The Overlooked Great Makers of Today?

February 11, 2008 at 05:00 PM · Is there anyone that makes hand-made violins today in the old tradition that is as good as the quality found in the greatest makers from long ago and they are underestimated for now but when people realize later, they will regret never having bothered with their instruments.

Anyone know?

Replies (28)

February 12, 2008 at 02:48 AM ·

February 12, 2008 at 04:18 AM · Right! Nobody knows today. We are told here at that really good violins sound really good right off the bench then improve with age. Who

knows, maybe a David Burgess work of art will some day equate to Strad or Guarneri.

February 12, 2008 at 10:49 AM · Well, it seems Van Gogh sold just one painting in his lifetime... was he a bad painter? No, he was just recognized later. There are parallels in the violin making world. Rocca asked the local authorities to be declared legally poor. Scarampella lived from hand to mouth, and that happened to many makers, as pointed out by the Hills in their book on Stradirai.

So, if you have "violin culture" you can get good instruments for a good price today, indeed.

February 12, 2008 at 01:51 PM · Manfio is absolutely correct. there are many great builders that are making and selling fine instruments. I am also sure that history will bear this truth out. Todays makers have studied the great instruments from the past and learned. One of the real problems is that the playing community has a bias toward anything that is not old. There have been many blind test where modern instruments were selected over historically instruments by a panel of experts.

February 12, 2008 at 07:25 PM · I've recommended Edward Maday, of Long Island, NY on other threads. He custom made my current favorite violin, and I just commissioned another from him. But there are many first rate violin and bow makers today. If they do things properly, choose good wood, graduate and arch properly, and in many other ways don't cut corners, they should be fine for the long haul. I currently own about half a dozen violins, and of course, many others have come and gone. I have about 10 bows. Most of this stuff is contemporary work. I've never had a violin go South on me, though indeed, I've sometimes been diasppointed that a violin didn't improve as much as I hoped it would.

Just a couple of basic criteria. The violin should be decent in its response, quality and sonority from the get go. Then there is a good chance that with time and playing, it will become more responsive and more complex. But even hot off the press, it shouldn't feel like you're pulling teeth to play it.

February 12, 2008 at 04:08 PM · I would also reccommend Ed Maday. I played one of his violins for many years and made the bridge on my current violin.

February 12, 2008 at 06:53 PM · Hello!

Here in Sweden we got a very talented violin builder, Peter Westerlund. His violins has defeated both Stradivarius, Guadagnini and Gagliano in a test the union for violin teachers in Sweden did some years ago. His violins are super!

February 13, 2008 at 12:08 AM · I know of a maker that due to geography and politics ( South Africa ) is largely over-looked, but is a top class maker out of the Newark violin making school. Some of his school mates are better known having stayed in Europe, Roger Hargrave and John Dilworth for example.

He made the violin that David Juritz, concertmaster of the London Mozart Players, used to go round the world raising money for charity.

His name is Brian Lisus.

You also might have seen Yo-Yo Ma playing his cello when he shot a film with the Bushmen of the Kalahari desert.

Charles Beare was amazed at how good his work was being isolated in South Africa.

You would think that the Rand taking a dive would cause people to buy from South Africa, but it is just to far from the everyday hassle that the violin world produces in the major centers to even be noticed.

February 13, 2008 at 03:05 AM · Not sure if he is not very well known, but after playing so many moderns, mostly from the "who's who" in Europe and in American, I have to say that the best I have played is the Needham I played while in L.A.

As soon as I save some money I am putting my money where my mouth is and getting one of my own.

February 13, 2008 at 03:21 AM · I really like Piccinotti's violins, his violins seem almost perfect when you look and play it. Not to mention the sound quality of his violins.

February 13, 2008 at 03:35 AM · It is a verrrrrry subjective evaluation.

But Barry Dudley above is correct: bind tests have revealed interesting results. Case in point: the strad mystery video posted on youtube. In the blind test, all panel judges picked a Fustier over the sound of the Strad.

Does anyone know anything about a "Fustier"? how to contact Mr Fustier? price range? pedigree, etc?

February 16, 2008 at 03:22 AM · How much do violins by these overlooked great makers cost? Do makers have used instruments for sale as well or do they make an instrument on commission only? We are looking to upgrade our instrument. Thank you.


February 16, 2008 at 04:54 AM · This is a good question. As part of The Amati Foundation's goals of identifying the top makers out there, I spent over 2 years investigating the works of modern makers and identified about 40 people who make incredible instruments from $8,000 on up to $50,000. There is a full list at

All are amazingly talented and deserve consideration by today's performers.

While I don't want to offend anyone on the list, I do have a couple personal favorites for various reasons which I'll share with you. But let me start by saying, finding the right maker really depends on what you're looking for.

If I wanted a Strad model of the Messiah I'd go to David Burgess. A superb sounding deep red, nearly flawless "new" Ruggieri cello would be Raymond Schryer. If I wanted a great viola I'd contact Chris Germain. Amazing varnish coupled with soloist tone-- Gregg Alf. A composite, advanced violin to push the edge of acoustics-- Joseph Curtin or Martin Schleske. A perfect recreation of a famous Italian-- Peter Beare. A copy of the Lord Wilton-- Feng Jiang. A copy of Paganini's il Cannone-- Joe Grubagh and Sigrun Seifert. A copy of my favorite violin of all time, the Stradivari il Cremonese-- Philip Injeian.

So you see, there are a lot of great makers working today and finding what you want from an instrument is as easy as talking to several of these men and women and discussing your needs. They're based all around the world so it is easy to get ahold of them.

Finally, as an investment vehicle, I honestly believe you cannot go wrong with the top tier of today's makers. As Strads, Guarneris, Amatis and others get priced out of the market because of foundations and the very wealthy purchasing them, musicians will turn to choosing between a 2nd tier historical instrument which may not give them all the juice they need and a new instrument that will be a fraction of the price but can be made to their requirements. My feeling is the new instruments will offer substantial upside, plus since the maker should be alive during your lifetime, they can adjust the instrument and care for it, thus offering a beneficial relationship between maker and player.


February 16, 2008 at 02:24 PM · Among my favorite modern makers, not yet mentioned, are Philip Perret in New York, David Gusset in Eugene, Oregon, and Frank Ravatin in France. All three around $21,000.

February 16, 2008 at 03:58 PM · Bill and Jennifer - Thank you. That helps a lot. We are looking for one for an advancing student. I suspect that it will be upgraded again in a few years. We are interested in used instruments made by contemporary makers.


February 16, 2008 at 03:31 PM · While Geary Baese of Fort Collins, Colorado, is not a prolific maker, he is the researcher that developed the acoustical system that he taught to Needham and others with such great success. His varnish research informed Gregg Alf. He rarely makes instruments but they are marvels of beauty and tone.

February 16, 2008 at 05:10 PM · Fustier Jacques

1, rue Puits Gaillot

69001 Lyon

Téléphone : 04 78 39 03 27

"Luthier installé à Lyon, Jacques Fustier dont la réputation est mondiale, a été formé à l'école de Mittenwald en Allemagne. Il fabrique sur commande des violons qui ont de la puissance."

Trained in Mittenwald, Germany

February 16, 2008 at 08:10 PM · David Wiebe of Woodstock, New York.

February 17, 2008 at 01:03 AM · Needham learned from Bease? Who is Bease? Well, I guess he learned it well because the Ax I played in CA rocked!

June 15, 2008 at 05:10 AM · Yes I agree with Bill Townsend. Phillip Injeian is a fantastic maker. I use his violin for my studio recordings and performances quite regularly. This violin I own made by Phillip, is a copy of the Cannon del Gesu made in 2004. My teacher Erick Friedman also tried my violin by Phillip Injeian and commented on how rich the tone of the instrument was. He also pointed out how good the carrying power this instrument had when he played on it. Phillip will be featured in this month's upcoming edition of the Strad Magazine with the Miro Quartet.

June 15, 2008 at 09:39 AM · Overlooked or underestimated by who? Not routinely mentioned on, but his instruments are played on by many string players in known orchestras throughout the world. Friedrich Alber (Montpellier, France).

June 15, 2008 at 08:40 PM · An enormously talented violin maker I know is Charles Rufino in New York (he is on Long Island, too) . His instruments are extremely well crafted, and sound incredible. I recently had the pleasure of listening to a member of the Metropolitan Opera orchestra play his Rufino that he had recently purchased. It was powerful with wonderful tone and warmth. He gave up a highly valued centuries old Italian violin in favor of his recently made violin which is a nice testament not only to Charles Rufino but modern makers in general whose violins are too often underestimated.

Charles Rufino also has a very impressive background having graduated the Newark School of Violin Making in England, and he worked in Europe and eventually in Chicago with Carl Becker for a number of years. You can't go wrong including him on your short list when looking for a violin, viola or cello.

June 23, 2008 at 08:19 PM · I recently purchased a new violin for college, and went with a modern maker down in Florida.

Nothing but good things to say.

The violin sounds and looks amazing, and the service was unbelievable.

Jan Van Rooyen makes great violins and violas, and he isn't insanely popular. It's a shame; his violins, according to many (Joshua Bell), compare favorably to old 250 year old italian violins.

June 24, 2008 at 05:05 AM · Jan Spiedlen (Czech)

Paul Hiliare (French-Mirencourt) not really overlooked, but a great maker!!!...I'm sort of biosed though

and a local maker that I know, George Blum makes nice modern instruments that are very playable.

August 10, 2012 at 10:49 AM · There are many makers today who are as good, if not better (overall) than the great makers of the past - if you take into consideration the following points:

1. When a great maker such as Stradivari perfects a new model, later makers have, in effect, the ideal blueprint for their own emulations of his work. They may well manage to find superior materials, and make advances of their own. Such progressions as 'modern set-up', 'revised standard pitch', etc., are an example of how and why advances come about.

2. A great violin will sound 'great' from the beginning. Age produces noticeable differences in sound, but these are not always an improvement, and tone subject to taste anyway. I possess a modern violin, made for me in 1994 by Christoph Gotting - one of today's foremost makers, and I can tell you that, for the past eleven years I have noticed a definite sudden change in tone happen every year just before the start of the spring season. Considering that I play almost every day, this sudden change is particularly noticeable compared to my previous day's playing, and the 'new' tone remains until it changes the next year. Regular playing is important to keep the instrument 'alive', and with most instruments, the weather, and climate may affect the sound (although I have not noticed this with my instrument). However, an excellent instrument will still show signs of excellence at any time.

3. The right Varnish is very important. It needs to be flexible to allow the wood to expand and contract, and sound vibrations to be transmitted easily. Thus oil-based varnishes are still the best (stiff synthetic substances can only smother the tone). A correctly-applied oil-based varnish will never become permanently hard, even after four hundred years.

4. As with driving different cars, different violins require different ways of playing on them. It is often reported by those fortunate enough to play on both a Del-Gesu, and a Strad, that one requires a more resolute way of playing, while the other responds well to a more delicate approach, but appears to suffer under pressure. Therefore, be prepared to change your playing style accordingly.

5. You cannot compare modern strings to old ones; that is to say, don't be disappointed if you cannot sound like Heifetz, and don't be surprised if people think your sound is better than his. It is therefore a good idea to know your strings perfectly, and compare instruments using only your regular brand. In my opinion, the need to mix and match strings means that either the instrument is not perfectly balanced, or alternatively one's hearing could be at fault,or both. Most of us, as we grow older, prefer fewer bass frequencies, but more treble.

6. If like me, you have wasted years of your life, and a small fortune trying out and purchasing instruments which perhaps give you that little extra something that your current instrument can't, you will know not to lose sight of the other qualities you are accustomed to, i.e. if the new instrument has a much better response on the E-string, and this is what you have so far been denied, check whether that wonderful resonance that you are used to on the G-string also comes as part of the deal. It could just be that one or the other instrument is not correctly adjusted, and can be improved, or it could be that one or the other has a weakness.

7. When you try another instrument, try to ensure to do it when your playing is at its best, and not after a prolonged Christmas holiday. Rely on your instincts. You will know instantly when you are playing on a superior instrument. If you have to spend two weeks comparing it to your own instrument, you can easily become confused, or overlook details.

8. If you are accustomed to playing on an instrument that has a tailpiece fully fitted with four of the biggest and best fine adjusters money can buy, and a permanently attached sliding mute, not to mention rubber cushions between the strings and bridge, among other 'must haves', be mindful of the fact that all of these things act as mutes in their own way. If you are trying a different instrument which does not include these optional extras, then it immediately has the advantage over your own.

I knew from the first moment of trying out a brand-new Christoph Gotting violin that I just had to have one (even though I didn't know where I would find the money to pay for it at the time!). Since owning one of these, I have tried out several instruments, including a Strad, two Guadagninis, a Bergonzi, a Pierray, and a Vuillaume. The Strad reminded me as much of my instrument, and mine did the owner's. I liked one of the Guadagninis, but the other (I tried them side by side) was disappointing. I can't really remember whether I liked the others. When listening to violins on recordings, only the Ex-Kochanski, when played by Aaron Rosand continues to give me slight feelings of envy. But for many years now, I have had no desire to try out other instruments, and usually, when someone thrusts an instrument under my nose, and says "try this", a familiar lack of desire overwhelms me. I am rarely impressed. When I watch, or listen to am outstanding performance by someone, the instinct to rush to my violin case, tune up, and burst into rapturous sounds is as strong as ever before, and it is then that I am always pleasantly reminded that I have found my perfect instrument, even before I am properly warmed-up. Even Stradivari's instruments were new once. They had to be played in; they underwent surgery in advancing years; they required adjustments to be made. And out of all of his surviving instruments, one will be the best, and one the worst. Even its appearance as it was to its original customer will have changed considerably over the years. I am convinced that Stradivari would be just as pleasantly surprised by some modern instruments, as he would be by the sight and sounds of one of his own creations today.

August 26, 2012 at 01:39 AM · When Howard Needham visited me he declared himself as a self taught maker.

August 26, 2012 at 04:24 AM · @ John Cadd: " the dryer air has been shrinking the wood tighter on the sound post during Winter"

My understanding is that the drier air shrinking the wood actually loosens the soundpost. I am not sure how but believe one explanation was that the arching increases slightly. I have heard that some cellists will put in a longer soundpost during the drier months.

Regarding the original post: very few if any of the luthiers mentioned can be considered "overlooked".

August 26, 2012 at 03:33 PM · Since we seem to be talking primarily about outstanding -- rather than overlooked or underestimated -- contemporary luthiers, then Guy Harrison of Ottawa Canada should be mentioned for the quality and beauty of his work. I am playing his Lord Wilton model, remarkable for its warmth and power. It sounded magnificent when it was new, last year, and it has continued to grow and open up as it is played. It never fails to excite admiration from other violinists who have tried it out. Guy has an excellent workshop blog which reflects the integrity and range of his work:

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