Of course it is a matter of taste, but I thought a person who likes Stainer violins would not like shrill harsh that takes your teeth off. sorry, no offense intended...
From Stephen PerryInteresting discussion. I have some nicely matched pieces of wood (same back, possibly same front). I just ordered The Strad Stainer poster. Maybe I'll do a Cremona violin and a Stainer side by side. See what difference I get. If I do that, I'll do the final arching on the mall in DC, making trips to see the Smithsonian's Stainer. Seeing then cutting is so very helpful.
Posted on November 30, 2004 at 02:25 AM
From Michael AvaglianoWhich Stainer in the Smithsonian?
Posted on November 30, 2004 at 03:33 AM
I've been lucky to see a few great instruments of his in my (not very long) life, and the cello that I saw last year was by far the most stunning. You can see why he had the influence he did in northern Italy. The performer in me can appreciate the sound they produce, although I tend like most modern players to like something a little more powerful. But from the point of pure design, craftmanship, and artistry, there are few makers in history that can rival him.
From phileo kangi have a violin, labaled- jakobus stainer ex absam Oe______ fecit ____. some words could not be seen.
Posted on December 3, 2004 at 03:51 AM
I'm not sure if it is STAINER or STEINER.
Any idea if this is a real stainer? I'm a student currently playing on that violin, i play it badly though. But when i hear my teacher play it, the violin produces a very mellow sound. My teacher has no idea if it is a real or a imitaion.
From Jonathan ParlePhileo,
Posted on December 3, 2004 at 04:41 AM
It would almost certainly be a copy. Copies of Stainer instruments have been mass produced over a very long period of time. That is not to say it is necessarily an inferior instrument, as there are many excellent workshop and handmade Stainer copies as well - as is evidenced by comments made earlier in this thread.
Any reputable violin appraiser will be able to give you a verbal confirmation one way or another after viewing your instrument - and probably for free or at worst a nominal fee. But the chances of it being real are extremely slim indeed.
If you can take a very good quality photograph of the scroll, back and belly, it might even be possible for one of us to give you an opinion prior to your taking it anywhere for further appraisal. But the vast majority of Stainer violins are usually German workshop violins of basic to adequate quality.
From Stephen PerryMichael,
Posted on December 4, 2004 at 12:56 PM
I don't know how to describe it. I remember the arching. Last time I was there it was on the left side of the case with Stainers I think.
From phileo kangi just found a website to verify the seal for me it's a imitaion, but i don't think that mine were the ones that were mass produced in germany because those that were mass produced in germany they last two numbers at the back were written in pencil. anyone know if where mine is made? i would send you the pictures...
Posted on December 7, 2004 at 01:27 PM
From Daniel GordonI have an old Steiner copy in my closet - you wouldn't know it was Steiner design by the sound, though. I can describe it in one word - empty.
Posted on December 9, 2004 at 11:50 AM
From Jim W. MillerI've always been fascinated by him too, and the Germans who came after. To me, on baroque recordings, Stainers don't sound much different from anything else. I think a majority of the copyists produced really bad fiddles though. I've always thought it would be fun to get some kind of decent ancient Stainer copy and convert it to a baroque fiddle.
Posted on December 14, 2004 at 06:33 AM
Here is a pic of a Stainer you can visit next time you're in S. Dakota.
From Jose Martinez-CanasPeter: If you are interested in Stainer violins, there is a nice book in geman with english translation titled"Jakob Stainer" by Walter Senn and Karl Roy. I got my copy from Montagnana Books.
Posted on April 11, 2008 at 12:08 PM
I also love Stainer violins.
From Pooya RadbonDo modern Violinists know Harnoncourt,s wife ?
Posted on July 8, 2008 at 07:29 AM
Alice Harnoncourt is good tasted (gifted) pioneers in playing baroque violin . She owns a Stainer .
She also has recorded the Sonatas for violin and Harpsichord + cello with Tachezi and his husband .
Thats great . The volume of this violin is like a Strong strad . Its not dolce like Guarneri but really strong and proper for music of the non-Italian and french composers .
From Zina LeeK, I'm late to this one, but...
Posted on July 8, 2008 at 07:44 AM
A fair amount of Irish players like Stainers (I'm speaking here of copies, of course), so long as they're decent (so many Stainer copies are so bad). They're not as brilliant nor as loud as most Strad copies, and seem to tend towards a certain darker tone that is attractive to people who play trad music.
From Ted SinoskiYou can hear a selection of Jacob Stainer's instruments played on the CD:
Posted on July 8, 2008 at 03:18 PM
Jacob Stainers Instrumente
Acanthus International Records
It features original instruments
It can be ordered from the Mational Music Museum (U.S.A)
From Casey JeffersonIf you want to have a quick listen instead of buying the CD, check this out.
Posted on July 8, 2008 at 03:52 PM
Personally I find it very sweet sounding violin and I can sort of understand why it was a prefered instrument before Italians become a standard.
From Steven FruchtI've enjoyed reading this site, and could not resist posting a comment. I purchased a Stainer copy about a year ago, at auction, a violin that bears a Stainer label and was auctioned as a good Tyrolean violin from mid 18th century. It has a drunken lion head, a very high-arched top (you can see through the f-holes!), and was cut down (probably from a small viola). It has been extensively played, some repairs, but I love the instrument. It is very easy to play, and I don't think it is lacking in power. The quality of the sound is different from the Italian golden sound, more baroque. I've looked at other Stainer originals, and I would guess that it was made to mimic these. Drunken lion heads are not that common, and I wonder if others have a violin from this period with this head. Also, because the belly is so big, I suspect that the neck should be reseated at a higher angle, but I am reluctant to do this.
Posted on July 8, 2008 at 05:19 PM
From Alicia SchuelerI have a Steiner/Stainer copy from the late 1800s/early 1900s, made in the Tyrolean Valley. Beautiful wood, plainer scrolls and it is much wider in the middle compared to my other Japanese instrument. It has sat for a long time until I started playing it three months ago. It sounded hollow at first but there was a mellow sweet sound as well. It's sound keeps waking up and changing the more I play it. A well-respected, local violin maker said it might take until May before I hear it's real voice. He wants me to bring it in for a check up then. I am breaking all the rules, BTW. I'm an older student returning to playing at the beginning level, playing an antique violin, and learning to play the viola at the same time. I must be a little nuts.
Posted on January 6, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Hear more from the world's top violinists in The Violinist.com Interviews: Volume 1, which includes our exclusive conversations with Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, and David Garrett, and others, as well as a foreword by Hilary Hahn.
Smiling as he spoke, Steinhardt offered his suggestions with clarity and appeal, in language both efficient and richly meaningful.
Please consider supporting Violinist.com by becoming a sponsor, and reaching our dedicated community of violin professionals, students and fans!