V.com weekend vote: Have you played a 21st-century violin (or viola, cello)?

March 25, 2023, 9:53 PM · This week I had the wonderful opportunity to listen to dozens of violins that were made this century, and to test out several of them.

21st century violins

It occurred to me that by now, there are quite a lot of 21st-century violins circulating in the world! And yet, many violinists play on violins that are quite a lot older than 23 years.

For example, the violin that I normally play is about 200 years old. But the violin I had before that was made in the 20th century. The violin I grew up playing was made in the late 19th century. My spare violin that I use for outdoors - it was made this century. Three centuries of violins! And beyond just testing a lot of 21st-century violins, I also borrowed a 2011 violin while mine was being restored - one made by my dear friend, Dr. William Sloan - he calls it his "Sloaneri 2," because it was the second violin he ever made, it's modeled after a Guarneri.

After seeing so many beautiful-sounding and beautiful-looking 21st violins this week, I'm interested in hearing about everyone's experiences with the violins of this century. How much have they factored in your life, if at all? Have you tested any? Have you had the chance to play any long-term? Is your main violin a 21st-century fiddle? What are your thoughts about the quality of the violins of this century, based on your own experiences?

By the way, the event I attended was in the Los Angeles area, at Metzler Violin Shop in Glendale, but there is another similar event, a Contemporary Violin Maker Exhibition and Concert that will happen April 29 in northern California, at Bay Fine Violins (click here for information on that one).

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March 26, 2023 at 06:07 AM · I love my Cison (2018).

March 26, 2023 at 06:32 AM · I have two "main" instruments. One from 2012 and one from 1739.

March 26, 2023 at 12:52 PM · I own 19th and 20th century violins, but would not hesitate to buy a modern violin. I do own a 21st century bow by Kate Mohr (Rodney's daughter). If I were a young professional violinist, there is no doubt that a newer instrument (less than 40 years old) would be the best value and is easier to live with than an antique.

March 26, 2023 at 01:24 PM · I love my 2011 violin made by Guy Harrison. Best instrument I've ever played. (And also very happy with my 2 bows, by Christian Wanka and Emmanuel Bégin, both 21st century.) Before that, my main instrument was 19th century.

March 26, 2023 at 01:39 PM · I had not realized that my 1991 instrument is now old - but I guess its at least entering middle-age at 32... My other violins are 30 and 135...

Perhaps I need a C21; ah, an excuse...

Oh, and I have a bow on order (September) Eric Gagne, Montreal. That one will be special. More anon...

March 26, 2023 at 02:06 PM · I consider the first violin I made my “main instrument,” as that’s been the one I’ve played most since making it in 2011. Since becoming acquainted with a very good Ukrainian maker, I’ve been playing and selling his violins for the last few years. They provide excellent value for the money.

I still love my older instruments. Perhaps the violin I love the most of all is one my great-great-grandfather made in 1918, as that was the one I grew up playing and the one that most inspired me to become a luthier and to follow in my family’s tradition.

When I have a gig to play, I sometimes pick a newer instrument if I’m not familiar with the venue or if I know there’s risk. If something catastrophic should happen to one of my recent instruments, it’s easy to replace it with another by the same maker and I can make sure that my more precious (at least to me) violins aren’t getting damaged.

March 26, 2023 at 05:11 PM · I voted "my main instrument was made in the 21st century" even though it's my viola and not my violin that was made in the 21st century, not to mention that it's a workshop instrument (a 2021 Hiroshi Kono to be specific) so it's definitely not quite the same thing as a bench-made modern instrument. My violin is made in 1995 by some little known Canadian maker. It's comparable to many workshop instruments used by intermediate-advanced students and amateurs, not an instrument used by a professional, so it still kinda counts.? If I did venture into more bench-made instruments, I might have different thoughts, but I generally don't care so much about the provenence of a violin, mainly it's sound and playability and making sure it's affordable. The idea that older instruments are better simply isn't true in my opinion, at least up to a point, and it's definitely not true with student/amateur instruments. After all, there are lots of 19th and 20th century European workshop instruments floating around.

March 26, 2023 at 06:14 PM · If I were to purchase a contemporary violin, it better have a name like "Gucci".

Does Louis Vuitton make violins? Gotta keep up with the Joneses, ya know, lest one be shunned at the country club. ;-)

March 26, 2023 at 06:43 PM · Never played on one, but this blog and the replies to it pique my curiosity.

My fiddles date from 1869, 1883, 1921. I’ve had the 1869 fiddle, my third 4/4-size instrument, since halfway through my degree program. I consider it my main instrument. I’ve had the 1883 and 1921 additions since late summer 2005. I arranged multiple in-home trials that summer from an online dealer and ended up selecting these two.

Each fiddle has its own special characteristics that I really like. At the moment, I don’t plan to add a 21st-century instrument to my collection; but if I decide later on to add one, it will undoubtedly be once again via an online dealer, largely because of my schedule, and involve another careful in-home comparison tryout.

Even though I don’t have firsthand experience with a 21st-century instrument, I’ve come across a good number of positive reviews on this site from those players who do have this experience.

March 26, 2023 at 07:02 PM · Haven't heard of Vuitton instruments, but I have been told that violins by David Bergucci are tops. Would love to own one.

March 26, 2023 at 07:31 PM · A little work with an eraser, and an ink pen, and I can probably make you one o' them. ;-)

March 26, 2023 at 11:10 PM · My violin dates to 1875, purchased some 40 years ago. I wouldn't hesitate to buy a 21st century violin today if I were in the market for an instrument. And that is largely because of how much I have learned about the current luthiers on v.com and the positive mentions from serious violinists.

March 27, 2023 at 12:09 AM · I've never owned a 21st century instrument and have tried only a few, but this is mostly because the last time I did any serious instrument shopping was in 2006. I wouldn't hesitate to buy one; when I bought my viola in 2006 I was looking mainly at instruments from modern luthiers and ended up getting an American viola made in 1979.

March 27, 2023 at 01:53 AM · My partner is a self-taught (via books, youtube, previous woodworking experience) luthier. His first violin (2019) lives with me, and I've strung it as a viola for teaching, as injuries prevent me playing a larger instrument.

He's left another of his violins with me because he says it's "terrible", whereas I quite like it. I tend to forget to play it though, particularly as I love my main 1915 instrument so much.

March 27, 2023 at 01:58 AM · My little Hildie was made in Germany in August 2020. It turns out to be perfect for me. I'm happy.

March 27, 2023 at 03:33 AM · I have two modern violins. One was made in 2018 by a newer maker by the name of Mitchell P. McCarthy based on an Amati model while the other was made in 2022 by Steven T. Cundall based on a Bergonzi model. They both have their uses but the Cundall is my main violin. The McCarthy is on the sweeter side so it doesn't have as much projection as I would like. I've tried some different sets to try and help it out but they end up making the sound beam too focused.

March 27, 2023 at 12:36 PM · I own an early 20th century Italian but my main instrument is a Chinese violin I purchased on eBay a couple of years ago for $250 at the recommendation of a member of the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Many of his colleagues play Chinese instruments in this price range. I own and play two other instruments of the same brand. All three are excellent.

I also own and play a violoncello da spalla by Houston luthier Caleb Farrier which he made in 2022.

March 27, 2023 at 03:49 PM · I now, to my embarrassment, have a few from 21c. My main steed is from Howard Needham, a name I discovered on this board.

March 27, 2023 at 05:10 PM · I started to learn the violin in 2014, in 2017 I commissioned a new instrument "as good as I ever would need". Now I'm playing (and planning to buy) a 1932 Collin-Mezin. So, 20th and 21st centuries.

March 27, 2023 at 06:38 PM · I bought a Piacenda in Aberystwyth, because I needed one to accompany singing in the open air (They were going to have their meetings without singing that week, but changed their minds after I had arrived) and that particular year I'd had to come by public transport and didn't have my instrument with me), and, whilst I possess better instruments with more power, I was quite surprised by how decent it sounded.

March 27, 2023 at 10:10 PM · I've owned instruments as old as "mid-1800s" (unlabled, old violin) to my current 2015 Gaybaryan violin. My main instrument is a 2001 Cison viola - which I adore. Nearly every time I play someone mentions "you sound great on that thing." I think we are in a new golden age of instrument making. That said I've recently had the opportunity to play on an "early" Vuillaume violin (incredible), a real golden-era Strad violin (mind-blowing), and a rare Landolfi viola (also incredible). As wonderful as these instruments are, they are many many times more expensive than mine. I guess if you can afford instruments like that, go for it!

March 28, 2023 at 04:27 PM · I have a 2006 Wojciech Topa violin and a 2016 Ming-Jiang Zhu workshop viola. I get more "great sound" compliments from the viola, but I think that's just because a lot of people are not accustomed to hearing the viola up-close. The Topa is not a cannon but it's well balanced and colorful.

March 28, 2023 at 04:54 PM · This is lots of fun to see. I've been on a "violin journey" over the past few years, and my current primary acoustic fiddles are a beautiful 2022 violin by Brescian/French maker Giovanna Chitto, full of sound and character, and a sweet and agile 1830s Mittenwald instrument. Curiously, the Mittenwald fiddle has magically opened up significantly in the 6 months since the Chitto came into the house. Hmmm ....

I also play a rather oddball but quite satisfying 19th-century German fiddle that Rich Maxham helped bring back to life. Here's to the luthiers!

March 28, 2023 at 10:03 PM · My 1st contemporary violin was a 2019 Cremonese made by Ednei Zuccati, currently living in Malta. Full of power and character but still sweet and warm. The main violin I play today is a 2020 Hermann Janzen based on "Viotti" Strad model that further reinvigorated my enthusiasm to practice and my love of the instrument.

March 30, 2023 at 03:39 PM · My new viola is less than 20 years old, from Bernard Sabatier, Paris.

Inspired by the "Lyra Viola" in Oxford's Ashmolean Museum, it only has corners on the lower bouts, allowing the wide middle bout to "flow" into the upper. The tubby body and high arching is compensated by long F-holes, leaving the air resonance at B flat, and a warm, strong "contralto tone, with no nasality.

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