Do you guys thing these two makers are that much better than everyone else?

February 28, 2008 at 11:40 PM · Just talked to a player who told me that right now Greiner asks for 28,500 Euros, which is almost 44,000 dollars, and Zyg asks for 51K US. What do all of you think about what they are asking for a violin in comparison with the other makers out there: Croen, Scott, Needham, Seifert and Grubaugh, Curtin, Bellini, Robin, Chaudiere, Burgess, Widenhouse, Rattray, Dilworth, Hargrave, etc.

It would be really nice to hear from players who have experience playing instruments from these two makers and who have played some of the other big time makers.

Replies (30)

February 28, 2008 at 11:55 PM · Well as you know, Mike B. and Raymond have experience with all of those guys and have said quite clearly that no, they are not superior, they're just more marketable. That doesn't mean they're a bad idea to buy. I have a friend who thinks his Greiner is amazing but also likes my Scott which costs a third as much.

There's been so much discussion about Zygmuntowicz and Greiner vs more affordable makers and the pros and cons, so if you're going by the people who will end up answering here, then no, they aren't any better and are not worth the money. At the end of the day, there is a lot of cachet in owning a Greiner or Zygmuntowicz, and I don't deny that for a second. Of the people here who have experience with Greiner, none have been more positive about him than others.

February 29, 2008 at 01:15 AM · Ah, things are worth what people will pay for them

If people are more interested in cachet than sound or playability, then they will pay over the odds for names they have heard of, whether new or old.

Violins have become more than instruments. They have become investment properties, as well as supposed works of art. Good antiqueing puts thousands on the price of a fiddle

Some people are more interested in those qualities than how they work as instruments. The problem is that they are now the people who are driving the market.

gc

February 29, 2008 at 02:49 AM · It's all Economy 101: Monetary value is determined by demand and supply. Monetary value is not to be confused with sentimental value, though.

Consider the following hypothetical example ... Suppose violin A is 5% more playable, 5% better sounding, 500% more collectible than and costs three times as much as violin B.

To a collector, the question would be "is 500% more collectible worth paying 200% more?" and the answer might well be "yes, it's a good deal, plenty of extra bang for the extra buck spent".

To a musician, the question would be "is 10% more musical utility worth paying 200% more?" and the answer is "maybe, maybe not, little extra bang for the extra buck spent".

Now suppose that you purchase violin B and spend the money you saved instead on coaching sessions with an elite world class teacher. The question now becomes "can I beat 10% more musical utility of violin A by becoming a more than 10% better player through coaching while using violin B?" If the answer to that question is "yes", then the extra money may well be better spent on coaching sessions.

Note that an instrument that costs 3 times more will also cost 3 times more insurance, so you will have to work the extra long term cost into the equation as well.

Of course there are other things which will influence your buying decision even if only subconsciously. The bragging rights you get with a well known prestige brand may give you an extra feel good bonus. But, nobody other than yourself can tell how much that feel good bonus is worth paying for.

Last night, Japanese TV aired a documentary on latest trends in economic activities. One of those trends are second hand car dealers from India, Sri Lanka and various countries in SE Asia who come to Japan to buy second hand Toyotas and ship them back to their markets. The interesting thing, those second hand cars from Japan sell for significantly higher prices there than the same cars are sold NEW in these markets. Does this mean that second hand toyotas have a higher value than new toyotas? Yes and no. In Japan they don't, in those countries they do. Similarly, in Japan a second hand BMW with left hand steering wheel imported from Germany can fetch more than a new BMW.

It is very easy to fall into the trap and overpay for something mostly for sentimental reasons. If that is acceptable to you and you can afford it, then by all means go for the prestige brands. If the idea of overpaying for little extra value makes you uncomfortable, then you may want to consider staying clear of prestige brands that fetch unproportionately high prices.

February 29, 2008 at 03:59 AM · The demand for instruments from particular makers certainly does run up the asking price, but it also will run up the resale price in most instances. Essentially, it is an exchange of currency.

I am not familiar with Greiner's story as much as I am with Sam Zygmuntowicz's. Having had the opportunity to make two copies for Isaac Stern certainly had its advantages. The luthiers I know have tremendous respect for Sam Zygmuntowicz as a person and as a craftsman. He does craft an excellent instrument. His work for the Emerson Quartet compounded confidence that other musicians had that he could produce a great product. I believe Joshua Bell also commissioned one from him recently.

Essentially, it doesn't mean that there are no other makers that can rival him. However, he has enough credentialed satisfied customers that enables him to command his price.

As a rule of marketing, why charge a standard price when people are more than willing to pay more. Yes, it is about quality, but it is also about circumstance as well. Isn't true that a violin maker from Cremona today can charge more than the market price because of his address?

February 29, 2008 at 06:19 AM · Pieter, how does your Scott compare with the Greiner.

The thought that comes to my mind is that investing in a Greiner is risky because of the dollar. I mean I do not think that the US will let the dollar sit where it is much longer, which means that someone could lose a lot on the Greiner in a hurry.

I have talked to the people you mentioned, both of them, because they played a hell of a lot of fiddles and you are right, they do not think these makers are superior to the others. I just want to see what others have thought who have experince with it...i mean those two cannot be the only two who have played a lot of fiddles! Actually, I talked to 2 of the other studio guys as well...who also told me the same thing.

Anyone other players have experience out there?

February 29, 2008 at 01:54 PM · I have no experience with either, but I think it is important for you to try to decide an initial question: is your primary interest getting a violin you really like or one that will be the best investment. These two interests may not necessarily coincide. Good luck! There are lots of good makers out there. You should at least try some violins they have made to see how you like them. Then, you maybe will have a better idea how to balance the two interests.

March 4, 2008 at 11:56 AM · Hi Guys

As a dealer (and a former player) that is also very keen on new makers I believe all the makers mentioned are good but none stand out as being the ' best'. That is for future generations to decide......mind you this is also hard to tell (Fagnola and Scarampella...the most expensive 20th C makers...but the best? I don't think so!!)

People on this site seem to always want to compare modern makers prices but at the end of the day it is you the players that decide this.

If you are buying a new violin it will be worth in the future what the maker is charging , maybe a little more as it is 'played' in.

Good luck!

Sean Bishop

March 4, 2008 at 01:13 PM · I tried some chaudiere violins.

I really like them.

I thought they were pretty good, and stood out from the others at some old Paris shows.

March 4, 2008 at 11:58 PM · I tried out a bunch of fiddles at a local luthier here who was having a "Cremonese" violin show. Out of the 200 or so instruments - including an old italian for $200K, the $10K one from a nonguild maker was the best.

Unfortunately, someone else had already spotted it and bought it.

March 5, 2008 at 01:46 AM · Terry, Do you remember who made the 10K violin you liked? Maybe s/he made more than one.

Ihnsouk

March 5, 2008 at 02:44 AM · I think what Ben is trying to say is how to judge between price and value, by taking into account all personal and market factors including arbitrage. Commodities, services, usury, and arbitrage can be priced: values cannot be priced. The value of an instrument to you is not the price you pay.

March 5, 2008 at 03:06 AM · Ihnsouk, it was a 2006 Vila, or Vela, I can't remember which. There were two other makers by the same (or similar) name at the show. Those instruments didn't sound as good. I went with 2 other violinists and we all agreed that it was the best. We were looking at it because someone we knew was going to (and did) buy it. Terry

March 5, 2008 at 03:23 AM · Terry,

I purchased a contemporary Cremonese (by By Gaspar Borchardt)from the same exhibition you speak of-from last years' showing. It wanted some new strings (From Dominant+Gold E=> Passione wound gut), and some post moving-but it's turned out to be a great investment even though it's a youngin (it's an early 07/late 06)

I know one of the participating dealers-and by his own admission, the total number of instruments available as well as the quality of this years' showing wasn't that great in comparison to those of the past. My point being-hopefully next year it'll be better-by my sources this year wasn't that consistant with the past.

The catch being-some of those instruments need tweaking-one of my colleagues had several on loan from one of the participating shops-and some were in need of a strong soundpost tweaking-OR different set of strings-or both. The post could have been from shipping (of course), but many had Evahs-and those were certainly projecting-but I wanted more tone colors and more complexity.

Here's a list of all the dealers in the show (occasionally), brought to you by the people who are responsible for the show:

http://www.musafianorthamerica.com/new_violins.htm

Odds are you're thinking of a Villa of one of the brothers....I've seen their work, the few samples I've seen look nicely done -but they were either in need of a post moving, or other strings, in addition to more playing.

Ciao,

~Marc

March 5, 2008 at 03:48 AM · Terry, Thank you. We have tried a Marcella Villa. They do look nice.

Ihnsouk

March 5, 2008 at 03:58 AM · the more that I talk to players the more I hear that Zyg and Greiner only stand out as far as money...I guess what Sean told us.

The guy so many rave about though is Needham.

March 5, 2008 at 01:37 PM · Hi Andreas

I had a customer in a few weeks ago whom wanted to trade up from her quite new Needham violin (!)........

cheers

Sean

March 6, 2008 at 04:44 AM · Sean, I have never heard anything like that. I have talked to many who have tried his newer stuff and everyone covets them! I mean everyone! Can you email me and give me the number and name of this person?

March 6, 2008 at 07:51 AM · Hi Andreas -

Since I represent Peter Greiner in the United States then I would suggest you make your own decision and try out a violin from Peter. There is one in New York, by Julie Reed and I am sure if you give her a call you can try the fiddle out. Otherwise, for an questions about Peter's instruments then I am the one to contact, I always answer my mails. When I come to the States again or bring a fiddle over then I could get in touch with you or anyone else interested. My e-mail address is: suebrunnert@aol.com

March 6, 2008 at 03:51 PM · Andreas - I sent an email to Sean Bishop expressing the same thought about Needham. Reading your post, I am convinced that it must be an old Needham. We were fortunate to try both Needham's old and new. They are quite different.

March 7, 2008 at 04:57 AM · Susan,

I did play some Greiners when I was in Europe, and while I was very impressed I think I have played some better moderns here in the states. But hey, violins are subjective.

I have also heard a lot of Bellinis and Needhams, like both of them better than the Greiners. Again, just my opinion...but not from talking to others, from having played them.....

Also played a Widenhouse last week that I was impressed with...

Also waiting to play a Burgess with real reasons to believe it may be great!

There are a lot of great modern here at the big school! LOL

Andreas, I will email you to tell you what I found in my search.

March 7, 2008 at 06:14 AM · Speaking of modern makers, are there any top notch makers out there with violins available to ship for trial and then be bought?

March 7, 2008 at 12:02 PM · Jake, Gregg Alf seems to have some instruments on his web site. I know he will ship them out.

March 7, 2008 at 02:47 PM · I see that his instrument gallery lists some of his own work, some Feng Jiang violins, and a 1705 "Jacobs"

Has anyone tried out any of the instruments on his site and has advice on which one to request? I don't want to rake up a fortune in shipping on my question for a new violin.

March 7, 2008 at 03:55 PM · From what I have gathered and learned, buying a great modern is hard (we have two very talented young ones in our family and are trying to learn fast!) because there are many makers, from many areas, few of them have violins to ship, etc.

I understand why Andreas and others have used this site to get information on other violins that REAL players have played. It's a start, and starting this quest seems so hard.

As for Greiner and Zzg, who have been of interest in so many threads: seems to me a few things must be true of these two: they must be among the elite or else they would never command the players the prices they command or have such famous players playing them.

We can also be sure that the law of diminishing return has also kicked in with these two because they are asking for almost twice what the other great-famous makers are asking for and if they were that much better the others would not have a market.

And in fact, whether they are better at all seems to be questioned by many, which leads me to think this is more about marketing than anything else (almost always the case with any product!).

Last comment: I really appreciate the comments of players who have played moderns because it helps us all a little bit with where to start.

March 10, 2008 at 08:50 PM · Jake, Gregg Alf shipped us a violin that he made and my daughter has been very happy with it.

March 15, 2008 at 05:16 PM · After having played Greiners when I went to Europe, and after having played 4 Zygs now, I can say that these two are among the best in the world, but I cannot say that they can distance themselves from a few others who are making incredible stuff at half the price. And when you think about even 1/2 the price is a lot for a fiddle (20-25K).

And the comments about the Euro sure seem true. I mean at some point the dollar will come back and then there goes a lot of money if you bought something in Euros. Makes little sense when there are some unreal makers in the states: Needham, Burgess, Bellini, Seifert & Grubaugh, Croen, Scott, Widenhouse. All these makers impress me and all but one is under 26K.

Right now a Greiner is almost as much as Zyg, just because of the Euro/dollar thing?

Andreas, try anything since you last posted?

March 10, 2009 at 11:54 AM ·

Last evening, I listened to a concert of the reduced Emerson String Quartet (the Cellist was sick) in our Concert Hall "Herculessaal" in Munich, Germany. I write this, because I was absolutly disappointed about the violin of Mr. Drucker (or was the player the reason? I couldn´t find out). The sound was weak, close on the lower strings, and unsufficient for the hall. The difference to the good violin of Mr. Setzer, and to the excellent viola was striking.
That was also the opinion of other listeners. I´m a violinist, I´m very interested in sound, and I know what I´m talking about. I had a good seat in the middle of the 10th tier.
Did Mr. Drucker played a Strad or a Zygmuntowicz (see homepage)? Anyway, I just have one advice: change fiddle!
Sorry, but when you are forced to listen to this for two hours, you get frustrated.
Martin

 

 

 

March 10, 2009 at 12:44 PM ·

 

it basically always comes down to SUPPLY & DEMAND. Their instruments must be favored or they could not demand the price...correct?

March 10, 2009 at 10:01 PM ·

I certainly would not recommend a specific maker above others, but let me say that my mother in law was in the market a few years back---- she now plays a Burgess.

March 11, 2009 at 01:29 AM ·

Curses - just when I thought it was safe to enjoy my sabbatical from posting for a while longer, I get lured back by an interesting thread! Well, I had wanted to add my 2 cents to the earlier Sam Z, thread, but it finished before I got to it.

I'm a professional violinist and a collector with more than a dozen violins. I'm a big fan of fiddles, old and new. I have indeed tried violins by Greiner and Zyg. An early Zyg. did not impress me, but a later one did. This was one of the two at that (in?)famous Tarisio auction a while back that went through the roof. I tried a Greiner belonging to a colleague and it was really quite good.

So, do I think that these two are really good makers? Yes. Would I pay (assuming I could afford to) that kind of money for their fiddles? H*** no! There are so many excellent makers today. There is really a very high international standard, and if we're just going for tone and appearence, the final choice is a matter of the taste of the individual player. In my own collection I have a number of fiddles that I think would compare very well to the G. and Z. mentioned above. I'll limit myself to 4 fiddles  - 3 of which I bought directly from the makers, and all of whom have websites. One was made in '03 by Maurizio Catellani, one was made in '04 by Allesandro Scandroglio, and two, respectively in '07 and '08 were custom-made for me by Edward Maday. If you want bang for your buck, these guys - and so many others - can deliver at a far lower cost.

But what about investment? What about cachet? Well, there are two things we can rarely be 100% sure of. There is always the possibility that the purchase we are thrilled to make today will be something that we may want or need to sell in the future. And we can't really know that we'll get our investment back, let alone make a profit. I don't really blame G and Z for charging what they do if someone is willing to pay for it, and as long as price fixing doesn't come about among many makers to the  point that most players really can't afford the proper tools of their craft. As for cachet, that's something else we can't be sure will last. Not unlike soloists, actors, etc. a maker can be hot, and one day, not. I think that it's still too early to tell how permanently bankable the gentlemen in question are. There was a time not that long ago when Sergio Peresson was all the rage. Bellini, too. Now, fairly or unfairly, not as much.

BTW, I don't think it's telling tales out of school to mention that Sam Z, uses assistants. To be fair, so did Stradivari - increasingly so in his later years. But if I were thinking of paying  purely for tone and workmanship, rather than for cachet, I'd rather pay a lot less to an assistant that eventually went off on their own, and that I thought sooner or later might do as good a job. How much do I want to pay for a label? If I'm thinking about a proven investment, and 50-60K is not much trouble for me, I'd sooner try to raise another 30-40K and invest in an absolutely first class specimen of Poggi, Fagnola, Scarampella, Biziach, etc. Or just maybe I'd go bargain hunting for a property foreclosure - but that's another subject!

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