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Emily Grossman

Chasing Rainbows

January 4, 2012 at 6:20 AM

I was supposed to return the 1720 Flemish violin on my way back through Missouri last Friday, but instead found myself calling to postpone. Before deciding totally against it, I wanted to try a sound post adjustment to get rid of a quirky wolf tone on the G string, and see if this would eliminate a bit of the sluggishness and open it up a bit. With Dan Lawrence's permission, the Tulsa Violin Shop was more than happy to oblige. I came home with a clean-sounding G and a more balanced sound.

Then came the waffling. Back and forth I went, upstairs, downstairs, in my nightgown... I couldn't put it down, but I couldn't talk myself into keeping it. It had everything I wanted in a violin--almost. I liked it more than my modern Italian--almost. No, how could I even compare the two? This was my bipolar opposite, and it beckoned. At night, I dreamed about it. By day, I fretted and obsessed. After three full days of this restless behavior, I picked up the phone.

"Hi Dan, it's Emily again." I took a deep breath, and revealed my decision. "I really want to keep this violin, but I just can't, for the reasons I stated before. I just can't financially justify having two." They really make a nice pair, but I cannot help but wonder if I couldn't find one violin that has its feet firmly planted in both worlds: warmth and woody, sweet golden resonance with focused, brilliant clarity and responsiveness. Sweet and salty. Crunchy chewy. Chocolate and peanut butter. All in one package. I hope if I keep saving, maybe one day when I finally meet it, I'll have the funds to go for it. Until then, I feel better keeping my money.

We chatted a while about violins, and in closing, Dan offered to negotiate some sort of trade-in, "if it might make anything easier." I declined thankfully, stating that I wasn't ready to part with my Italian for its wonderful projecting qualities. (Though possibly less pleasing under the ear, I could trust it to enunciate clearly to my audience.)

I head back to Kansas City on Friday.

What do you think, should I consider the trade-in?

Oh, I know, you can't answer that question for me...

From Bart Meijer
Posted on January 4, 2012 at 6:45 AM
Such a lovely title! And how telling it is.
wishing you peace of mind,
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 4, 2012 at 6:54 AM
Emily, are you a member of the AFM? There is a Musicians Interguild Credit Union in Los Angeles, and they offer instrument loans. I don't know if you have to be a member of the LA branch to join it, but looking into it might be a thought. Buying the instrument that I really wanted was very empowering for me, and I've never regretted it. Even after five years of payments. :)
From Ellie Withnall
Posted on January 4, 2012 at 8:14 AM
If this was the violin for you, you would KNOW. The fact you are undecided is the answer. Mr. Right is out there somewhere for you and he's worth waiting for.
From Tom Holzman
Posted on January 4, 2012 at 1:51 PM
Emily - good luck with a very difficult decision. Your post makes clear how agonizing it is. We can only sympathize. For what it is worth, their may not be a "right" or "wrong" choice, particularly when choosing between two very good instruments. The only real question, perhaps, is whether you can figure out a way along the lines of Laurie's suggestion, to own both.

Your comment about finding a violin that combines all the characteristics you seek brought back a memory. I was talking some years ago to my luthier about wanting at some point to get a violin that combined those characteristics, and his response was that those instruments started at about $50K. You may be able to find something in your price range, whatever it is, but that would undoubtedly take some intensive searching.

From Jeremy Buzash
Posted on January 4, 2012 at 4:17 PM
I understand what you are going through. After years of yearning, I've finally acquired a dream instrument. It's funny that you mentioned previously that you were at Fred Oster's because I'm in the process of purchasing his violin by Nemessanyi and it is one of those instruments that is placed in the best of both worlds. It has that deep and powerful Guarnerian sound with a surprisingly sweet and penetrating upper end with a remarkable response. It rings with pure clarity and makes playing Bach easy.

Because the fiddle has an unoriginal scroll, I was able to afford it. Keep searching for your dream instrument, because it's out there and it will present itself when the time is right. All good things to those who wait, right?

From Rebecca Hopkins
Posted on January 4, 2012 at 4:50 PM
Emily, I can't help but think you are right to believe you will find "the one" and that your search should continue. I have no experience shopping for great instruments and base my opinion on what you have written and think once that violin is returned, you will know it was the only decision you could make. As always, I love to read about your experiences, thanks!
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on January 4, 2012 at 6:30 PM
Emily, clearly you are falling love right now. Our perception and judgment are compromised during such time. Why not give 1720 Flemish some more time to see if the relationship will be as good as it seems to you right now? Can you ask for a longer period of loan, with a fee if necessary? If so, then you can play the Flemish to as many people and places as possible to get plenty feedback to give you more solid idea if this guy is for you. As you know more than I do, a violin can sound very different in different venues (big or small halls) in an orchestra or chamber music setting. You’ll know whether to trade in or not in a few months of this type of trial. Whatever you do, don’t rush into a decision.
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 2:10 AM
Oh Yixi, I wish it was easy to keep a violin for a longer period, but I fly back to Alaska on Monday, and I just don't want to take risks with fine instruments by shipping them back and forth, especially this time of year. I tend to agree with Ellie, and I will be more convinced when I find what I'm looking for.
From Lisa Van Sickle
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 2:43 AM
Yeah, hold out for the one that makes you want to sell or mortgage everything you have in order to buy it. In this blog you are using words like "almost" and "maybe." That's a good indication that this isn't the one. Did you get your bow back?
From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 3:16 AM
Elizabeth said she's express shipping it tomorrow. I can't wait to have it back with me.
From Francesca Rizzardi
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 6:29 AM
Emily, I can't tell you either what the right decision is, but thanks for reminding me that I
should stop telling myself that I'll never be able to afford my next dream violin and start saving my money.
From Laurie Niles
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 5:54 PM
When I was considering the purchase of my violin (a big stretch, it has been), I asked myself, if I don't get this one, will I be looking for this sound for the rest of my life, in another fiddle? And the answer was "yes" and so I got this one!
From Yixi Zhang
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 6:14 PM
Laurie, that was exactly how I decided with the last violin I brought home from China! Guess what? Over time, the sound has changed on me. I still like the violin for other reasons but this particular sound that touched me at the first place is gone. But then again, I’m growing as violin student as well as the violin is maturing. For seasoned violinists such as you and Emily and with old violins, I guess it’s a different story all together.
From Dee Ann Fleming
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 6:35 PM
Emily, BUY THE VIOLIN. At worst, you will be able to trade it in later for what you paid for it. At best, it will be an investment that will grow in monetary terms, and further enable you to get 'the one'. In the meantime, you get to play it!
From Rosalind Porter
Posted on January 5, 2012 at 10:08 PM
The way I would be thinking is: If I do NOT buy this violin, will I regret it for a long, long time? Will you have "what if?" moments when you wish you'd bought it/him/her? I suspect you've already fallen a great deal in love with the Flemish...

I know when I was buying Johannes, there was a moment of doubt - am I doing the right thing - but in my heart I knew that I was. Of course I could have taken the view that something better would come along, but would it? Two years down the line and I've not encountered another violin in that price range that would even begin to persuade me that it is better than Johannes. (Of course the beautiful Vuillaume I tried in Sean Bishop's treasure trove of a shop was very tempting but unfortunately the Lottery hasn't turned out my numbers yet!)

Such a difficult situation though.

From Emily Grossman
Posted on January 6, 2012 at 12:06 AM
Augh, you guys are making this so hard for me!

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