Chinese versus Cremonese Manufacture

March 6, 2007 at 06:41 PM · There is a very interesting article in the Uk "The Daily Telegraph," available on line at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/05/wviolins05.xml... regarding the Chinese versus the Cremonese violins and their manufacture... also some pictures.

Replies (42)

March 6, 2007 at 07:19 PM · a high school sophomore with access to google can write a more informative article. not much that we do not know of, except the statement about being unlawful to make more than 15 violins per year. interesting will be an understatement in this case, like encouraging birth control with underpopulation. meanwhile, in china, if you make less than 15 per day, you will be fired, lol.

if we shoot down the chinese production and lock up the burgesses, the darntons, the needhams, and limit the italians to 15 per luthier, the good old time may roll back. yeah right.

it will be nice for the italians to win the VSAs in a more compelling fashion so that the sentiment will be more justifiable.

fortunately, consumers are buying violins not under coertion.

March 6, 2007 at 06:59 PM · Didn't know that it was against the law to make more than 15 either...rather odd

March 6, 2007 at 07:06 PM · Great article.

I hope people here this loud and clear.

They refuse to play by the rules in many other markets.

Not to mention the pirating of software, movies etc.

March 6, 2007 at 07:11 PM · Hmm, I don't really find anything wrong with Chinese violins. They are good for many players who want a quality instrument but can't afford to own a 20,000$+ instrument.

It may damage the sales of Cremonese instruments, but so what? It's providing people in China with jobs, as well as providing many violinists with cheaper, quality instruments.

March 6, 2007 at 07:33 PM · Let's see........if they are making that many instruments for their own country, fine. I doubt that that figure of sales represents domestic sales.

As the article states, the figure represents sales abroad.

To have fair trade, that is why there are fair trade agreements between nations. Something the Chinese have yet to address in many of the other markets (they are competing in).

March 6, 2007 at 07:34 PM · so a businessman in the west draws up a business plan on his own will, plans a trip to china and locates where to visit, buys a plane ticket, goes the airport on his own, visits the chinese factory, picks out what he likes and bargains for a price that he likes, comes home with the products so that he can try to sell to anyone who is willing to buy.

what a concept! i smell nobel prize in economics.

March 6, 2007 at 08:14 PM · read it:

"The Daily Telegraph," available on line at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/03/05/wviolins05.xml... regarding the Chinese versus the Cremonese violins and their manufacture... also some pictures.

March 6, 2007 at 08:25 PM · I see that the Italians are feeling the heat from the Chinese makers, but I don't see why this is necessarily a bad thing.

I'm also not sure in what way the Chinese are not engaging in fair trade here either. Now, when the Chinese close their markets to others in China, that's not fair trade. But why shouldn't they be able to sell their instruments anywhere they like?

In the long run, I think it's in everyone's benefit to keep this and any other market as open as possible.

Now as to the faking practices that they engage in - there's no nobility in that. But at the high end market, faking won't get very far.

I do wonder why the Italians restrict making of violins to only 15.

March 6, 2007 at 08:36 PM · Terry, I assume the reason for restricting to 15 it is to keep the price of "Cremonese vioins" up, like the restrictions on how much farmers can grow helps keep farming profitable.

March 6, 2007 at 08:32 PM · I also don't see why it's bad that Italian makers have to compete with the Chinese. If anything competition will improve quality and price for the consumers.

Sure some Italian makers may go out of business, but that's the reality of any business.

March 6, 2007 at 08:46 PM · i think antiquing should be distinguished from putting in a fake label and selling it as something else.

antiquing has been part of the trade for a long time, certainly not a chinese invention.

putting in a fake label and selling it as something else, again, is not a chinese invention. that also has been part of the trade for a long time.

could violin people outside china put in fake labels and turn chinese made violins into italian labelled violin? as likely as chinese inside china doing it, isn't it? because so far there is no conclusive evdience suggesting otherwise, isn't it?

one thing i do not understand...if i own authentic great italians, why am i supposed to be threatened by the new kids on the block? the trend of the auction prices certainly is on my side.

paranoia,,,a pill easy to swallow and hard to digest.

on the italian limit of 15...if the law works, why the complain? do we know any happy farmers in the US?

jim, what did you hit right on the nose?

March 6, 2007 at 09:14 PM · I think Jim has the right idea.

........................

It is not antiquing that is in question. it is the actual making of a fake that was discussed in the article. A fake that was made of a Conia violin, which Conia viewed and confirmed that it was not his work. In general, he does not antique his instruments. Conia believes there is evidence that it was Chinese. And hence, as he stated, the authorities there are looking into it.

Go argue with him.

BTW, there are many Americans as well as Europeans going out of business as well.

The old instruments are not really affected by this . In fact it makes them even more rare.

ALKU, I think you might need to get checked for ADD.

March 6, 2007 at 08:53 PM · "A fake that was made for example of a Conia violin. Which Conia saw and stated that it was not his work. In general, he does not antique his instruments. Conia believes there is evidence that it was Chinese. And hence, as he stated, the authorities there are looking into it."

interesting the above statements can be made purely from interpreting the linked article.

no child left behind? well, some should:)

March 6, 2007 at 08:55 PM · I honestly think the Cremonese makers will sort things out, but it is going to be a painful process, as many have to close down. They are simply too many at the moment, and not all are competing on quality. But I hope the best will remain, and that they will go for higher prices. I think they also have to cultivate a distinct Italian taste and new-look style. The "it's easy to make an antiqued violin"-style has been easy for the Chinese to assimilate at an industrial level, while you simply can't make mass-produced instruments of a Silvio Levaggi quality, for example. In my opinion the Italians has always had a talent for making new instruments that is pretty unique, while copies and antiqued instruments are made better elsewhere. But also, I think part of the problem is that Cremonese instruments have been too easy to sell for a while, and any local style has been rather diluted and not distinct... and some very inflated makers too.

March 6, 2007 at 10:07 PM · I knew this Cremonese guy and he used to tell everybody he was Chinese but he was in the restaurant business.

March 6, 2007 at 10:33 PM · Greetings,

antique spaghetti can be really nasty,

Cheers,

Buri

March 6, 2007 at 10:39 PM · That's funny, I knew a Cremonese guy who thought he was American and really liked McDonald's.

March 7, 2007 at 12:26 AM · I think the limit of 15 a year, is to prove that it was made by one man. If he had more than 15 a year, likely he had some help, and if he cannot produce the wood shavings, that help was not local. He is telling you that he spent quality time to hand-make those 15 violins and that other violins with his name on them that do not match the wood shavings were not made by him.

March 7, 2007 at 01:35 AM · But he could have one a year made by fifteen guys :)

THe problem is the more there are the lower the price would go. If they weren't held back they'd naturally make as many as they could, and eventually they'd be working for $3.35 an hour and go out of business no matter how fast they were working. Somebody has decided fifteen is optimal. But you're right in that it also impacts quality and reputation, etc. Saving the sawdust is funny though. It's not like it would be hard to dispose of the extra. Unless it's under lockdown, in which case they wouldn't need sawdust...

March 7, 2007 at 02:08 AM · The purpose for saving the wood and shavings is to take away his incentive to make more than 15, because any extra that was not saved would be suspected to be counterfeit. The other purpose for saving the shavings is so people don't think he is importing violins in the white and then finishing them. It is unlikely that the imported white violins would have the shavings, the cut-outs of the wedges, etc. Of course I suppose they could just as well do that too. Then we'd have to look at pollen, bug fragments in the shavings to see if the woods have been to China or stayed in Italy. The point is to register these violins, provide an authentication trail, and prove to the buyer why he should pay more for a genuine Stefano Conia violin.

March 7, 2007 at 02:10 AM · But that's all wrong!

March 7, 2007 at 02:11 AM · Yah, I guess so. However he has no incentive to register more than 15 a year. I'm sure it's the price he pays for being a maker in the city of Cremona. Again, ask any maker how hard it is to hand-make more than 15 violins a year. I've heard that it takes around 45 days to make a really decent violin.

March 7, 2007 at 02:14 AM · one time i met a cremona guy on a cruise in europe in the fall. wassuup i inquired. he said he had met his quota of 15 already and decided to hang and chill. yah.

March 7, 2007 at 02:12 AM · I knew an old Chinese guy who kept his beard shavings.

March 7, 2007 at 02:46 AM · Alan:

That man is a threat to Cremonese beard shavings.

Cremona is limited to 15 beards per year.

It's just not fair.

March 7, 2007 at 03:29 AM · Forgive me a little Schadenfreude but somehow I think the modern Cremonese makers who have traded on and profited from a tenuous, at best, connection to Stradivari and del Gesu are finding that they're not the only ones who can play the quality-by-association game.

March 7, 2007 at 05:12 AM · that fake Gucci and fake Rollex (made in China) will be worth big money someday..........right.

March 7, 2007 at 12:55 PM · I really need to take a break from posting, and practice for my recital, but just a few thoughts on this interesting subject...

My favorite violin is a contemporary Chinese. My 2nd favorite is a contemporary Italian! My favorite bow is a contemporary American. I don't think I have an axe to grind, quality-wise, for or against a particular place of origin. There is a high international standard today, and my next favorite acquisition may come from anywhere. I think it was self-serving of that Cremona-based maker to say (if memory serves) that the Cremona makers (of today) still have an extra something in quality that the Chinese who worked in Cremona lose when they go back to China. As the article said, Chinese makers have been winning many prizes at various competitions. And the Cremona makers are, indeed, trying to trade on the cache of "made in Cremona." I don't know about fake Rolexes, but things change. The British 'fakers' such as John Lott and the Voller brothers may have been looked down on in the past, but now they have a value of their own. When I was a kid, "made in Japan" referred to cheap toys and begrudgingly, good cameras. Is anyone sneering at Japanese cars and other technology today?

Martketing, though, is another matter. I basically believe in free but fair enterprise. I'm not too happy to hear that another teacher or freelancer in my town is willing to work for half of my fees. Ultimately this can bring down everyone. But things have a way of working themselves out, sometimes. I think that as China develops into a complete capitalist market system, those prices won't remain low forever.

March 7, 2007 at 05:56 PM · As makers we should be big enough and confident enough to accept the challenge offered by Chinese makers. If we need to hide behind trade aggreements or official quotas to justify our instruments to our customers then we need to take a long hard look at ourselves. Cremona is hanging on by the fingertips because their reputation is based partly on snobbery and prejudice. Their instruments will continue to be lauded because a lot of dealers depend on people buying into the absurd notion that Italian is always better. If people start judging instruments on their merits then a lot of prestigious violin houses are in a lot of trouble. Musicians who believe that an instrument must be Italian and a bow must be French are being fleeced.

March 7, 2007 at 06:32 PM · Interesting article, interesting discussion. In the end, it's a sign of the times. And the times, they're a'changin. (First said, with a gloomy shake of the head, by Oog the Caveman in 7000 BCE, upon seeing the children run off with one of those newfangled wheel contraptions.)

March 7, 2007 at 07:02 PM · if this cremona situation is brought to a business school as a case study, you will see some interesting observations, conclusions and suggestions, of which you will not see getting a reporter on your side to be the solution. first thing first,,,acknowledge that it is not the other guys' fault. until then, people are simply living in a big lie, with lying to oneself being the worst kind.

what do car makers do when being squeezed? they make allies and form partnerships, because fundamentally it is a business, not a nationalistic cookout.

March 7, 2007 at 07:19 PM · Actually Al, I don't think it'd ever make it to a case study. It's pretty obvious. Open markets and open competition make for the best product and is most beneficial to all. It doesn't matter if it's the Big 3 automakers, Toyota, Nucor Steel, Sony, Boeing, Airbus, Microsoft, Google or violins in Cremona.

March 7, 2007 at 07:30 PM · Yup to what Terry says. It could be about fiction, about books, about the publishing biz, independent bookstores, mom and pop businesses. Honestly, I didn't read much of an agenda or a slant into the article, either. I just read it, sympathized, but saw the bigger picture. But we all read these things differently, I suppose.

March 7, 2007 at 07:33 PM · I agree Terry, bring on the competition. The best makers will come out on top and players will be better off financially and in terms of choice.

March 7, 2007 at 07:58 PM · btw.... some of the guys in the same Cremona knew better. their ex students now working in China would produce high quality parts or even complete instruments "in white", ship 'em over to Cremona. In goes the label (Lamborghini, Mussolini or whatever), on goes the varnish, and of course a Cremonese national price tag.

March 7, 2007 at 07:58 PM · btw.... some of the guys in the same Cremona knew better. their ex students now working in China would produce high quality parts or even complete instruments "in white", ship 'em over to Cremona. In goes the label (Lamborghini, Mussolini or whatever), on goes the varnish, and of course a Cremonese national price tag.

March 7, 2007 at 08:23 PM · terry, i am all for open competition as you suggested ( but to be fair, china can open much more, at least revaluate the YMB more fluidly. china at this stage restricts many foreign imports for fear that its domestic infrastructure may be collapsed by the influx. however, i am not running china so what can i say. bottom line,,,each country tries to maximize its own well being)

when i refer to the case study, i was talking about bringing outside people to look at the cremona situation and bringing in some new ideas. obviously it is obvious to me and you, but you do wonder what is going on there. status quo may not cut it any longer.

if what dmitri says is to be true, shall we blame the chinese or the italians for those white violins? lol

when a chinese guy and an italian guy eat together some stringed pasta, do they call it noodle or spagetti?

March 7, 2007 at 10:24 PM · Yes, Al, agreed, China could definitely be more open than it is. There is a lot of corruption and other things that make businesses wary of working there. If they think they have a competitive advantage due to their population size, their advantage would only be greater if the environment which they've created for business were more open.

In fact, the rest of the world in some ways can be thankful they aren't more open. Then the Chinese would really get competitive.

Given their developing nature, there's not a lot of international companies looking to relocate there in order to sell within China. But as China gains affluence, even that is changing...

Noodles or spaghetti - either way. I like them both!!

March 7, 2007 at 10:35 PM · i share your sentiments, terry. china is a very complicated situation or place or whatever you want to call it. china means so many different things to so many different people. ironically, among my friends who truely understand china, there are 2, both americans (italian and jewish). they have worked the system there, and know the big picture and direction instead of relying on the chinese or western media.

one calls china the workshop of the world, well, at least workshop of his world where all his products under Conair and Cushionart were made in china for many years. he laments that americans simply have no idea how lucky they are, benefiting tremendously from the labor force in china. may be he has a point.

the other very shrewd garment guy has a lock on essentially all the wool suits in the major dept stores in the us and europe. i asked him recently where he is heading if china's labor becomes too expensive. he said: for the next 50-100 years, there is no place like china. if michael jordan and tiger woods every couple months drops couple hundred grand for his specialty fine fabrics that are made in china, it says something i think. i just don't know what:)

March 7, 2007 at 11:39 PM · When I first saw a large group of Chinese instruments at the Kassel, Germany violin making competition about 20 years ago, I was relieved. No threat there.

Now though, I think many luthiers who make "antiqued" violins are looking for a different path, because the best Chinese antiqued violins are good enough in style (not speaking about sound) that the average musician is hard-pressed to tell the difference. Maybe not good enough to fool the connoisseur, but the connoisseur part of the market is not that large.

Antiqued violins aside, a few of the Chinese makers are getting pretty good. I think they have a way to go before they approach the level of the better European and American makers, but let's just say that I'd be looking for some serious strategies if I was was a recent non-Chinese violin-making school graduate hoping for a 50 year career.

David Burgess

March 8, 2007 at 01:13 AM · I understand the Renee Morel has recently stated that some of the violins coming out of China today are positively scary - they're so good. My own favorite violin (which I described in a lot of detail in an archived thread re 'what's your favorite instrument?') a Chinese antiqued copy of the "Hellier" Strad, is an amazingly good copy; all the more so when you consider that all they have to work with are photos. It's not like a maker who gets to hold the original, feel every bump, take a plaster cast, etc. And tonally, it is top drawer. All in all it invites comparison - sound-wise, and workmanship-wise - with any contemporary violin I've ever seen or tried (-and that's a lot of violins).

That said, I remain very open to the next good thing - from anywhere. I'm very impressed with a Polish violin belonging to a colleague of mine. And I'm very excited about a violin I've commissioned from Long Island maker, Edward Maday. I suggested the model ( the "Lord Wilton" del Gesu) and even varnish color, and we chose the wood together. BTW, this will NOT be antiqued. It's a special feeling to be in at the very inception of an instrument!

My basic point is - keep an open mind.

March 8, 2007 at 05:18 AM · one thing is for sure, if people do not invest in their kids's future (in this case music & art education), it does not matter old or new instruments & where they come from, the future could be a bleak one. I hope that will not be the case.

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