$25,000 violin

July 30, 2007 at 05:26 AM ·

Replies (45)

July 30, 2007 at 07:19 AM · Oooh, get the popcorn!

July 30, 2007 at 10:01 AM · NYU demolished Edgar Allan Poe's house to build a law school building. You couldn't pay me to go to school there.

July 30, 2007 at 01:26 PM · you're going to hate this advice, but wait. wait wait wait wait wait. i repeat: wait (!!) to buy a really fine violin. as a recent conservartory graduate, i knew people who came in with violins that, after a year or two, would just simply not work for them due to technical changes, or simply a new idea of the sound that one wants after being in a particularly competitive setting. unless you're willing to take the chance of having to sell your new violin and buying another one in a year or two, i say wait (as long as your current violin is adequate) until after your freshman year to start looking for a new fiddle. i think you'll find something that suits you much better.

however, if you are looking for a good violin, i recommend taking a day trip to Baltimore to Perrin and Associates. I bought two violins from them in the past 4 years and I recommend them without hesitation. they have great contemporary fiddles as well as some fine old ones, too.

July 30, 2007 at 02:18 PM · Unless you know exactly what you're doing and what you'd be bidding on, auctions are probably not the way to go. Of the options mentioned, I'm familiar with Moennigs, with whom I've done business for the last 30 years. As far as I'm concerned, they are simply the best dealer to deal with, period. Their prices are reasonable, service is excellent, and have a great reputation.

I have a bow in now for trade in a major Michigan dealer. They're willing to trade and give me 90% of what I paid. At Moennig, on the other hand, when I traded in a violin, I got 50% MORE than what I paid for it.

The only disadvantage for this shop is that they don't deal at all in modern instruments, and for $25,000 you may be better off with a nice contemporary instrument that for the #$%^& on the market that's old. Most of it will be mediocre and French.

July 30, 2007 at 02:50 PM · Tommy--oh dear. I just bought my new violin a few weeks ago and I'm about to start my freshman year...I thought my timing was perfect...

Anyway, you may want to get in touch with Peter Prier out in Salt Lake City. I bought my violin from him, he's a very nice guy and extremely knowledgeable, has a pretty impressive instrument collection too.

July 30, 2007 at 03:43 PM · Ken; Pass the popcorn please.

July 30, 2007 at 06:18 PM · Here you go, Jeffrey and Ken, LOL!

Jonathan, some half-decent players have suggested that 20K doesn't buy much if you exclude contemporary makers.

"I've been shocked when students have asked my opinion of old Italian or French fiddles that cost $50,000 to $60,000. Often, they're just pieces of junk."

(Jaime Laredo, quoted by the New York Times in 1991)

"If musicians can't spend at least $250,000 on a stringed instrument, they'd do better with a fine new one, provided they take the time to test it under battle conditions in a good concert hall."

(Isaac Stern, quoted in the same article)

I think you're on the right track though by avoiding makers who think they're Stradivari (unless they can prove it by using a Ouija Board, or can shake a table during a seance, or something like that). ;)

Tommy Atkinson gave great advice when he encouraged you to wait. A violin you choose now may be unsuitable in 3 years after your playing has been "remodeled".

July 30, 2007 at 06:00 PM · Yes David, some of the best players in the world are playing on great modern violins. And dollar for dollar you cannot compete with a modern because with a modern maker you are just paying for sound (and if you are not wise—reputation), not market supply because the maker is no longer living and no longer making instruments. So many players have contacted me since we tried all these instruments. Why? Because they were on a stand with a partner who was playing a Needham, or a Burgess, or a Croen, or a Borman, or Belini, or a Greiner, and they were being blown off the stand, even though they had expensive old Italians. Perhaps that is why one of the most recorded Hollywood session players of our time is playing on a Needham, or perhaps that is why Victor Y. has often done solo work on a Burgess, or Tetzlaff plays a Greiner, or Jensen plays on a Zyg, or Emil C. does solo work on a Needham. And how many hundreds of concertmasters play on these instruments? I was in the “anti-modern camp myself until my ears were rudely corrected when many of the moderns we played sounded better than my precious Poggi (which would cost you much more than 25K at a shop!). Even Rosand says nothing but great things about his modern—a Widenhouse.

And realize that the quote David gave you from Stern was said awhile back when 250,000 could get you much more on the “old Italian market.” Today that 250,000 is probably more like 500, 000, if not much more.

July 30, 2007 at 05:55 PM · auctions are a pretty risky venture. too many pitfalls even when you're given a chance to try the instrument out beforehand. too much funny stuff can happen behind the scenes - especially in NY.

i don't think you should give up on contemporary makers. There is a recent thread on this covering much of the same ground.


July 30, 2007 at 06:08 PM · Mr. Burgess,

I have to disagree regarding that comment about old Italians only getting good when you hit the $250K range. The Moretti I got earlier this month was $26K and it's an absolute gem. When I was trying out violins, it held its own against instruments worth five times as much. It's no Storioni (*sigh!*), but it's hardly a "piece of junk", either.

July 30, 2007 at 06:57 PM · Maura, it wasn't my own statement, just a quote. Maybe you could bring this up with Mr. Stern? ;)

I'd heard that Ken and Jeffrey were already on their second bowl of popcorn and on the verge of falling asleep, so I just HAD to stick those quotes in there! :-)

July 30, 2007 at 06:51 PM · "Jonathan, some half-decent players have suggested that 20K doesn't buy much if you exclude contemporary makers."


You're too generous. At this point, I'm about one-quarter decent, and working towards one-third. It will be some time before I'm half-decent.

I don't think it's impossible to get a good instrument for $25,000. It will take a lot of looking, and ferreting out private sellers or under-priced instruments (one from say, "the shop of" X rather than attributed to X) or one with a non-original scroll or ahefty repair.

July 30, 2007 at 07:40 PM · I was recently talking with the first violinist of the Shanghai Quartet and asked him about his instrument. It was a modern one by Feng Jiang (Michigan) that cost him $18,000. He said it was easily as good as older instruments for 10 times the price. His comment was why pay more for older instruments when you can equally good or better new ones for a lot less.

July 31, 2007 at 04:00 AM · OK... David woke me up so I'll take a break from the popcorn for a minute.

Raymond wrote: "I was in the “anti-modern camp myself until my ears were rudely corrected when many of the moderns we played sounded better than my precious Poggi (which would cost you much more than 25K at a shop!). Even Rosand says nothing but great things about his modern—a Widenhouse."

Rosand loves his Poggi too.

Raymond, I'd say that being "anti modern" was certainly closed-minded and I'm glad your ears made a correction. Of course, being "anti old" would also be closed-minded.

As I mentioned on another thread, if one is comparing the "cream" of one category of instruments to the "general population" of another, well... I think the results can't help but be skewed.

That said, in the price range being discussed, I think it would be a big mistake not consider the better contemporary makers instruments... While there are exceptions, as a group they SHOULD perform better than the older instruments in the same, or higher, price ranges. Some of the best makers produce instruments that can rival representative examples of much more expensive instruments. It’s the opinion of many that making is presently at a very high level.

An additional possible advantage for a contemporary maker is that they have the ability to adjust their making styles to fit contemporary requirements of the players. I don't believe the average wind section sounds the same as it did 25, 50 or 100 years ago... I can't imagine that this would not affect the demands string players put on their own instruments (as can be illustrated by the wide choice of loud synthetic core strings that are presently on the market).

Antique instruments are not priced the same way as contemporary ones... although as I've mentioned before... if we all listed our high-risk behaviors on our websites, maybe our instruments would rise in value. :-) (David, how fast have you managed to get that boat going this year??)

My experience has been that the performance qualities of about half a dozen makers works (more or less) stand out in whatever price range or historical category one chooses… and these works continue to stand out over time. Not that all of any particular makers instruments will be fantastic… but as a group, they work very well and some are exceptional. The remaining makers fall within the “scheme” by association (worked with X maker, etc.). Some of these instruments can be exceptional as well.

The idea that contemporary instruments can be great… and can-be/are used by great concert players isn’t a new one. The tradition started more than 300 years ago and continued in the 19th, 20th, and now the 21st centuries. New instruments by makers like Lupot, Pressenda, Rocca, Vuillaume, Bisiach, Becker and Burgess (just to name a few) have all been employed by great players.

I think the question of what gives one “most bang for the buck” and the question of what gives one the “most bang” are different… but since $s certainly enter in the equation for most of us mortals, the buck ends up being a determining factor for many. Then there’s the question of how many bucks it takes before the pain sets in. Each individual will probably have a different answer for that.


July 30, 2007 at 09:16 PM ·

July 30, 2007 at 09:16 PM ·

July 30, 2007 at 09:23 PM · I like a snickers bar on my popcorn : )

July 30, 2007 at 09:38 PM ·

July 30, 2007 at 09:52 PM · Oh the dreaded "Agent Orange"! Isn't it funny how the great-sounding ones are often off-putting to look at?

July 30, 2007 at 11:09 PM · I am in NYC and am looking to sell my violin in that price range. It was made by Azzo Rovescalli in 1932. Let me know if you would be interested.

July 30, 2007 at 11:25 PM · Jonathan,

I have 5 cents to put in, hope it helps!

1)- I think that this site has done this topic really well over the last 2 years because a lot of people have done much of the work for you, if you are willing to take advantage of what they can tell you. Why do this all on your own when the task is truly formidable and much of the groundwork has been done for you! Look up the earlier threads on this, including the one where a college girl is in your exact situation, but with more money—and contact these people! I know I have done so and I found out that they REALLY know, from EXPERIENCE, modern makers in the USA.


2)-I also think that Mr. Burgess’ past advice could not be more correct: “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.”

In response to Mr. Burgess the young woman in your situation, JanMichelle Dimmick Reyes, also wrote some very valuable advice: “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!”

3)- In your price range the best violin will almost surely be a modern. You would have to get in the 100K range to find something not modern that could at all compete. You just have to accept this! If you do not accept this then your chances of getting a truly great violin are slim and none, and slim just left town. Remember that the older instruments were once new too! And know that violinmakers really have made great advancements in the last 20 years.

4)- While this site can help you with modern makers from the USA there are only a few that know about the great modern makers in Europe. You need to look there too, if you want the make the best decision you can with the money you have (and to me 25k is serious money!).

5)- Last of all, get started NOW! The modern market is hard because of what Raymond Paul wrote in an earlier thread: “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.” You have a lot of calls to make, a lot of people to talk to, a lot of thinking to do, a lot of research to do, and most of all, a lot of violins to play! Get started NOW! With the years of commisioin involved you will not have this vioin for a while, so get started NOW!

That’s it, I hope it helps. Yeah I know it was not what you wanted to hear, but I really believe in the five points I've made.

July 30, 2007 at 11:54 PM · what andreas said. couldn't say it better.

the only thing i would add is that even if you have the financial wherewithal to consider the $100k+ instruments do you have the means to verify authenticity and provenance of the instrument you're purchasing? Because at this point much of the value of the instrument is in collectibility and condition and history and name. And believe it, there are collectors, agents acting on behalf of collections, who have way more resources than you in this regard who are directly connected to the biggest dealers getting the biggest names and the best instruments.

July 31, 2007 at 02:59 PM · My 2 (2 1/2??) cents...When considering your purchase, first consider what you want the instrument for, what you want it to do, and how long you (in general) expect to have it.

These past years have seen the price of older instruments skyrocket,and sometimes with no correlation to the sound or original price of the instrument (and I'm assuming in this discussion that the instrument is authentic, a big assumption in today's market).

If your'e buying for sound, a moderate priced modern will typically be better than an equal priced older instrument, I've seen old French and Belgian instruments sell for around 10K when a modern Italian (Tadioli, Sperzaga, etc.) is not much higher, and the sound of the moderns was significantly superior.

If your buying for investment, why buy when the prices are high. Remember, these older instruments were modern at one time also, so a modern instrument from a known maker today should appreciate in value more than an average (but currently overpriced) older instrument. Now, I'm not talking about classic instruments from the truly gifted old masters, but at the 25K price point neither was the rest of this discussion. I would be curious to see what a Negroni will sell for in 40 years?

This same "it;s old so it must be better" philosophy also has entered the bow market, to see a factory Laberte or Morizot Brothers bow sell for 5K when a modern bow by Fuchs (or similar) sells for the same is ludicrous. Play both and you'll see why.

My suggestion, wait until you see what you'll need for your new school, then get out of NYC, perhaps up to Boston, over to Philadelphia, or down to the DC area. My first choice at your suggested price point is DC. Hit Brobst and Bill Weaver, both have a great selection and have many years experience at this price point (by the way, don't always go by price point, you'll be surprised how much is out there for 16-20K and if you tell the shop you want to spend 25K, they'll make sure they show you that range. Kurt Widenhouse as an example listed above is well below 20K and keeps getting glowing reviews from owners.

Good luck, have patience, and don't rush into anything.

July 31, 2007 at 04:17 PM · All the advice about waiting and evaluating your needs is excellent IMHO; I won't attempt to add to it.

If you are going to look in Philadelphia, in addition to Moennig be sure to also visit Fred Oster's shop 10-15 minutes' walk to the east. He has an excellent collection, is very knowledgeable, and has a great room in which to try instruments. He lists his current instruments on-line, sorted by price category, handy in starting your thinking. Go to: http://www.fredoster.com/

July 31, 2007 at 06:03 PM · Just a clarification about Oster's web listings: those are a very small proportion of what he has available.

I agree with the comments about moderns at the $25K price point generally being better in terms of sound and playability than older instruments -- or at least, the better moderns are much easier to find. Going through a similar instrument search with my daughter a couple years ago, that was our experience and, as a result, a modern instrument was commissioned.

But that raises another issue: the commission took 1.5 years and the maker now has a 2 year wait. So, in practical terms, if the OP wants to get a new violin within the next few months, his choice might be restricted to older violins.

August 1, 2007 at 05:37 AM · you can't go wrong with robertsons and sons in albuquerque. if you buy a violin from them... they'll let you exchange it... buy a vuillaume from them and they'll give you your money back for an exchange so you only pay the difference. my teacher did it, he traded his lupot for a guadignini.

August 1, 2007 at 02:44 PM · Hi- Charles Beare is qoted as saying that violin tone is 80% the player, 10% the violin, and 10% the setup.

All sellers say that the tone of their violins are wonderful.

Heifetz, who never suffered fools gladly, was once told by an effusive admirer that his violin had a wonderful tone.

" Hear that" he said to the violin " You have a wonderful tone"

Best advice from a very old hand is to try a selection at a reputable dealer without knowing the price or the maker.

August 2, 2007 at 07:58 PM · A few years ago I decided I needed to look for a better violin. I was looking in the "just under $20K range" and was having NO luck. I looked at a lot of modern instruments, having previously owned an 1884 Collin Mezin, a ca. 1825 Landolfi copy, and a 1781 Kloz. I was convinced I was not going to find anything.

My former teacher recommended I go to Claire Givens, saying that if I put "fifty or sixty thousand" with the C-M I might be able to find something! Well, I took half her advice. I went to Givens and fell in LOVE with a new violin by Riccardo Bergonzi. (It was on the 2004 Cremona tour and was discussed here on Violinist.com, I believe.) Anyway, if I'd stopped looking at the modern instruments just because I hadn't found one I liked at that time, I'd not have stumbled onto the Bergonzi. It's been two years now and we've never been happier.

Please don't rule out an entire generation of violins simply because they are new. A lot are awful--scratchy, raucus, and loud. But all you need to find is one...

Oh, and by the way, I got to keep the Collin-Mezin too! :-)

August 3, 2007 at 02:44 AM · I didn't get a chance to read all the fantastic replies yet but I just wanted to second the recommendation to check out Weaver's Violins. http://www.weaversviolins.com/

At the time I bought my Bernardel, Brobst was selling a Bernardel for $15,000 more than Weaver. Effectively 75% more. Weaver doesn't always have what you may be looking for but typically if he does it will end up being cheaper.

August 3, 2007 at 09:54 PM · The Tarisio July sale was a sale of cheap or repairable violins or ones with questionable provenance etc.

Their next MAJOR sale, which will be an entirely different affair, is October.

Christies and Skinner of Boston will probably have major sales about the same time.

And quite frankly, it seems a little over the top to be intent on spending $25k !



July 23, 2012 at 04:09 AM · One thing about buying violins that hasn't really come up yet in this discussion is the issue of resale. If you buy a violin from a modern maker whose violins sell consistently for $25,000, then in a few years if you don't like it, you're unlikely to suffer much of a loss (but you could enjoy a windfall if the maker dies!). If you buy an old French violin from a dealer for $25,000 and it turns out to be worth $10,000, then that's what you'll likely get back for it.

There are those who say that there are lots of nice old violins around for $15-25k, and those who say for this price you're really best taking a modern violin.

Learn to enjoy traveling about, checking into shops, and playing violins for an hour or two at a time. Try to clear your mind of prejudices about Italian violins vs. Chinese or Americans and trust your ears and your hands. If you haven't ears or hands by now then what the hell are you doing spending $25,000 on a violin?

July 23, 2012 at 09:03 PM ·

Oh, Burgess ... finally I found this page! I reply to your "curious and very personal questions." Naaay, I'm still a woman ... and I'm still beauty!

As many hot mediterranean men says ...

By the way, let's talk about serious things, as this

discussion goes so far.

What about E. Blot, What you suggest, David? You are so

wellkowed and rewarded, pretty close to the most important

maker in the world, but E.Blot more than you, or not?

What your impressions about him?

He's not Cremonese! Ethier not Italian! [EDIT] [Flag?]

Here's also Lindon! I have this urgent message to send.

"Bissolotti is here, in fromt of the PC, he say...I can work for a quarter, less than Lyndon..."

July 23, 2012 at 09:29 PM · David, Lyndon,where have you hidden? Yesterday were talking so much nonsense!

July 23, 2012 at 10:51 PM · "Oh, Burgess ... finally I found this page! I reply to your "curious and very personal questions." Naaay, I'm still a woman ... and I'm still beauty!

As many hot mediterranean men says ...

By the way, let's talk about serious things, as this

discussion goes so far.

What about E. Blot, What you suggest, David? You are so

wellkowed and rewarded, pretty close to the most important

maker in the world, but E.Blot more than you, or not?

What your impressions about him?

He's not Cremonese! Ethier not Italian!

Here's also Lindon! I have this urgent message to send.

"Bissolotti is here, in fromt of the PC, he say...I can work for a quarter, less than Lyndon..."

David, Lyndon,where have you hidden? Yesterday were talking so much nonsense!"


Dearest Antonia;

Perhaps you are confused again, and on the wrong thread?

This thread was started in 2007, and is 5 years old!

Keep looking, and I'm sure you will find the right one. ;-)

July 24, 2012 at 04:47 AM · "And Gio Batta Morassi? bad ass attitude, he's the second,

after the Real Master, (evreryone know who's him...)

When you try that, you never go back...

July 24, 2012 at 06:17 AM · BECK is here, in fromt of the all-American Apple/Mac, he say...enough, enough !!

If the original poster is still around and STILL looking to buy a $25,000 violin, might I suggest he doesn't go to Italy until peace has been declared ??

We have a war-zone right now.

I'm going to put all my 5 Cremona instruments way out of the house, for fear they might be booby-trapped. Terrorism is to be taken very seriously, IMHO.

July 24, 2012 at 07:30 AM · what exactly is a booby-trap?

July 24, 2012 at 08:13 AM · A booby-trap isn't an item of female underwear. No. It's usually an explosive or other device rigged up to be triggered inadvertently either by the victim or by remote control !!! The victim has to be "lured" into it.

Read more on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booby_trap

PS I am not a sado-mazzocchist.

July 24, 2012 at 11:10 AM · In Italy we say: You have to learn not to "break the balls!" metaphorically, of course.

July 24, 2012 at 11:33 PM · in my head there is only one booby trap and it's not sm or soemthing dangerous! You are disgusting!

July 28, 2012 at 02:42 PM · Ah ... the old Italian violins and French are usually junk ... good but are only yours! But Burgess stop!

July 28, 2012 at 03:17 PM · It's my stalker again. LOL

Antonia wrote:

"Ah ... the old Italian violins and French are usually junk ..."

Sorry you feel that way.

July 28, 2012 at 10:27 PM · David, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about." Oscar Wilde

Oh, to have a stalker...

Cheers Carlo

August 1, 2012 at 03:35 PM · PLAY IT FIRST... and 4 or 5 others compare compare, listen, analyze the sound... have your fiends play for you etc. etc.

August 1, 2012 at 07:44 PM · In most cases, the market value of a violin has nothing to do with the quality of its sound.

You have to decide between buying a used (old) violin or commission a new one from a reputable maker. There are pros and cons for both options, some of them already expressed here.

One advantage of buying a new instrument is that there is no middle man and you pay only the maker. (I still have not met a honest dealer and think that most of them succumb to conflict of interest and choose a short term gain over a long term gain and reputation.) If you intend to buy from a dealer, do not ever tell how much do you want to spend; it will drive 99% of them nuts, but remaining 1% will be worth doing business with. If you buy a new instrument, chances are that you will get the most for your money (even between 15k and 20k ) and all the basic properties of a good instrument will be there. The violin will be resonant, responsive, balanced sound even, and you will not have to work hard to compensate for deficiencies and produce a decent sound. If you get lucky, another perks will also be there, such as brilliance of the sound and power. On the other hand, the depth, warmth, smoothness and other very personal attributes of timbre may not be there. It takes time to commission the instrument and play it in; your instrument's matured and stable sound picture will not be there before 2-3 years (although the traces of personality will be audible after only 2 weeks) and most people would agree that a new violin takes 5 years to completely settle. Buy from a local maker because you will need to see him / her for adjustments during first year or so.

Lastly, it is always a good idea to ask a fellow violin player, someone who does not have any bias or interest in transaction, for an opinion and to play it for you.

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