Buying an (old) bow
November 6, 2006 at 6:30 AM
Couldn’t help myself . All this talk of beautiful bows and I realized it was time to change my ways. The good old stiff Nurnburger just wasn’t cutting it any more.
No money of course, but of to ye old violin shop. A morning spent trying bows is my idea of heaven.
I’d specified bows between 500 000 and 1 000 0000 yen. For convenience I will call the former 5000 thousand dollars and the later ten. Anyone who wants to get a better sense of Japanese prices can do a more precise conversion. The new shop I went to shocked with its huge collection in this range. Good old bows have been few and far between of late. Started at the top with an Ouchard are 12 000 dollars. When I test bows I always start with a forty second bow stroke. Any good bow will do this really well but my reason is more that the kind of tone it produces tells me a lot about the character of the bow itself. I then move onto Kreutzer no 2 at the heel. If the balance doesn’t feel like I will move on fairly quickly. If its okay I play the most complex bowings from Mozart concertos. If that’s okay I do Bach. If that’s okay I play excerpts from all the movements of Wieniawski two and finally the Mendelssohn.
The Ouchard was sensitive and well balanced but seemed a little whippy to me. Later I tried an Ouchard school at 5000 dollars and found this trait to be much more pronounced. Useless for me as I need fairly strong bows. Then I tried a Millet at 12 000 and from the first I thought this was the one. I kept it next to me for comparison. A Sartory produced brilliantly crisp articulation in small bowings but didn’t feel very flowing to me. A very heavy gold mounted Pecatte seemed oddly clumsy and I passed fairly quickly. A bow by Lotte at 8 000 dollars was one of the most perfectly balanced and elegant I have every tried. I would have bought it on the spot except it was , for some reason, not inclined to produce a very explosive martele attack. I couldn’t find a single weakness in that beautiful stick and the only conclusion I could come to was that she was a well bred female bow that didn’t favor expletives. I was really sad to put that one down. At this point I felt that there was a distinct shift in `grade` as it were. Two bows stamped Mirecourt going for 6000 apiece seemed to me to be stiff but in an unhelpful and counter intuitive way. At the same price a Hury was well balanced and produced a good sound but seemed rather fat and plodding compared to the great bows I had just tried. A little like playing in treacle. My immediate reaction was it would make a very good spare.
So that’s it. I took home the Millet for a week, but to be honest , if you can`t evaluate a bow over a couple of hours then it probably isn’t the one for you. Played it in orchestra and was grinning from ear to ear. Fantastic sound cuts right through the strings. Does anything I want with ease. Like driving a Ferrari. Maybe one day I will get to do that!
I suppose the reason I am noting approximate prices here is that the experience was exactly the same as every time I have tried bows over the last thirty years. That is, you get what you pay for. The quality of a bow sets it in a price range and although there may be great disparity between bows according to type within that level that is clearly where they belong. Go up to the next level and even if you don’t like the bow it is superior to the preceding one. I have to confess I have never seen any evidence that one can turn up a substantially cheaper bow that plays better than a top of the liner. I can only attribute this kind of anecdote to a quirk of the individual player. Nothing wrong with that of course , but it is interesting. I wonder if I don’t have any quirks….
Do you think it might be best to try the bows within your price range without looking at each bow price in case you get influenced (the pricer the better) ?
Do you mean Millant instead of Millet? Just curious.
How coincidental. My Ouchard was actually fairly stiff, definately not whippy. I also own a Millant, so is that what you mean buy Millet?
Benny, I never ask the price and maker until I have tried it. That is another reason I think bows are pirced accoridng to quality most of the time- putting them in groups of roughly the same value is not difficult at all,
Wow! I play a good 'old' stiff Nurnburger. I feel like I'm in good company, at least until recently!
my spell checker was working on its health food this week....
Oistrakh used Nurnburgers so they can`t be that bad.
This entry has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.