Carlo Bisiach

May 11, 2018, 4:36 AM · Hi all.

I have been trying out a Carlo Bisiach at my local violin store. I was amazed and blown away by the clarity, depth of tone, and color. I had searched around the archives on V.com and I could'nt find much information.I was wondering if it is worth it, as the violin is priced at around $80k.

Any information would help a lot.

Thanks,
Andrew

Replies (30)

May 11, 2018, 4:59 AM · According to Tarisio, the top auction price for one of his violins is around $60K...auctions are wholesale, so $80K from a shop is not surprising. There is more information in his wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carlo_Bisiach

There is actually quite a bit of information about this maker online.

May 11, 2018, 5:14 AM · If you were blown away, I'd say buy it. It's only money, right?
May 11, 2018, 9:21 AM · It's disconcerting that there isn't a whole lot of information on Carlo even in Eric Blot's book "Liuteria Italiana 1860 to 1960 Volume 11-Lombardia e Veneto".
In the biography for his father Leandro, it states,
" Bit by bit(from 1931 -1932) he left the business in Milan in the hands of his sons Giacomo, Leandro Junior and Andrea(Carlo had established himself in Florence)."
That's the only mention of him anywhere in the book...
You can ask Jeffrey Holmes who is extremely knowledgeable on the subject of modern Italian makers.
May 11, 2018, 9:38 AM · I'm not surprised about $80k which is something like €67k in Europe. One of the three finest instruments (by far) I was able to try yet was a Carlo Bisiach. The price tag was not far from yours (€65k), and it definitely wasn't far from the Giuseppe Antonio Rocca it shared the shelf with. (Both instruments regularly played until only a few months ago.)
May 11, 2018, 12:32 PM · I've never played a Carlo Bisiach, though I've tried a few Leandro Bisiach violins that I've liked (Carlo's father).

I would ask: How does it compare to other violins you've played in that price range, as well as well-regarded contemporaries? You can get a Zyg starting at $85k, for instance, as well as a Curtin, Alf, etc. (Not to mention the plenty of other fine contemporary makers priced below that.)

May 11, 2018, 12:47 PM · I've never tried a Carlo Bisiach either, but I did try out a Giacomo and Leandro (II) Bisiach violin not long ago and was pretty impressed with it. I was even more impressed with another violin that had a much lower price tag on it; the Bisiach ended up in 2nd place by the time I got around to making a purchase. Personally, I would try other violins and make sure that this is absolutely the one you want.
May 11, 2018, 5:19 PM · If you're thinking of it as an investment then make your decision according to your assessment of the market value now and in the future. If it's sound you're interested in then there's no reason why 80k would buy you more or less than a violin at 20k or 150.
Edited: May 12, 2018, 12:42 AM · "I was wondering if it is worth it..." or to say something similar to the above post by Martin Mcclean, it probably depends on what you mean by "worth it." Probably one of the least desirable Strads in poor condition that few people want to play, for ten times the price has a better resale value. Does that make it 'worth it'?

If you are interested in possible resale price, the value may depend on the quality of any certificates, condition report and provenance documentation.

Edited: May 12, 2018, 4:40 AM · A little update on the Bisiach:

It is now priced at €75k.

Nuuska: Thanks for the comparison! I now know that not all the big names are always the best.

Lydia: I have tried one Zyg, 1 Curtin, 1 Alf, a David Gusset, and a David Van Zandt. I have felt that, in each of the violins, there was something missing, ie tone. The Bisiach ticks all the boxes that I am looking for. I feel that it takes at least 20-40 years for the varnish to crystallize, and then the sound will be better, so I'll just wait :).

Jennifer: Yes, I have tried other violins also, a NF Vuillaume, a Landolphi, a Rocca, and a Scarampella.

Martin: I think that there has been a steady rise in prices for Bisiach violins, and there is value to it. Other than looking for sound, I have been looking for value too.

John: Yes, the violin has dendro done by Peter Ratcliff, and has a certificate from Florian Leondard.

May 12, 2018, 1:07 AM · "Value" for a normal mortal like me might include resale value (and therefore depending on documentation of provenance etc.), beauty, sound and playability. For a young professional targeting on a soloist career, playing an instrument with a "name" may be helpful to draw attention and thus contribute some "extra value".

That's why I don't need a great Italian name but I'm happy with my wonderful Markneukirchen Violin from the 60ies.

May 12, 2018, 3:23 AM · I was going to say make sure you have a good certificate for the violin as there are lots of fake Bisiachs out there.
May 12, 2018, 11:15 AM · Do you have it for a trial already?

If you seriously consider it, I would get a second opinion on the value (condition, quality and year of building, ...) and make sure that you want it long time. The latter for me involves that the sound has not only one catchy attribute, but the whole spectrum of virtues, and that there is not an unticked box which will keep you looking around (e.g. if actually you always wanted an old Italian but now have a modern one or something else).

If you do not know it super well by now, you could try a blind test.

With the other names you have tried, you seem at least to be on the safe side that you did not only fall in love with the maker's fame.

Edited: May 12, 2018, 11:49 AM · For an instrument of this value, you should have no problem getting a two-week trial, and there may be a strong argument for a four-week trial. (Neither a shop nor an individual owner with a consigned instrument is going to balk at a longer trial unless for some reason someone else is wanting to immediately look at it.)

I'm going to assume that unless you're extremely wealthy, even a "readily affordable" $80k is a sum of money that you don't casually spend. Thus, you do want to try it in a wide range of venues and circumstances. Ensure you try the violin in every circumstance in which you ordinarily play -- with piano, with your quartet, in an orchestra, etc. (You probably aren't lucky enough to be able to try it as a soloist with orchestra, but if you concertmaster, hearing it in a concertmaster's solo is a pretty good proxy.) Make sure that your colleagues hear you play it side by side with your usual violin.

For most players, their own personal sound significantly dominates the sound of any given violin, but especially in a large hall, you'll hear differences.

I disagree with Nuuska. I don't think that Carlo Bisiach has sufficient name cachet for it to make any difference in people's perception of the sound when it's listed on a program -- i.e., the name won't impress anyone.

You (the OP) don't have a bio on this site, so it's hard to know what your purpose in buying this violin is. If you're an amateur with plenty of money, and $80k is worth it for the pleasure this instrument gives you, go for it; it should appreciate over the years, too. If you're a professional, I would probably weigh the expense of this against other things you might want, and decide whether or not it's worthwhile in the grand scheme of your priorities. If you have budget set aside for a professional tool, and this seems like what you want, thumbs up -- but don't forget that you might want to swap bows to something that's an optimal tonal match, too.

Do get a formal condition report, preferably from an appropriate shop. (If your "local shop" is Florian Leonhard's, that would be fine. If your "local shop" is in podunk nowhere that normally sells student violins, I'd get the condition report done by someone who knows better.)

May 13, 2018, 9:47 PM · Thanks Lydia for the helpful input.

I am just an amateur, that wants to upgrade my violin, and want to have fun while doing it. I think that I will enjoy it.

May 13, 2018, 9:57 PM · Is there any more advice from you guys?

I plan to have the violin for trial in a month. I'm planning to take it out for 3 weeks.

May 13, 2018, 10:56 PM · Having a violin by Bisiach family is one of the best early 20th century Italian names you can have as an investment, especially if the tone and response is desirable. Carlo's instruments definitely have a particular style in the making as he worked on his own, compared with his father Leandro Sr, who employed and taught many of the best 20th century makers. There are some instruments I wouldn't say are fakes, but they are certainly influenced by other hands and came from the Leandro Sr. workshop, much like the Vuillaume workshop a century before. He also experimented with a lot of different models.

That being said, Carlo's instruments are definitely rarer than the father's and more consistent on the whole.

I've owned a Leandro Bisiach Sr. and performed on it for several years in the past, but I would be equally and just as happy having a rarer Carlo Bisiach example, with the price tag being a bit better as well!

Its nice that you got an agreement with the shop ahead of time to try it out for 3 weeks.

Edited: May 14, 2018, 2:28 AM · The violin is really responsive and there is a wide range of tone. The label reads, " Carlo Bisiach Di Leandro Milanese , fece in Firenze l'Anno 1948. " There is his signature, and a stamp that says CB

Thanks,

Andrew

May 14, 2018, 3:06 AM · At this price range, isn't it necessary to have a certificate from a dependable evaluator?
May 14, 2018, 3:13 AM · He said he had a certificate on it from Leonhard.
May 14, 2018, 3:39 AM · Oops. Missed that part.
Edited: May 14, 2018, 7:32 PM · The Bisiachs were excellent makers and perhaps the most important violin making family in the late 19th and early 20th century in Italy. My Guadagnini was repaired by Leandro Bisiach in 1890. There's a pencil inscription inside with his hand writing.
Edited: May 14, 2018, 9:01 PM · I'm an amateur who indulged in buying a violin even more expensive than the one you're looking at, Andrew, and it pretty much makes me happy every time I take it out of the case. It's really a joy to play, even if it's also sometimes more challenging to work with. So I figure it was totally worth it, and the appreciation over my lifetime is a bonus.

So if you figure that it's going to make you happy, and you can afford it, and you've tried plenty of other great instruments and are confident that this one is the best thing you can get for the money, and your technique is mature enough to take advantage of what the violin has to offer you... if you're still enamored with it at the end of the trial, no reason not to buy it. Just remember you probably will need a new bow too. ;-)

May 14, 2018, 9:35 PM · I believe that the violin will also lead me to new heights that I have never experienced, and it will be a great teacher for me. I hope I still like it at the end of my trial ;-).
May 14, 2018, 9:35 PM · By the way Lydia, what violins do you have and which is your favorite?
May 15, 2018, 5:42 AM · I've owned three violins and tried a lot of instruments. My current violin is a JB Vuillaume. I used to own an Enrico Marchetti (modern Italian, late 19th century). And I have a Rafael Carrabba (contemporary American, made under Carl F Becker's direction) from my childhood.

The JBV is vastly better than the other two, and is easily the best thing I've tried under the high six figures, including other JBVs. (My luthier also thinks it's the best-sounding violin he's seen under the high sixes.) I've had it for about three years and I'm still learning how to exploit it properly.

May 15, 2018, 9:03 AM · Lydia next time HH is in the area you should try to arrange a grouping of regional JBV owners to compare instruments -- blind test, HH plays, JBV owners listen. That would be amazing. I bet she would do it, and I bet you could find half a dozen willing owners. Luthier could inspect them and talk about differences in how they're made, and a nice article could come out of it for a magazine like Strad.
May 16, 2018, 4:36 AM · I think that I have learned quite a lot from this thread, and I think that the best way is to try out more violins from different shops and luthiers. I will be in San Francisco and New York soon for business, I think that I will have time to visit a few violin shops there. Any recommendations for me?

Thanks,
Andrew

May 16, 2018, 5:23 AM · I just feel like trying more before I take the violin out for trial, so I can get a good comparison.
Edited: May 16, 2018, 8:14 AM · Hah, Paul. There are a couple at shops in the area currently, I think, and at least three local v.com readers who own JBVs. :-)

I've heard Hahn's JBV up close before (she stuck around at the signing table after a concert some years ago, with a couple of Maestronet players and their violins, in the pre-v.com days).

Andrew,

In the San Francisco 'burbs, try Ifshin's -- it's the biggest shop in the area and you could easily spend a whole afternoon there, if not longer. New York has an embarrassment of riches; try Reed Yeboah and Rare Violins of New York to start. For instruments in this price range, call and make an appointment first, and they will make an effort to ensure that you have a quiet environment and the attention of an appropriate salesperson.

However, I would do your trial first, and then if you need a second trial, do it after your trips. The trial is not an obligation to buy, and you'll learn a lot by spending at least a week with the violin in your normal environments. I would say that a week is long enough to determine if you definitely don't like the violin -- it may fail to please you in some particular circumstance, or simply feel less delightful after a week. But you may need more time to decide if you really want it.

By the way, Andrew, what's your current playing level ("amateur" is vague), and under what circumstances do you expect to use the violin?

May 17, 2018, 11:42 AM · Hi Andrew,

If you're going to be in the San Francisco area, I would be happy to show you violins here. My contact info is on my avatar.

Regards,
Thomas


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