Where to start in the hunt of a career-long violin?

June 23, 2007 at 02:54 AM · My father left me a lot of money and it was his wish that I spend a lot of it on a great violin and a great bow (he had pushed me through 16 years worth of lessons!). I took a year off the instrument, which served me well; you never know how much you miss something till it is gone, I guess. I am now ready to do as he wished because I have decided to make it my future career (going to USC in the fall). I would be comfortable spending 75,000 dollars on this, but I would like to spend a lot less of it, if possible.

I just read the thread on bows, and, for the most part enjoyed it very much. I started with little knowledge about who the great makers are, and I now at least know who they are. I hope to learn just as much in this thread about violins in my price range (have played a lot already). Where would you start if you were looking for a great violin with this kind of money available? And why would you start there?

The point is: I want to make the best choice possible in getting the best violin I can buy. I know I have a lot of playing to do in order to do that, but I am hoping some of you can help me cut some of the time and travel down. Does anyone have a lot of experience with violins in my price range?

Replies (100)

June 23, 2007 at 10:08 AM · One of my brothers spent a quarter of a million dollars he made, in about a month. He doesn't even remember how. He was like duhhh...what happened to it?

June 23, 2007 at 09:09 AM · Tons of possibilities...

You might consider a Sam Zygmuntowicz instrument. He's a modern maker. Yo Yo Ma recommended it to Dylana Jensen when she was looking for an instrument after she was no longer able to borrow the Guarneri that she had been using.

It might be hard to find one though - I've heard that he's backordered for many many years.

It's worth knowing that it's hard to sell violins. Most shops charge a commission of 35% to sell an instrument. So use some judgement on what you buy - it's pretty easy to fritter away $75,000, just ask Jim's brother!! LOL

June 23, 2007 at 09:35 AM · check out the thread on Needham. you're located not too far from one of the players that owns one. perhaps he'll let you try it out. and you wouldn't have to spend your entire fortune on one.

June 23, 2007 at 12:39 PM · "It's worth knowing that it's hard to sell violins. Most shops charge a commission of 35% to sell an instrument."

It's true that most owners need assitance to resell instruments in this range, but I wonder which shops you're working with... Going rate for consignment is more like 20%.

June 23, 2007 at 01:08 PM · In the price range you are talking about, you can be paying a handsome percentage of your money for age, maker name or provenance. Sound and playability are more important to me. Also, the tone quality I want to hear/produce has changed moderately, but enough that a violin I loved at 20 wouldn't do now. $$$ violins can be hard to sell/swap, as noted by others. My suggestion is you start looking at violins between $15000 & $20000 and $3000-$4000 on a bow to match it. Sock the rest of your bucks in an investment account. Every penny you can put away (and leave for years) will grow immensely, so that you can feel secure forever. This opens up more avenues for you. A playing career is tough to build and doesn't particularly pay, but a cushion you build could make it more possible for you to accept work you want. Sue

June 23, 2007 at 03:04 PM · what is instrument you play now, and why is so bad so you want to change?

June 23, 2007 at 04:12 PM · On the other hand a superb modern or older French bow will appreciate pretty well and probably outdo stocks.

June 23, 2007 at 06:30 PM · Thanks guys, V. com rocks!

Jin: lol

Terry: I know about Sam Z. He is on the top of my list to try. The problem with all these makers is finding one of their fiddles locally to try, but I am willing to fly all over the US this summer, if need be. I am also going to Europe this summer and will visit some of the top makers there, if I know who they are by then.

Celine: I play a fiddle made by an Italian maker that is probably worth 12-15K right now. But I know I can do much better than this fiddle.

Sue: I am willing to spend 75k if need be, but this is not in anyway my whole inheritance Sue. I will only spend a portion of it by spending the 75k, and I hope to not even spend that.

Bow, already decided to go with a great modern maker, but I want to match the violin to the bow, so no need to go after that at this time. Will probably try Espy, Morrow, William Salchow, Dacunha, Halsey and Wehling, first.

Jim: What is the thread you are talking about, and who is this maker? I have not heard of him, but then again, I do not know much about them.

When I read the bow thread I saw David Burgess mentioned many times, along with Sam Z. Does anyone in CA play a Burgess? Ok, I guess I should just email him that question! LOL

I will play a Morales and a Curtin this afternoon, so this is a good first step for me. Again, does anyone have a lot of experience playing fiddles in this price range?

June 23, 2007 at 06:48 PM · Hi,

I'm guessing you don't have 5.5 million for a Del Gesu, right? Then why not get a modern violin from a maker who can achieve similar results for under $30,000. You'll probably need your inheritance to pay for your music education, which after all is said and done, can easily cost you $200,000 if you study in NYC (because I'll tell you right now from experience, if you have a trust fund, no one will give you a scholarship).

For $75000, if you insist on an old instrument, there are some nice violins. But like I've said before, nothing mind blowing.

June 23, 2007 at 07:05 PM · Pieter,

My father had made provisions for a music school, and I was accepted when I finally auditioned. I am only sorry that I did not do it while he was alive. And I wish he had seen me practice for my audition! Oh and believe me, my father was never one for hand-outs! He would not have wanted me to accept a scholarship even if they wanted to give one to me. He came to this country with nothing, and left behind a very secure family. And he did it the old fashion way—he worked for it, with very little help. Oh, man, this stuff makes me cry!

I think you are right because I have tried a lot of 70k type of older instruments. Many have been very good, but as you said, “noting mind blowing.”

But what makers do you think can achieve a del Gesu-like sound? Is this a reasonable expectation from any modern instrument? What makers do you have in mind? I read the stuff Jensen wrote about Sam Z., and I realize she is a world-class player. So maybe you're right? I mean why would a world-class player play a modern if it did not kick some serious butt! It would be nice for her to compare the del-Gesu to Sam’s instrument. I have a feeling she would say the del Gesu was superior, but maybe I am wrong.

Do any other great players play on moderns, if so who?

Thanks! Off to play two violins, with tears running down my cheeks! Thanks a lot Pieter, you made a girl cry!

June 23, 2007 at 08:45 PM · Umm I'm sorry if I made you cry... it wasn't my intention. It seems like we have similar dads.

Anyways, I tried to e-mail you about some specifics, did you get it? Also, I totally forgot about the fact that you mentioned USC, so of course the education thing isn't the same deal. Some great reading comprehension skills I have...

June 23, 2007 at 08:52 PM · Quoi ? Ta gueule ? Aucune galanterie je vois. Je pensais que les Canadiens Francais etaient plus polis que cela !!! Je crois que je me suis bien trompe.

Et de plus, tu as beaucoup a apprendre afin de devenir musicien professionnel.

Pardon me, I have to explain for some things he said bad to me before.

June 23, 2007 at 09:02 PM · the thread on howard needham:

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=10712

there is more than one thread. all rather entertaining because of the heat the discussion generated. old vs modern, playability vs investment value, etc

June 23, 2007 at 09:35 PM · crisse arrete celine... ca c'est un site anglais. e-mail moi si tu veux continuer avec ses niaiseries...

I'm not french.

June 23, 2007 at 09:48 PM · here is site very interesting for to find many great maker in Europe Festival 17-29 July 2007

L'Atelier Européen de Luthiers et Archetiers,

du lundi 23 au vendredi 27 juillet 2007

33 luthiers et archetiers ont déjà

participé à l’Atelier depuis 1997 :

33 violin maker and bow maker participet from 1997:

Jacques Bauer, Sylvain Bigot, Marike Bodard, Reinhart Bönsch, Edwin Clément, John Dilworth, Bruno Dreux, Arthur Dubroca, Boris Fritsch, Pascal Gilis, Jean-Christophe Graff, Klaus Grünke, Eero Haahti, Hieronymus Köstler, Yannick LeCanu,

Silvio Levaggi, Thomas Meuwissen, Peter Oxley,

Franck Ravatin, Andrea Robin-Frandsen,

Patrick Robin-Frandsen, Ben Ruth, Richard Salaun,

Mitsuaki Sasano, Sébastien Seixas, Jean Seyral, Jean Strick, Stéphane Thomachot, Alex Tulchinsky, Christian Urbita, Stephan Von Baehr, Jutta Walcher, Xavier Walger.

http://www.festivalmusiquesurciel.fr/la-lutherie.php

June 24, 2007 at 02:33 AM · Try Anthony Lane's violins - he is in Petaluma, CA - website is www.laneviolins.com

He's making really exceptional violins.

June 24, 2007 at 06:05 AM · Hi JanMichelle;

I always have a little trouble with threads like this... seems there's usually quite a bit of well meaning advice, but some of it comes in the form of "don't do that, do this..." or "there's nothing worth while out there so don't spend your money".

So here's my 2 cents worth;

I don't know you, your tastes, or the reason you wish to spend at the level you mentioned... so I wouldn't begin to tell you what is appropriate for you... but I can say you have some good choices, new and old.

There are some really great contemporary instruments out there worth trying. Some of these makers have been mentioned. There are certainly others. Some pretty serious talent uses contemporary instruments these days.

There are also a good number of excellent older instruments in your price range, especially if you're not hooked on buying only Italian instruments. Within you budget, you should be able to find instruments by Johannes Cuypers, Pierre Silvestre, A. S. P. Bernardel, Gemunder, Sgarabotto, & Garimberti to name a few. I know excellent prof. players who use instruments by all these makers and are quite satisfied with them... For example; I believe Yuval Yaron gets by pretty well on a Cuypers.

Nice to have choices. Have fun!

Cecily; Please give a warm "hello" to Tony Lane for me if you see him.

Jeffrey

June 24, 2007 at 06:15 AM · I get confused reading a thread like this. My parents bought me a new violin this past March and it was $2099 with a $700 bow. I think it's amazing and I love it more than I can explain. My first violin was only about $200 and not horribly terrible. Then I come here and read about violins that are $75,000 and not worth beans. It's troubling.

June 24, 2007 at 08:02 AM · Kelli...

A violin is only as good as how much it compliments its owner. Some people can do that a lot cheaper than others, and maybe some of us are just full of it. Who knows. Be happy with your situation.

June 24, 2007 at 01:56 PM · Has anyone mentioned Terry Borman yet? I've never had the opportunity to play one of his instruments but I've heard some (close up) and they're fantastic. His instruments have been compared to Del Gesus, btw. I think they're going for somewhere between $20-$30K, though he told me the waiting list for a commission is about two years.

On a somewhat different topic, Pieter makes an excellent point above. No matter how great an instrument is for someone else, or in abstract terms, it may not be the best violin for you. You really have to fall madly in love with the violin.....honestly, it's like looking for the person you're going to be spending the rest of your life with. I may be about to start a similiar search (for a violin, not a husband!) and I'm a little apprehensive already...

June 24, 2007 at 02:42 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

To: Maura Gerety

Hi, Maura:

NOTE: When you're on the prowl for a new fiddle, please know that Mr. Skowronski's Guarneri filius Andrea is available.......

We learned that you are on your way to Oberlin. A few of Mr. Skowronski's classmates from Northwestern U grace the faculty. Of particular interest to you, perhaps,....Marilyn McDonald (although she's kind of into all-Baroque these days.)

The 'Skowronski in Moscow' Tchaikovsky Comp celebration is now in session, as it is every year, to commemorate Mr. Skowronski representing the USA in Moscow 37 years ago. Regrettably, nary an American in sight this time around in '07. Info re a Skowronski/Dichterow Tchaikovsky comparison?.... send along a personal email address to

skowronskirecordings@ameritech.net

We'll be happy to send you a promo flyer.

Have a pleasant summer.

S:CR

June 24, 2007 at 03:03 PM · Hello! If Mr. Skowronski is selling the Guarneri, it begs the question...what will he be playing? Or...what is he currently playing? Or....what is he looking for, etc.? Just curious.

June 24, 2007 at 03:07 PM · From: Skowronski: Classical Recordings

To: William Wolcott

Mr. Wolcott:

When the time comes, Mr. S. may once again use the Skowronski 'J.B. Vuillaume.' N'est-ce pas?

Thanks for your inquiry.

Skowronski: Classical Recordings

June 24, 2007 at 03:38 PM · Thank you for the answer. I'm always interested in what instruments excellent violinists such as Mr. Skowronski are playing. :)

Have a great summer!

June 24, 2007 at 04:25 PM · many player in Europe, look for nice instrument (older) from Italy.

For this price, many as well find great French instrument :)

June 24, 2007 at 04:48 PM · From: Maura Gerety

To: Skowronski

We are intrigued to hear that there is a well-loved Guarneri filius Andrea on the market, but regret to inform you that it is almost certainly well out of our price range (and that we are probably not good enough to get a Guarneri anyway.) As for Oberlin, we will be studying with Milan Vitek.

PS: Is there any chance we will ever hear you refer to yourself in the first person? :-)

June 24, 2007 at 05:36 PM · "PS: Is there any chance we will ever hear you refer to yourself in the first person? :-)"--and is there a chance he won't use this forum as publicity?

But to the violin question: I had always assumed that throwing as money as possible at a violin/bow would yield the best results. It's not true. Prices of vintage instruments are skyrocketing, and the new wealth abroad, like in China and Russia, are making good instruments obscenely expensive. $75,000 used to guarantee a great instrument. I don't think it's true anymore. Unfortunately, even the mediocre instruments--ones professionals would have rejected 10 years ago-- have been dragged up in value. If I had $75k, I wouldn't start from

"how much of this can I spend" but from from "what's the best value"? I'd exhaust the possibilty of modern makers first before trying to spend more. And I'd put the rest into an index fund.

Just my 2 cents. Which is all I have.

June 24, 2007 at 06:01 PM · As Jeffrey Holmes says there are nice instruments out there not made by old Italian makers. Look for perhaps a fine English violin. For example,I have a nice Kennedy violin that is probably worth around $35k. It had previously been attributed to Vincenzo Panormo, and no it's not for sale.

June 24, 2007 at 07:18 PM · O what about one of those Voller brother instruments?

June 25, 2007 at 11:56 AM · Where to start in the hunt of a career-long violin?

My advice is always that one start by playing as many violins as possible, including violins which are well beyond your price range. The more you can educate yourself about what's available, and the more you can refine your taste before making a decision, the greater the chances that your choice will suffice for a long time.

Typically, people try a small number of instruments, and end up choosing one which is not a radical departure from what they're most familiar with, which happens to be the one they're already playing.

If you can get to the point where you can appreciate many different kinds of sounds and "feels", and can quickly switch to the technique which optimizes each instrument instead of being limited to the technique which works well on your old instrument, you'll be in a much better position.

Otherwise, a great violin might pass through your hands unnoticed, or you might end up with merely a slightly better version of the violin you already have.

June 25, 2007 at 05:40 PM · David's advice is right on. Before you spend $75k or even a third of that, you need to educate yourself. Buying a "good" violin is not a simple proposition.

Kevin

June 25, 2007 at 07:14 PM · Ha ha, Maura. :)

June 25, 2007 at 10:48 PM · Thanks all! I really appreciate your advice!

Scott I could not agree more with what you wrote.

David, I could not agree more with what you wrote too! And I know this is the advice my father would have given me since we were always going to local violin shops, always checking out a violin for a week….. Even on vacations Dad would find the violin shops in whichever town we were in.

Fortunately this stuck with me, even during my 1-year hiatus. Now it’s been about 9 months of serious practice, and I do not think a week has gone by where I have not checked out a violin. And because I have moved twice, I have gotten the chance to try many violins from many different shops (I am new to S.CA).

And you are right David, my experience has been much as you described: at first the better violins were more than I could handle, and I would gravitate towards the instruments that were sweet, dark, and just a little more powerful than what I was playing on. Or as you said, something that was not a radical departure from what I was playing—a few steps up, but not much more. After a while, however, I learned how to play better violins and now I have the opposite problem—nothing stands out!

In my experience, the older more expensive instruments (played at least 2 dozen between (35k-to-125k) sound sweeter, darker, so on…. and the moderns are more powerful but lack complexity. Many of the instruments have been very good, maybe great, but nothing has stood out. In fact, I am now bored by most. And I really do not want to buy something unless it blows me away. And honestly, I will just stick with the violin I now have if nothing out there blows me away.

Maybe I should have titled my thread: “where would you look to find a violin that stands out from the rest?

Does anyone have contact information for Sam Z.? And David I cannot find your email address (and I am not getting most of the messages on here, I think).

It would be great to be able to play instruments all the great US makers, but it looks like I will have to travel a bit to do so.

Does anyone play on a Sam Z. or a Bellini, what about a Gusset? And what about Tripodi? I have a friend in NY who says Tripodi's violins and violas rock, but she’s not sure if he even makes anything anymore. Does anyone know anything about Triopdi?

What about the big name European modern makers? And who are the best makers in Europe?

June 25, 2007 at 07:59 PM · is anyone else shocked that neither Gennady or Ray P has chimed in yet? : )

i miss them...

June 25, 2007 at 08:42 PM · I own a Tripodi! I love my violin. It belonged to the late Gerald Biel (Beal) in NYC.

Anyway, what a fiddle! What a fiddle!

Did I mention it's a great violin? :) :) :)

June 25, 2007 at 08:46 PM · From JanMichelle Dimmick-Reyes:

"Does anyone have contact information for Sam Z.?"

---------------------

Samuel Zygmuntowicz:

718 636-4671

Email: zygmuntowicz@earthlink.net

June 25, 2007 at 09:03 PM · You could also try Robert D. Kimble in Atlanta. I can get you his info if interested.

June 25, 2007 at 09:16 PM · The first violinist of the Shanghai Quartet has a wonderful violin made by Feng Jiang (Michigan). He said it was not that expensive, and he was blown away by it at a VSA event where he was judging. He says Feng Jiang has about an 18-month wait list at this point.

June 25, 2007 at 10:56 PM · Actually, I think Feng's wait is approaching 3 years presently... Wonderful maker... and a nice fellow. I think we have a pretty enviable community of violin and bow geeks here in Ann Arbor (David Burgess, Feng Jiang, Joseph Curtin, Gregg Alf, Mark Norfleet, David Orlin, Anton Smith... and if I count, me... :-))

Jeffrey

J. S. Holmes Fine Violins

June 25, 2007 at 09:49 PM · Here's another idea for you. I'm sure the resident pundits will tell you it's not the way to do it, but so what? Buy a top of the line Arcus graphite bow (Cadenza model), which will set you back around $3000 to $3500. Then start shopping for a violin. Always use this bow when trying them out. When you find the violin you like, you may decide to shop for the perfect bow for it, but my guess is that for under $25,000, you won't find anything to match the Arcus. If you do, you will have two bows, one to coddle and worry about and the other, the best gigging, practice bow made.

June 25, 2007 at 10:46 PM · I think you can buy a great modern bow from a really elite maker for 3500-5000, so I'll pass on the carbon bow, thank you.

Jim, got a hold of the player you were talking about and will play in on Wednesday.

Still not able to get or receive emails...think it has to do with the browser...not sure....

I guess I'll have to do the Michigan trip soon.

Thank you Mr. Burgess! I was also given your address so I'll contact you soon too.

What I really need is a list of players in CA who are playing violins from these upper echelon makers. And I need better sources on the European guys.

Willian, tell us more about the Tripodi!

June 25, 2007 at 11:19 PM · Charles: I strongly disagree with you as well. The Arcus carbon fiber bow is not suitable for professional performance ie. it makes a big sound, that is if you count white noise as sound!

If the price was 300 USD you could argue that it would be worth it as a second bow/flower stick but for the outrageous price tag you can get so many good modern pernambuco bows.

June 26, 2007 at 12:06 AM · You are mistaken....there is almost no white noise.

June 26, 2007 at 04:03 AM · If you come over to the east coast there are certainly a lot of options. In NYC someone who is mentioned surprisingly scarcely on this site is Christophe Landon. He makes incredible instruments and bows, and he will probably have a few older instruments in your range at his shop. His bows are just a little more than what you mentioned, but after looking for two years and playing many bows I finally decided on one of his.

A couple hours north of NYC, where I live, there is Nicholas Frirsz. His family has been making violins for 5 generations, the oldest continuous family, and when they moved here from Hungary I believe his father became quite well known. One of Nick's instruments won a gold medal for tone at the VSA when he was only 17, and they definitely have the most distinct tone of any instrument I've ever played or heard.

www.frirsz.com

www.landon-violins.com

June 26, 2007 at 02:03 PM · I've heard of Landon, but I've never heard of this Frirsz fellow. Sounds intriguing though--a gold medal for tone at age 17 is pretty damn impressive, and of course I find the prospect of a fine Hungarian violin quite appealing. ;-)

In all seriousness, have you or anyone else here heard or played Frirsz's violins? How would you compare them (generally speaking) to the big names we've been tossing around on this thread? What did you find to be their most distinguishing characteristics? How's the playability? ...basically, any info and impressions you have, I'd love to hear them.

June 26, 2007 at 03:11 PM · From JanMichelle Dimmick-Reyes:

"Still not able to get or receive emails...think it has to do with the browser...not sure....

What I really need is a list of players in CA who are playing violins from these upper echelon makers. And I need better sources on the European guys."

-----------------------

JanMichelle, I just received permission to put you in touch with someone in that group of Californians who recently tried a whole slew of American and European violins. Since your email isn't working I didn't know how else to notify you. Could you give me a call? 734 668-7803

June 26, 2007 at 03:53 PM · One of my former teachers has a Frirsz. I have heard and played this vioin many times, and I really like it. It took several years to develop (it was purchased new), but it has a really attractive Italianish sound...whatever THAT means! It is easy to play, with a quick response. It is a Del Gesu copy, I think, and is antiqued to look old.

June 26, 2007 at 04:15 PM · Ahh, I love Del Gesu copies...can you describe the sound a little more specifically than "Italianish", though? :-) Dark, brilliant, complex, singing, rustic...? Quite importantly...how's the lower register? I can't count how many violins I've played that have a gorgeous upper register but just die on the G string. Sorry for the third degree, but I'm finding myself more and more intrigued...

June 26, 2007 at 07:48 PM · First I would like to ask JanMichelle, what kind of violinist are you planning on becoming? concert violinist, chamber musician, or orchestral violinist? The requirements for each are very different. You may find that you could spend 75,000 dollars on a violin which is strong, brilliant and perfect for solo performance, and then struggle to "blend" properly with your section if you ever chose to play in a high-end professional orchestra.

Secondly, do you not think it unwise to spend a so much on your violin before you go to university? I guarantee your playing style will be almost unrecognizable by the time you graduate, so looking for a career-long investment seems a little premature. Your teacher will definitely have something to say about your setup (all teachers always do!) and probably your bowing and left hand too, no matter how good you are! Why not buy a good violin now to study on, and then commence a worldwide search for your perfect instrument before you embark on your career.

Thirdly, I am astounded at the comments some of you have made about remarkable instruments at $75,000 being difficult to find! Perhaps this is an American phenomenon, no offence intended. I live in Britain and most of the good luthiers I know live pretty frugally in order to keep the price of their instruments down, and it is normal to buy it from the luthier if you are buying a new violin so there is no opportunity for a third party to take a cut. If you are looking for an antique violin then of course you will have to go to a dealer. Most violinists I know here do not own instruments which cost more than $50,000, most MUCH less than this. This includes violinists in very prominent positions in very prominent orchestras, as well as soloists. Those who do have expensive ones won them or have been loaned them. One exception i know of is a woman whose husband bought her a £30,000 violin ($55,000). She left it in the back seat of the car on a hot day in a moment of absentmindedness. When she got back the varnish had bubbled(!)

On the hand i know of one man who led a well-known british orchestra for years with his own violin (which cost under £1000) despite having the offer of a far superior one on loan.

Sorry if all of this is patronising, but I am staggered by the figures. If you are going to be playing concertos to large audiences, I can understand it. Otherwise, invest in plenty of consultation lessons with prospective tutours, summer schools, etc... in other words your playing. If you have already budgeted for the huge costs of doing a degree in America, then why not consider donating so that some of the millions of kids who would love to learn an instrument but cant afford it can have the chance. Or simply saving it! You must get rainy days in California too...

June 26, 2007 at 10:15 PM · After trying violins from makers across the country I settled on a violin made by Michael Fischer from Los Angeles. I love my violin. Michael Fischer is fantastic!

June 26, 2007 at 10:33 PM · Greetings,

>You must get rainy days in California too...

according to the Guardian, this year at least, not.

Cheers,

Buri the Brit

June 27, 2007 at 03:44 AM · The first thing I would want to know if I were in the market for a lifetime instrument would be how great moderns stack up against the best older instruments in my price range. From what everyone has written it seems that modern instruments are a much better value than good older instruments (more quality sound per dollar, etc.). To say otherwise would be to say that the makers of yesteryear were somehow better than the best makers of today, which makes little sense, and leaves the burden of proof on those who would want to spend 75-200K, rather than 15-25K.

It makes sense that the higher price of older instruments has more to do with the age of the instrument, and the fact there are fewer out there (because of age and the fact the maker is no longer making).

In looking at the modern market I would first want to know how good Sam Zygumontowicz (51K) is in respect to the rest of the market. In other words, this maker is asking much more than anyone else, and he has a much more extensive and impressive list of major players playing his instruments. There can only be three reasons for it (as in all other marketable goods).

The first reason is he really is better than anyone else. The second is that he has had more success in the market than anyone else. The third possible reason is a combination of these two reasons, in a multitude of possible percentages (mostly about working the market, mostly about quality of sound, and even percentage of both factors, etc.).

The next makers to look at, for the same reason as Zygumontowicz, are probably Greiner (35K), Borman (28K), and Burgess (25K). They are probably next in the amount of major players playing their instruments, and they are getting more for their instruments than most. Again there can only be three reasons for their success.

The question I would want to know if I were looking into it then would be: Is Zygmuontoaicz really better than every one else? And are the other 3 better than the rest of the market.

That is where I would start if I had the ear and the talent to judge this, and it sounds like JanMichell has done the work and has the talent to do this.

What to do if these three makers are not better than the rest? Look at the next tear of makers, which you will have to do anyway to know if the ones I mentioned are really better.

Bottom line: you have a lot of work to do, and a lot of makers to try, but I think I would look to these first in order to establish a base line of knowledge.

I think the task is rather difficult, if you want to make a really confident choice (absolute confidence cannot be attained). And for this reason, and the fact these makers have a huge waiting list, I think getting started on this makes a lot of sense.

The other thing I would add is that the law of diminishing return will probably be involved. I would want to know where that line is, and how it affects the makers I was most interested in after playing all of them. In the end, you will have to decide what the line means to you , if it is involved.

In other words, let’s say, for the fun of it, that after you play them all you feel Mr. Z is slightly better than say Burgess. The question is, are you willing to pay 51 % more to get a slightly better sound?

Of course the law of diminishing return will not be a major factor if it turns out that the violin you like most is less than, or even with, most of the market of elite makers.

June 27, 2007 at 07:50 PM · Interesting. I agree that the most famous maker is Sam Zyg.

No doubt about that!

As to the other makers you mentioned: Greiner is the most highly esteemed maker in Europe, probably followed by Robin and Hargrave.

In Europe we know about Burgess and Borman, so I think they are really well known everywhere.

If you look at when Zyg's price hike happened you see it correlates with the Stern auction. Doesn’t that show that at least some of it is about working the market?

If he is asking 51K, whereas Burgess is asking 25 K, he would have to be a lot better to justify the difference. It would be interesting to hear from those who have played many of these makers.

I have heard that Ricci had many moderns, and he did not consider Zyg's better than his Gotting, Bellini, or Chaudiere. But that is just hearsay.

Hey we should start a lottery based on what she will eventually end up with. I’m putting my money on Burgess or Borman:)

June 28, 2007 at 03:55 PM · >>Hey we should start a lottery based on what she will eventually end up with. I¡¦m putting my money on Burgess or Borman:)

Looks pretty fun... winner takes 90% and 10% donate to V.com...

June 28, 2007 at 04:38 PM · I have not read through most of the replies, but Sue Belcher's reply near the top is right on the money. How's that for a play on words??? But seriously, there's no pun intended and Sue offers very, very good advice. Maybe someone else mentions this as well, but in case not I thought I'd reinforce that what Sue had to say truly is right on the money.

June 28, 2007 at 10:25 PM · i think you should consider Robert Clemens in Saint Louis: www.clemensviolins.com He has an impressive client list and his violins cost around $17,000

June 29, 2007 at 03:16 AM · If I had that kind of money to spend, I wouldn't be looking t a new, commissioned violin, nor would I be looking at the overpriced Italian vintage market.

I would be looking for something at least 3-5 years old, by one of the esteemed modern makers. That way, you have the benefit of modern knowledge, (take, for instance, Martin Zhu's top graduations) but you still know how the instrument will break in, since it already has.

A 10 year old Burgess, Greinier, or Zyg all would likely be killer. If yo found one that really suites you (many probably wouldn't) you could be reasonable sure that that sound will remain basically the same for the rest of your life. WHether or not you still like that sound & response for the rest of your life is another matter entirely.

BTW- I really like what Ella Gunn wrote, above.

June 30, 2007 at 01:40 AM · I would certainly check Howard Needham's work. His work is outstanding.

Eric

June 30, 2007 at 07:58 AM · Do any big time players play on a Needham? I know many big time players play on a Zyg, Borman, and many on Greiner, but who plays on a Needham?

July 1, 2007 at 02:50 PM · One thing is certain and worth keeping in mind when in the market: at some point you will grow dissatisfied with whatever violin you currently happen to be playing, no matter how enthralled you may have been when you first bought it.

July 1, 2007 at 07:28 PM · Thanks everyone!

Emma, I want to get started on this now because it may take years before I get the violin I want (time looking for it and wait lists, etc.).

I am looking for a soloist instrument because, as my teacher says, it is easy to tone it down on an instrument to blend in, but very hard to make an instrument do what it cannot do.

As to what kind of playing: I one day hope to play with a philharmonic. But I know I will always do the things all players do to make a living: quartet work at weddings, studio work, pit work, teaching, etc. In fact, I am doing my fair share of these things now.

I got in touch with two players who have played a boatload of violins and I now know the guys in Europe, so when I go this summer I will try to find them.

Eric: I just played a Needham and it rocked! I was blown away. I finally found a violin that stands out from the rest. But I want to play more Needhams before I make a decision on it, and I want to play a lot more makers too—it would irresponsible to not do so. But this was a lot more violin than I expected to find.

I have also played a Borman that was very good and impressive. And I heard some great things about Burgess.

As it stands right now, if I were to get this violin and a good modern bow I would be around 24K, which I am very happy about! It would be much less than what I was willing to spend! ?

Does anyone play on the major makers from Europe?

Thanks to all! V.Com rocks!

July 2, 2007 at 09:05 AM · I am not an expert in violins yet, but from what everyone has written, it sounds like someday you will want to exchange this instrument, which is not easy. With that in mind you not only need to find the best instrument possible, but also a maker with a huge reputation, which will allow you to sell the violin and get another if the time comes.

You played a Needham and a Borman, among many others, and were impressed by both...if you were equally impressed than I would go with the Borman; he has a much bigger name.

I like the fact you will see what Europe will offer, and that you will try to spend much less than the 75K.

What about Zyg? I cannot help but think that all these great players playing his instrument must mean something.

The other gentlem asked a fundamental questoin, "who is playing a Needham?"

Jensen plays a Zig, with who knows how many more playing his instrument, and Denis Kim and many others play with a Borman (even Zukerman calls it the closest thing to a del Gesu). Victor Y. often plays on a Burgess, as do many others, And Tezlaf plays on a Greiner. But again, who plays on a Needham?

If the answer is not forth-coming, then I would think that one day you may have trouble exchanging this instrument.

Keep looking and keep us informed!

July 2, 2007 at 12:40 PM · The Hunt.. try to ask cheney, he can shot everything (probably violins) but preies.

July 2, 2007 at 03:52 PM · Michael, I'm assuming your question comes of wanting an answer and not out of wanting to tear down any makers. I'll answer it in that spirit.

First of all, who played a Zyg before my mom and then Isaac Stern (and then everybody-and-his-brother) got one? No one. But did that make Zyg's instruments less worthy of purchase? Hardly. A reputation like his is built on consistently wonderful instruments, over time. I'm sure the same may be said of Borman or any other stellar modern maker.

By contrast, Needham's presence on the violin-making scene is fairly recent. First, he only switched his emphasis from repairs and adjustments to violin-making at an age when many others have already finished their apprenticeships and made their mark. Subsequently, his early instruments were not - as he himself will be the first to tell you - on par with those he's made since 2001, since having what amounts to an epiphany from working with Geary Basse. And six years of making even stellar instruments is not necessarily enough to break into the top echelons of performers lining up to buy your product.

For what it's worth, Needham already has a wait list. In the last year, I've often advised him to NOT sell an instrument the moment it's finished but to have at least a 3 month period of it being "played in". He agrees this would be a good idea. Nonetheless, he simply can't keep fiddles in his shop; the moment they're done there are buyers already lined up and impatient. What does this tell you of where his reputation is likely to go?

As for me, I would gladly buy a Needham myself but for the minor point that I've got a HOUSE to buy, first (newlyweds and all that). I'm pretty sure the fiddle will appreciate faster, but since I've already GOT a fiddle and do NOT have a house, the latter has to take priority.

As for Jensen or Victor Yampolsky or Zukerman or anyone else buying a Needham, I'm pretty sure that when circumstances introduce those stars to Howard's instruments - either through hearing them in concert, or played by their proteges, or in some "taste-test" runoff of fiddle against fiddle - they'll jump on board that bandwagon. Because so far, the only people I've heard wax unenthusiastic about Howard Needham's instruments are those who haven't heard them. Those who've heard them seem to become, as someone facetiously pointed out earlier in the thread, practically fervent proselytizers. Since Howard doesn't pay commissions nor seek endorsements (he's a bit too busy oh, I don't know, making violins or something), one is forced to admit that the fervor is genuine and justified.

July 2, 2007 at 11:59 PM · A) "Who plays XXXX" doesn't matter since there are excellent makers who are not great at marketing themselves. They're just interested in a great product.

B) All these people who "play" Boreman, Zyg etc... usually just play their regular Strad/Guarneri. I don't Zukerman takes his Boreman for a spin in public that often, just like I don't think most top soloists with 5 million dollar instruments do either. From what I'm told, these people are given these instruments in exchange for their goodwill and a typical quote on the maker's website that says "xxxx is incredible. If it were possible, he would father my children. This violin sounds as good as my guarneri. He is the best violin maker in the world".

So, be wary of celebrity endorsements. I know of one famous violinist who hasnt touched their violins (which were given to them) since practically the day they got them.

In conclusion, soloist endorsements are meaningless. At the end of the day, you're not a soloist, and even if you are, you're not Zukerman or whatever. You are yourself, and you are buying the instrument for YOU.

July 3, 2007 at 12:33 AM · Pieter: Great advice,Canadiens do not mince their wordiage and give the best suggestions--as you have done---thanks !!!

July 3, 2007 at 01:29 AM · My daughter just took delivery of her new Borman and it sounds better than the wonderful nine year old Borman she had borrowed for 8 months, or the slightly older model she first tried which led to the commission. When we shared our impressions of the qualities of this particular violin to the earlier models, Terry explained that he has learned some things since he made the earlier ones.

This is something to consider when deciding whether to purchase an existing violin by a top modern maker or to commission a new instrument. Makers evolve, learn, and improve in their craft as does anyone in the top ranks of their field. They don't stay at the top by standing still.

July 3, 2007 at 02:24 AM · Pieter, you're absolutely right about the whole Famous Soloist Endorsing Modern Makers thing. However, I think your post misses the point Michael was raising. He wasn't talking about quality, after all.

He was making a point about investments (the likelihood and ease of reselling a lesser known name vs. a better known name). And it was to address this perception, that Howard is somehow an unknown, that I wrote about what a late bloomer he is and how much of a role time plays in the making of a modern luthier's reputation.

July 3, 2007 at 04:50 AM · If I'm investing, I'll buy it from a very good not-that-popular-yet maker... There're chances that if a soloist start using it and the price might start taking off... and the worst scenario? it's still a very good violin, I either keep playing it, or sell not that much difference than when buying the new one...

But if I buy violin, I'll buy something I like rather than something I can invest in.

July 3, 2007 at 09:19 AM · I just bought a violin made by Sigrun Seifert and Joseph Grubaugh who work together in Petaluma. I bought the violin after searching for about 6 months and I feel it plays better than instruments twice the price I paid. I have only had it a couple of months, but the different colors and levels it lets me produce still amaze sometimes. I would definately recommend trying one of their instruments.

July 3, 2007 at 11:22 AM · Good points about "who plays what" Pieter.

While a fair share of big performers actually use their modern instruments, many factors can affect their choices.

Some makers are situated geographically in performing centers and their instruments get more exposure. Some advertise heavily so name recognition is better. Some make special deals for recognized performers, or hang out at stage doors. Some reserve their output for these performers and won't sell to amateurs or average giggers because doing so does little for a reputation. There was a reference in an earlier thread to one maker who requires that a potential client submit a curriculum vitae. Another reference to a maker and a major player (who plays his violins) having the same manager.

I'm not suggesting in the least that every well-known maker does these things, only that "who plays what" might be taken with a grain of salt if one is trying to assess quality.

July 3, 2007 at 08:53 PM · Emil, I did not write my comments as a put down to any maker, in any way. Please accept my deepest apology if I came across that way. I simply wanted to made the point that if others are correct about the likelihood of not keeping an instrument for a lifetime, than she may want to go with the other two makers she mentioned she is impressed with (Borman and Burgess) rather than the third maker she likes, Needham.

I still think my basic argument is sound because none of us can read the future so she cannot be certain that she will always want the instrument that she will now chose, whatever that may be. My former teacher said he had a violin in consignment for 3 years with different shops before he sold it! So it is not easy to sell some violins. I think it would be very easy to sell a Borman, Zygmuntoqicz, or a Burgess because they are the most well known American makers.

You are right when you stated that I was in no way questioning his quality. I was simply stating an argument based on the likelihood of wanting to eventually change instruments, and ease of sale. I realize that how famous a maker is should mean little to her because in the end it is she who will be buying it and playing it.

And I did not ask, “who is playing on a Needham,” to mean no one is doing so. I meant it more as a question than a statement, though at the time I did not know that a player like you thinks highly of his instrument. Nor did I know his past, which explains a lot of it.

Your argument is that he already has a long waiting list and will one day have the same kind of reputation as the others, maybe even more so. If the waiting list is fact, and I seee no reason to doubt you, then it cannot be questioned. But whether guys like Kim, Victor Y, Jensen, Tazlaff, Zukerman, etc. will ever think of his violin in the same terms as the others can be questioned. But you do have good reasons to believe that he will have the kind of reputation that Borman, Zygmuntowicz, and Burgess have, but you cannot know for sure, so if few instruments last a player’s lifetime, then this is a bit of a gamble for her, if she decides on this instrument.

I also re-read her post, and I see I misunderstood it. At first I took it to mean she was as equally impressed with the three makers. But now I take it to mean that she is most impressed with the Needham and has heard that the Burgess maybe as good. The point is, if I were her, I would only consider resale if I thought the instruments were generally equal. I would only buy the more famous maker if I thought his instrument was as good as the others.

One last question: Emil you said your mother was one of the first to play on a Zygmuntowicz, but if the Needhams are so good, than why has she not switched over? Again I do not mean it in a bad spirit, is is just simple curiousity.

Oh and Pieter, I understsood your point. But besides Zukerman, all the other players I mentioned really do play on those instruments. Kim really plays on a Borman, Tezlaff really plays on a Greiner, Jensen and Phil Setzer really play on a Zyg, and Victor Y. really does play his Burgess, etc. There really are a huge number of concertmasters playing on a Burgess, Borman, Greiner, or a Zyg. And there are a lot of soloists playing on a Greiner and a Zyg. These kind of players would not be playing on these instruments if they were not really good.

I guess now we have one huge endorsement for Needham because I did some searches on Emil C, and from what I read he is a wolrd class player without a record deal yet. So maybe the Needham is not such a resale gamble after all.

July 3, 2007 at 09:21 PM · Actually, the record deal is in the works...but I've not yet posted anything about it until the ink on all contracts is dry. Still, it does look like four to five recordings for a single, American label is forthcoming.

As for my mom, Michael, she hasn't switched to a Needham because she only needs one fiddle at a time, really. She's not a collector. In fact, the main reason she got a Zyg early on is that my then-teacher, her dear friend Alexander Cores, was working at Jacques Francais where Zygmuntowicz was then an apprentice. And Cores was the one who told her that Zygmuntowicz would make a huge mark in the fiddle-making world. So she got onto a bandwagon before it took off, but not of her own initiative. Needless to say, she loves her Zygmuntowicz and we remember Alexasha with all the more love for his priceless instigation.

July 3, 2007 at 10:37 PM · Congratulations on your record contract Emil! Will you record with a Needham? Please tell us more, what great news!

Ok, I am going to put you on the spot here, so please feel free to be politically correct and not touch this question. You have obviously played your mother’s Zygmuntowicz and you have played more Needhams than anyone else (what I gather from reading other threads), so how do Needhams compare to the Zygs you have played? And have you played many Zygs?

July 3, 2007 at 10:45 PM · Michael,

The only major violinist I who I know of playing a modern instrument most of the time is Tetzlaff (and Oliveira, but he has more instruments than most shops). It was a big deal when Mutter played a Finnigan for one recital... at the end of the day, these people either own or have been loaned Strads/Guarneris. So that means A) Major investment has been made or B) Big shinny company/foundation has loaned them a big time investment piece, and takes every opportunity to tell it to the public. It logically follows (and is just a fact), that the soloists will use this much more often.

This has nothing to do with how good these modern instruments are, it has everything to do with money, and that last sentence of the artist bio.

July 3, 2007 at 10:44 PM · ..

July 3, 2007 at 11:50 PM · if you're concerned about resale potential, I'd prefer a violin that has intrinsic value but hasn't yet achieved broad acclaim. Ever try to pick stocks?

July 4, 2007 at 12:09 AM · Jim, the big difference between investing and finding undervalued instruments is that in the latter case, the market is usually not likely to "price correct" if you find a great sounding german fiddle, for instance. It's probably always going to stay an inexpensive violin...

July 19, 2007 at 12:28 AM · Here’s the update guys: Played a lot more fiddles. Found three moderns that were better than anything else, and one that is close, and then the rest, which are good, but nothing to brag about. The problem is that two of the great fiddles are offset by the fact that I also played a fiddle by the same maker that was not great….so I am not sure what I will end up with if I go with either of those makers.

I have not played any other fiddles from great fiddle # 3, but I have been told by many that he is incredibly consistent because he seems to be making violins off of a system.

Which violin was best of the 3? Not sure cause I had to go to San Fran and San Diego to play the other two fiddles and I was not able to bring the other fiddle with me.

Right now I need to know the name of the shops that could carry a Belini, Hargrave, Robin, or a Gotting. What shop might actually be able to get their hands on one of these?

Anyone know?

And off to Euorpe soon, any suggestions on what makers to try?

July 19, 2007 at 03:36 AM · I've just found a magnificent violin by Carlo Moretti, Rome, 1928. Maybe he's a maker to look into?

July 20, 2007 at 10:43 PM · Jan, I got lost in between violin 1, 2 & 3! LOL

And why a used Belini, Hargrave, Robin, or a Gotting if you are excited about these others? Are they any of the 3? Who are these makers? All of us would like to learn from people like you that get out there and try these famous modern makers, but how can we if you are not more specific?

July 23, 2007 at 02:36 AM · Three of the guys who I was trying all those violins with went to Europe to play and try as many instruments as they could. Here is the list of makers they have been impressed with so far:

Greiner, Pistoni, Ravatin, Hargrave, Dilworth, Rattray, Chaudiere, Robin, Regazzi, Gotting.

They have played many examples of each, but had to spend a lot of months calling a lot of players who own them to do so. In the end the opinion of all three is that all these makers, like the many great makers in the USA, are gifts to the violin world, and that at times they make violins that are beyond extraordinary. But they have also concluded that Needham in America is the maker making these kind of “beyond extraordinary” violins most consistently.

To be fair, however, I should add that they did play a Chaudiere, Dilworth, and a Robin that they thought were as good as the Needham everyone has loved in California.

Hope it helps.

And I understand the point in trying to find a used Belini, Hargrave, etc.; it would take the guess work out that comes with commissions. But I think it will be hard to find a truly great one that is for sale. The other maker to look for in this way would be Tripodi, but again very hard to find.

July 23, 2007 at 04:47 AM · Just wondering, if you've found a violin that you really love, but at the same time there's another one which is slightly lesser (and cost less for example), but project way better. Which one do you choose?

I asked this because I'm just wondering what kind of aspects professional violinist seeking for, playability? Tone color? Projection? Say for another example, if so happened, that, you happened to not like a Strad, but when playing in orchestra setting, your favourite violin can't project like the Strad, will you get your hands on the not-so-in-love Strad or you get your favourite other violin, given the chance of owning either one?

July 23, 2007 at 05:23 AM · I'm not professional on violin. But in every field, you have to find a tool that you can trust so you are comfortable using it.

If the violin cannot project over the orchestra, then you shouldn't be able to trust this violin, right? (At least for this concert... maybe it's very good for recital program...)

July 23, 2007 at 10:25 AM · Yes your're right, that's why I came out with the question where you can only choose 1 violin. I don't think it's possible to buy so many violin as for the budget of the thread starter.

My point was to ask if you're willing to choose a violin that you absolutely in love (say it's very easy to play or you love the tone etc) or a violin that every audiences in love except you? I don't mean you 'hate' the violin, but more like it sounds good but not mind blowing to you (or under ear) but actually blow every audiences off the water. Kinda related to how you test your violin, though. I'm curious...

July 23, 2007 at 02:51 PM · Again, I wonder why everyone worries about projecting over an orchestra? Exactly how many of you are soloists?

To play in an orchestra you don't need a Cannon or Soil unless you are the CM. A beautiful sounding instrument with only so-so projection is an absolutely dream... I can't understand why so many people absolutely insist on getting the most loud/brash instrument they can find, just in case they reverse the order of the universe and suddenly find themselves at the front of an orchestra...

July 23, 2007 at 03:20 PM · Many concert artists and major symphony musicians have said my Alfred Vidoudez is good enough to solo with. Now that Luthier Andreas Krause reset the neck, changed the tailpiece, bridge, and soundpost it went from just being really good to superb. I would look around for another Vidoudez. One of the Philly players had one for sale recently. I also see that Cellist Eric Friedlander plays on a Vidoudez cello. Also, a few Luthiers have told me that the playing qualities of his instruments far outweigh the price.

July 23, 2007 at 03:28 PM · First of all, I don't have that much money, nor I'm a soloist. My post has stated very clearly, I'm just curious that, what are the professionals seeking, so I asked a question like that. Talking about price above $10k is really beyond my imagination. =P

Second, if I was given a choice, I'd rather choose a violin that can be heard above any setting over a super sweet violin that can't be heard clearly. I can play effortlessly without the need to play in full strength all the time. I think it'll be a shame if your audience can't hear you clearly, no matter how good you are. Do I need a Strad? Probably not, at least, something that can be heard clearly without too much of effort to play it. I've heard small sounding CM from the top notch orchestra from my country. The violin can be heard, but I bet the CM is doing very hard from the way he play it. He may love his violin, but as an audience, I'm not.

And thirdly, not neccesary a projecting violin a loud or even brash violin. And, at the same time, not every player like the tone of the Strad, right? Or perhaps, it's more of a personal tone from the player, not too much from the instrument, IMO.

July 23, 2007 at 06:34 PM · Dear JanMichelle, You certainly have aroused everyone's interest in your search for the "right" violin. Many have offered you valuable advice, and the responses have been practical and worth taking notice of. I have recently commissioned a new violin from the well-known South African luthier, Brian Lisus (his website is well worth a visit; www.violinafrica.co.za).

Lisus trained at the famed Newark School in England which has produced some of the world leading contempory makers, including John Dilworth,Frederic-Hugues Chaudiere and Roger Hargrave. Lisus works in Cape Town, and I made a trip to South Africa earlier this year to pick up my new instrument. Lisus uses only the finest wood available and over the years has made connections in Europe which supply him with the finest tonewood available. The back on my violin is cut on the slab and is over 150 year old. From the moment he strung it up and I heard it's "new-born" voice, I knew I had a formidable sounding instrument in my hands. Well, only five months have passed since I acquired the violin and it's almost unrecognizable. It has opened up, developed a quick and easy response, and has a beauty of sound on all four strings that is bewitching and appealing. The sound is not only beautiful but is round and resonant and is developing into a concert instrument, of that there is no doubt. I love it and am overjoyed with Brian's success in making a violin that can stand up against the best of the modern makers, I know, because I've tried many of them, including some the the big names that have been suggested to you. Brian's prices are still lower than the average first class modern violin owing to the favorable exchange rate vis-a vis the US dollar, and Euro with the South African currency, the Rand. Also Brian is anxious to get more of his instruments heard an is offering what I think is an amazingly good deal in today's market. His price is only 10.000 Euros. I've tried new fiddles by "famous" makers I'd rather not mention by name , who ask up to five times as much and there is no comprison. So do yourself a big favor. Try one of Brian Lisus' violins before you commit to anything else and have buyers remorse, like so many others who buy a big name and very little else and sadly still believe that the more you pay the more you get. Any smart violinist knows that is a fallacy. Feel free to contact me, via email or telephone if you have any questions, the same applies to any of the readers out there. Good luck, I wish you success in your quest.My email: tenorone@msn.com telephone 973 218-9797.

July 23, 2007 at 09:16 PM · Since you're locatedin California you ought to check out Tom Croen's violins-first rate maker.

www.croenini.com

~OK

July 23, 2007 at 10:16 PM · this ought to be a different thread but check out Shaham's recording of the Gavotte from the E major partita. he's used this as an encore for several concerts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bse86ipMNRg

(try to listen through the crappy quality of youtube audio)

the sound he's drawing from this long form strad (i think) is endless. i don't know how much of this is Shaham or the violin or the hall but i WANT this sound.

July 24, 2007 at 04:29 AM · Casey,

It would have to be a pretty bizzare situation for a regular player not to be heard just because of your violin.

A) Unless you are soloing, you will not have this problem. Like you said, you are not a soloist.

B) How loud you are and how well your project is far more a testament to your skill with the bow than what violin you are playing.

The only time in which you would ever need a violin which really cuts is when you are soloing, and if you are doing that, chances are you can make most any violin work for you.

Obviously if you use a Steiner or a maybe a Maggini you might have trouble, but even those violins would be good enough for almost anyone. Also remember that for exceptionally well projecting instruments like great Strads and Del Gesus, will not do those things unless there is a person playing them who understands how to work the thing. The player makes the violin sound good, not the other way around. Unless it's a fairly freakish situation (and just this week saw a girl with a great old Camilli that gives her a lot of problems), the violin is totally secondary.

A player who doesn't know how to play loud will play soft on the loudest violin in the world, just like they'll sound horrific on any great violin.

July 24, 2007 at 07:09 AM · Pieter,

Maybe you assumed too much. I'm not a soloist doesn't mean I play horribly without dynamics. I know how to play loud and how to play soft, it's just that how much the violin allowed you do the wide dynamic range especially very soft passage that'll eventually got drown even by just a grand piano.

At the same time, as you said, if a player has great skill where any violin will work, why seek the hell out of thousands of violin just for the sake of the one 'works' for him/her? Are you saying that they're just wasting their time (including thread starter)? As I said I don't have much chance to play a violin by top modern maker, which the price tag is well beyond my imagination. Perhaps I emphasize too much on projection, but I was intended to ask a question of what're the aspects when a professional looking for a violin from a fine modern makers. The reason I asked more about the projection because IMO it's the one that audiences will immediately notice. I don't have golder ears, but many violins sounded similar to me (even played by very skilled player), except 2 Strads that I've heard.

By the way, I have a violin that has wonderful projection, I don't need to work that hard to get heard, and it's proven by many people who heard my violin. So don't shoot me on this, the violin I have concluded a truely projecting violin will project even it was played by a lousy player, you can hear how lousy the player was cause everything from the violin was just so crystal clear, even with very loud piano accompaniment. Did violin sounded loud and brash? No, I'm afraid. Projection and loudness are different thing.

Well I don't want to ruin this wonderful thread with off topic posts. I apologize for being annoying and I'll stop responding further discussion on this projection topic.

July 26, 2007 at 12:23 AM · Hi Oded. When I was in California, in the midst of those players trying all those moderns, the group believed that the closest makers to Needham were Croen and Burgess. We tried 3 Croens and all 3 were very good. They played well, and sounded very much the same, and the craftsmanship was incredible.

Of course I could say the same about Burgess. But the Burgess sound was much cleaner than Croen's sound. Croen's sound is much like Needham's sound, but it a bit less (projection, thickness, volume, etc.). We did think that Croen’s violins, and the Burgess’ violins were a bit easier to play than the Needhams.

I know Burgess is well known, and for good reasons, but I am not sure about how many know this incredible award winning (2 VSA Golds!) maker—Tom Croen at www.croenini.com

This is of course pre-Europe, because the guys went to Europe and played a lot more violins.

Their experience in all of this shows how hard it can be to experience what all these makers really make. The makers often do not have any violins on hand to try, so you have to do as they did—get the numbers of many players that have them, make the calls, and then hit the road to play them. And you need at least one great violin with you to do A—B comparisons; otherwise you are working off of memory and the mercy of different acoustical settings. Not an easy task at all, which is why I think what those guys did, not to mention all the violins that were shipped and all the shipping costs, was incredible.

And in the end it paid off. Each player in this group now has one incredible modern, which I think can compete well with just about any instrument. And all of them are seriously thinking of buying another. One player is on a mission to end up with 4 great moderns to leave for his sons, and I am sure he will get it done.

July 26, 2007 at 11:42 AM · Tom Croen has received 3 gold medals. He may no longer compete (VSA Hors Concours sp?)His latest instruments are astonishing. Apart from the quality of any given isntrument there must be a 'chemistry' between player and fiddle.

Oded

July 26, 2007 at 04:35 PM · My two cents

Buy a modern Italian violin from a living maker with absolutely well known provenance and authenticity (get the maker's certificate) and don't pay a dime more than $30k for it. The only people who need better violins than this have established solo careers. The violin market between $30k and $300k is a quagmire.

July 26, 2007 at 06:58 PM · Corwin, your numbers are totally arbitrary and don't make much sense at all.

Why modern italian? Also do you realize that most good modern italians cost more than that, some triple that cost? The value of your instrument doesn't really matter or depend on skill, and there's no price bracket that really guarantees anything. There is no standardization.

I wouldn't pay more than 30k for a contemporary maker though.

July 26, 2007 at 07:12 PM · I agree with you Pieter. Modern Italians are grossly over rated. Personally most of the ones I've seen were truly mediocre. There are a few exceptions.

Oded Kishony

July 26, 2007 at 10:40 PM · "I agree with you Pieter. Modern Italians are grossly over rated. Personally most of the ones I've seen were truly mediocre. There are a few exceptions.

Oded Kishony"

Hey Oded;

How goes it?

I weighed in early on this thread... and it's kind of gone the direction I thought it would.... but I have another couple of cents to add.

Look... Leaving cost out of things for a moment, if one were comparing the "best" contemporary makers instruments to "modern Italians" in general, I think I'd have the same reaction you've voiced... but the picture can change a bit if one compares "all contemporary" instruments to the "best modern Italians"... or the "best" to the "best"...

I don't like some modern Italian instruments at all... but I do like others. Also, I don't like some contemporary instruments at all... but I do like others.

In other words, comparing one group of select "things" to another group that is not "select" isn't quite a fair comparison.

If your comparing "cost benefit" of performance quality as a group, the better contemorary instruments should be superior... One is purchasing an item that is still "current" (the maker isn't dead), the item's market isn't driven by the rare instrument market, etc. Neither is the appreciation driven in the same way... On the other hand, if you know a maker and see them make the fiddle (or if they are around to confirm they made it), chances are better it's not a fake.

My point is that I think there are many reasons players buy the violins they do... and while many here make excellent points... and their reasons for their own actions are excellent... they may or may not be as valid, or may even be poor choices, for another. If the data is skewed by the selectivity (that will suport one view or another), the water gets pretty muddy. In my opinion, I've seen that be the case for both "schools" of thought (new vs. old) on this board. I know a number of board participants personally who have very nice older instruments in the range the original poster was considering, and others here who have very nice contemporary instruments (from 20 to 50K). Both groups seem pretty happy with what they have. Personally, I think it's nice to have choices... and there are some excellent choices out there.

Jeffrey

July 26, 2007 at 11:43 PM · Hey Jeffrey,

It's going well here. Hope all's well with you!

Point taken. Broad generalizations necessarily collapse of their own weight.

In that same vein I would challenge just what is a 'modern Italian' instrument anyway? Take myself as an example: I spent a couple of years learning and making instruments in an Italian violin shop. My teacher (John Terry) was British born, trained in Cremona, married an Italian. My first teacher was Korean, trained in Chicago in the Mittenwald tradition.

Most violinmakers, if they are smart, seek wider experience in foreign shops after their initial training. The 'Italian' violinmakers who I met in Italy were Dutch, German and American nationals who quizzed me about finding a job in the States to broaden their experience. After all, this is where the term "journeyman" comes from. In fact in order to qualify a "master violinmaker (geigenbaumaister sp?) in Germany, you MUST work for at least a year abroad. (so I've been told)

I can think of several 'modern Italian' violinmakers who are either American, or Japanese or French.

The advice offered above that categorizes a 'modern Italian' as necessarily and naturally superior is completely vacuous in my opinion. Each instrument and maker must be evaluated individually. The national contemporary violinmaking styles have blended to such a degree that it is no longer very meaningful to distinguish among them.

Oded Kishony

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