Twin Violins

November 18, 2010, 2:20 PM ·

Have you ever seen identical twin violins? Well, here is a pair, only they were born 267 years apart:

Twin Violins

© Endre Balogh, published with permission from the photographer

At right is the 1728 ex-Artot, ex-Alard Stradivari, and on the left is a replica, made in 1995 by luthier Gregg Alf, whose studio is in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The photographer who took the stunning picture above is Endre Balogh, who also happens to be the violinist who owns both instruments. I wound up in his living room Los Angeles on Tuesday, at the invitation of Gregg Alf, who was visiting Southern California for a few days.

Endre held one fiddle in each hand, "Can you tell?" He showed me the fronts, the backs, rolled each around to the corresponding ribs….identical color, shape, even little scratches. What detail!

"Not by sight, not at all," I said. I wasn't willing to let it go at that, though; I crouched very close to each one and how can I describe? Tried to feel the force field around them? "This one gives me the old-violin feeling." I guessed right. I could tell them apart when I played a few notes on each, but you will laugh at me, when Endre mixed them up and played them for me from across the room, I thought he was playing the Strad when he was playing Alf's instrument. Got me! It sounded really nice. The fiddles have provided Balogh much inspiration, not just musically, but visually; here is a whole gallery of his violin photos. Enjoy!

Replies

November 18, 2010 at 08:49 PM ·

 Wow! I looked at the gallery and isn't that replica violin amazing? How can someone copy something to as much fine detail as that... it is mind blowing! Both the original Strad and the copy are beautiful violins to be treasured.

November 18, 2010 at 10:24 PM ·

Wow....beautiful!!!

November 19, 2010 at 12:50 AM ·

Would the older violin be the one with white/ivory-colored, dot-like ornament in the head of the pegs as opposed to the one having a black-colored, dot-like ornament?

Solely based on the photographs, the older one appears to have had its peg holes bushed, a repaired crack in the peg box right near the nut, older-looking varnish on the scroll (especially the top and sides of the scroll),  a newer neck, and generally speaking, older-looking varnish on the ribs (in one of the photographs).

Just the fact that the peg holes are bushed may not mean anything. Even Roth violins with the original Caspari pegs have their peg holes bushed so one can use ordinary pegs.

I could be wrong, but then I can blame everything on the Brewster chair which the Henry Ford museum proudly displays.

Just to clarify...I am no expert and would not be able to tell if an instrument is a Strad or not, which is why I used the words, "older violin" to mean the older of the two shown in the photographs.

November 19, 2010 at 12:59 PM ·

I love fiddle porn.

November 19, 2010 at 08:50 PM ·

Ha!  Yes!  Fiddle porn!

Really an excellent photo series for violins.  I'm totally inspired!

Thank you!

MNF

November 20, 2010 at 02:21 AM ·

Wow!! That's an amazing replication. It must have taken a lot of patience to copy everything exactly (even the little scratches). I'm really impressed!

November 21, 2010 at 12:01 AM ·

Wow amazing that is fiddle porn.

November 21, 2010 at 02:59 AM ·

...you will laugh at me, when Endre mixed them up and played them for me from across the room, I thought he was playing the Strad when he was playing Alf's instrument. Got me!

@Laurie,

That is not the least bit surprising.  Alf is one of the top makers today.  There is no reason one would expect his violin to sound any less pleasing than a given Strad.  Your experience has been repeated time and again.  There is nothing "magic" about the old Italian fiddles.  Makers today have just as much knowledge and skill as the old Italians.  Strads and Guarneri's are expensive because they are rare, not because they are better. 

November 22, 2010 at 04:58 AM ·

I love the photos.  They give me ideas for new "poses" of my violin to photograph.

November 24, 2010 at 07:59 AM ·

“Alf is one of the top makers today.  There is no reason one would expect his violin to sound any less pleasing than a given Strad.  Your experience has been repeated time and again.  … Strads and Guarneri’s are expensive because they are rare, not because they are better.”

 

Smiley, thanks for such kind words!

 

What impressed me 15 years ago, when Joseph Curtin and I were copying the 1727 Artot-Alard Stradivari, was the way Strad maintained so many features from his golden period, for example the edge work, in this later period work.  Even the 1697 Molitor Stradivari, which we copied for Elmar Oliveira years before (and which recently re-sold for a record price to Anne Akiko Meyers), shows working concepts that Strad would hold faithful to 30 years later.

 

More than their rarity, this is what I feel makes Stradivari violins so sought after.  By numbers alone, his shop was one of Cremona’s most prolific. More Strad instruments remain today than other makers build in two lifetimes.  But his large body of work also represents an intensely strong and consistent personal style … from a wonderful period in Western history. 

 

Yes indeed, the best modern makers are doing the same thing today.  One can hardly be better than Stradivari at building Stradivari instruments or Guarneri building Guarneri’s.  But replicating them is the closest one can come to studying with these masters.  By incorporating what I have learned from such projects into my own personal violins, and by fine tuning their sound with soloists like Mr. Oliveira and Mr. Balogh -who own and appreciate both classic and modern instruments, I am doing my best to produce concert instruments that history may look kindly upon in 300 years.

 

Thanks again for your support,

 

Gregg Alf

 

http://www.alfstudios.com

 

BTW, many of my personal instruments are actually un-antiqued

 

GA178 violin by Gregg Alf

 

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