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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 83

December 1, 2006 at 1:59 AM

11/29/06 – An article about the chemistry of the great Italian violins ran on that has garnered considerable attention. “Some have suggested that the celebrated Italian violin makers, Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù, used chemically treated wood to create their instruments, which possess some of the most brilliant resonances ever heard with a stringed instrument. Testing this hypothesis hasn't been easy, however. Only about 650 Strads and 150 Guarneri violins are known to have survived, making sample collection a challenge. Joseph Nagyvary, a researcher at Texas A&M University devoted to recreating old Stradivarius and Guarneri violins, waited 21 years to gather enough small shavings for analysis. Nagyvary and colleagues tested the organic matter in samples taken from inside five antique violins during repair. They found strong evidence that the wood used by these masters were chemically treated. …They analysis revealed that the Cremonese masters chemically treated their wood in ways not done by their colleagues in Paris or London, nor by modern violin makers.…Understanding the chemistry of this process, which is still only hypothesized, could lead to improvements in the production of modern violins.” Read the article here:


11/29/06 – The New York Times ran an article on new materials in violin-making: “From Australia to Germany to Maui, there is something of an explosion under way in the use of science and new materials to test the limits of instrument-making. And the traditional violin-making and violin-playing world is taking note. Last year, one prototype, Balsa 4, [made the rounds] at an annual workshop on violin design at Oberlin College in Ohio by the Violin Society of America, a group of builders. When it was played and run through an array of tests, the instrument's responsiveness and punch startled the gathering, several participants said.

Joseph Curtin, a director of the workshop and a builder from Ann Arbor, Michigan, who received a 2005 MacArthur Foundation ‘genius award’ for his violin designs, wrote about Martin's work in the society's newsletter, saying ‘the traditional violin became obsolete in early July of 2005’."

“In an interview, Curtin said that was only partly a playful exaggeration. It will be a long time before balsa and graphite become the materials of choice, he said. But he added that Martin and other experimenters were legitimately challenging long-standing notions of what makes a great acoustic instrument, and whether past masters' work represents a sonic pinnacle or merely the best that could be achieved with traditional materials.” Read the article here:


11/29/06 – is reporting that a "well-known European cellist" has paid $196,000 for an early 19th-century bow made by François Xavier Tourte. The purchase was made last month via Tarisio, an online auction house specializing in musical instruments; the price, according to a report from Gramophone Online, is the highest ever paid at auction for a single bow.

Known as the "ex-Romberg," the bow was made between 1800 and 1810; its entire ownership history is documented, which adds considerably to its value. According to Gramophone Online, Bernard Romberg, a cellist, composer and friend of Beethoven, probably purchased the bow directly from Tourte; later owners include Alfredo Piatti, Robert von Mendelssohn (a cousin of the composer Felix), Max Adler (a cellist who married into the family that owned Sears Roebuck & Co.), and Edmund Kurtz, who died in 2004. The bow's newest owner has chosen to remain anonymous for now, but Jason Price of Tarisio told Gramophone that he or she "will make sure it is heard frequently on concert stages around the world."

Musician News

11/29/06 – Joshua Bell is the subject of a profile in The Jewish Week. In it, we learn that Bell is hailed as America’s greatest living violinist, is more of a cultural Jew than a religious one, and has a “typical Jewish mother.” Read the story here:

11/27/06 – The Columbia Journalist ran a look at the positive effects of Change for Kids, a nonprofit that funds violin lessons in New York City public schools. Juilliard-trained violinist and teacher Majid Khaliq is mentioned in the article:

11/26/06 – The Los Angeles Times ran a review of Violin Dreams, Arnold Steinhardt’s memoir. Steinhardt, of course, is the first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet.

Orchestra News

11/27/06 – Here’s a story about the Charleston (SC) Symphony’s continuing financial crisis from the Charleston Post & Courier, as well as the fact that it’s a relative bargain as symphonies go.

From al ku
Posted on December 1, 2006 at 3:31 AM
on there a difference between "America’s greatest living violinist" and one of?
From Maura Gerety
Posted on December 1, 2006 at 4:21 PM
Thanks for the Nagyvary article--I was just wondering what he's up to these days. :) I read another interesting article about him--about how he was a freedom fighter back in '56!! Read it here:
From William Eisenbarth
Posted on December 1, 2006 at 6:24 PM
Joseph Nagyvary is a publicity hound. Most everything he has written is hearsay. How could he possibly collect shavings from Strad and Del Gesu violins? If I had such an expensive instrument and found out that he had taken some of the wood from it, I would prosecute him to the max. Besides that, nobody in their right mind would take their violin to him because he doesn't have the qualifications to work on a Strad.
From Maura Gerety
Posted on December 1, 2006 at 9:31 PM
Calm down! All I said was I had just thought of him because of that NYT article about "innovative" violin-makers, and I stumbled across his 1956 story completely by accident (while researching the revolution.) Although I can see that he's even more of a controversial figure than I thought!
From Darcy Lewis
Posted on December 4, 2006 at 4:11 AM
Yes, there's definitely a difference between "one of the best" and "the best." But that's the way the newspaper reporter whom I quoted wrote his article. I found it interesting that a critic in a major city was willing to attach the superlative to Bell.

Also, Hagyary is definitely controversial. I wondered if any of that controversy would pop up here in response to me quoting an article in which he was working his publicity machine.

Thanks for the comments!


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