January 12, 2011 at 6:39 AM
The icy drive over to New York City and back was actually the scariest part of the day. Upon arriving at the home of Elana Lehrer in North Jersey, I introduced myself and we took off to hop a train into the city. On the way, we chatted nonstop about the latest violin gossip and other random topics as though we'd always known each other (except that we had a lot of catching up to do, were this the case). She'd lined up four different shops to visit; if we worked quickly and didn't take any wrong turns, we could make all four in an afternoon. Unfortunately, we lost track of time over colossal cream cheese distractions at Brooklyn Bagel, and ended up 30 minutes late for David Segal's.
The shop was tiny, and customers were already lined up being waited upon when we arrived. To pass the time as we waited for assistance, we shuffled into a side room and tried out each other's instruments. However, since they had only a few violins in my range to try, it didn't take long to sample them all and choose my favorite, an 1886 Desiato: it was only six grand over budget. Next stop was Julie Reed-Yeboah.
She welcomed us into her shop and led us to a spacious room with a line of fiddles in my price range. I played them through, once again discovering that the violins in my range were nothing spectacular. I chose my easy favorite, a 2007 Greiner: it was only 20 grand over budget. Oh, I wished I'd never touched it! Julie gave me the contact information in case I wanted to request a commission from the maker. I thought about various criminal behaviors and which option I might choose in order to make it happen.
Then we got to talking. When I told her I was from Alaska, she began mentioning connections she had with other musicians up there. For some reason, she mentioned Nebraska. Knowing my accompanist was originally from there, I asked her if by chance she knew her. "Actually," I added, "Her brother David Wiebe is a violin maker here in New York. Have you heard of him?"
"Why yes, I had dinner with him last Thursday, as a matter of fact!"
"Last Thursday? No kidding! I saw the photos on facebook!"
We laughed over what a small world it was and exchanged email addresses. So much for my anticipated chilly East Coast reception!
Gael Francoise was next on the list. He had some nice French fiddles with interesting histories, but none really grabbed my attention (bad acoustics?). He did have a nice unlabeled copy of a Testori: it was only five grand over budget.
The last shop we went to, Arcieri Violins, was perhaps the most enlightening of all. There, we were informed of the many ways in which people get swindled in the violin market. We received plenty of advice about making good choices when buying an instrument. I got my sound post adjusted for the first time ever and discovered what that whole thing is all about. I found I could get rid of my wolf note, but not without sacrificing the full, throaty tone, so the trick was in finding a balance between throaty and clarity/responsiveness.
As far as their violins go, I really liked a composite Grancino there, and the price was actually closer to what I'd originally had in mind when I'd begun shopping that day.
It would be difficult to say which violin was the best of all I played in New York, since each shop comes with its own set of acoustics, and logistics made it impossible for any kind of finalist show down. My admitted favorite though, was a Bergonzi: it was only about two million over budget.
We closed out our fun-filled day of violin shopping with some tasty Jewish food and lousy service at Carnegie Deli. After dinner, we grabbed a cannoli but missed the train, and played games with anagrams while waiting for the next ride back to NJ.
As I sat on the bench at the train station in New York City, I marveled over the fact that I'd once again found another kindred spirit through internet connections. It's official: my friends are now scattered all over the country. Why can't I find friends like these closer to home? It would certainly be more convenient--albeit less fun.
Sounds like you had a wonderful time in NYC, and that bagel looked scrumptious. Carnegie Deli is one of the first places I head for when I am there, although at my age, I can't eat as much of their wonderful food as I used to. Good luck finding the violin of your dreams! Looking, at least in NYC, is half the fun of the project.
This is a rather long-term project, isn't it? Carnegie Deli's sandwiches are over the top, for sure!
Who is this Elana Lehrer you speak of? Never heard of her.
The Bergonzi is the crowd fav. for sure. If it were $10K I'd buy.
The deli's sandwiches are indeed, 10 times taller than my mouth.
Swindling tales. Oh the tales I could regale with....
Nice! Next time you visit Gregory Singer's shop you could try one of my violas there!
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