Matsuda, Kinberg and Carl Becker Violins

April 27, 2009 at 03:37 PM ·

I am interested to know what everyone thinks of Matsuda's Kinberg's and C. Becker's.  How do they compare to other modern makers such as Alf, Curtin and Bowman.. And of course 20th century Italians.  Thanks!

Replies (21)

April 28, 2009 at 02:30 AM ·


I have been seriously looking for a professional grade instrument for a couple of months now.  I have come to the conclusion that it does not matter what other people think because it is purely subjective.  Different people like different sounds.  Also, if you have the opportunity to try multiple instruments from the same maker, you will find that they are all different, even if they use the same part of the same tree to make the instrument. 

Every once in a while, a maker will create something truly spectacular, and sometimes they end up with a dud.  I visited a prominent maker recently, and in his shop, he had a violin plate hanging on the wall with a big hole in it.  When I asked him about it, he said he couldn't get it to sound right, so he took it out back and shot it with a rifle.

So I don't mean to downplay your question, but in my opinion, the only thing that really matters is how YOU feel about the instrument.  Does it sound good to you and does it feel good?  That said, I have tried instruments from some of the makers you name, and I would say that they are all very capable makers.  Any one of them could potentially create an instrument that is just right for you (or me for that matter).  Just my 2 cents.



April 28, 2009 at 01:23 PM ·

Thats a lot to ask!!

This discussion board has had many tpoics along this line.

I myself like T.Matsuda violins best out of the living makers you mention, particularly his Guarneri copies. They sound great.

As for Modern Italians...well........some are good, some are bad.....some are amazing!

It depends on your budget. Price does not always decide the importance of a maker or his quality but it is a good starting point.

good luck!


Sean Bishop

April 28, 2009 at 02:31 PM ·

I think you need to go around and try violins and see (or hear) what you think.

My daughter's teacher uses a Matsuda as her 'teaching violin' and seems to like them. She occassionally has traded her Matsuda in for a different  one that she  likes more.

There are many fine violin makers out there. If you have a local maker, you might give them a call and see what their offering is.... you never know.

April 28, 2009 at 03:36 PM ·

My oldest son plays a Matsuda that we bought for him new in 2005.  Over the years we and we have compared his instrument with other Matsudas as well as with other modern makers including one made by Curtin.  The Matsudas he tried have all been amazingly consistent:  big, tenor, quick response, even across all the strings and in all positions.   His was a bit squealy, and wolfy to begin with, but has mellowed into an instrument with a real "Guarneri sound" so I am told by his teacher.  He has learned how to play it without the occasional squeals and/or his playing of it has modified the sound.  The Matsuda definitely carries well over an orchestra.  The Curtin was close, but not as even across the strings or as quick in response.  All the others he tried (including many, many modern Italian instruments) didn't really hold a candle to it.  Among old instruments, we did find one with a more beautiful, mellow sound, but in a concert hall, it didn't have the power my son was looking for.  He uses Infeld Red strings on it now.  Some strings are too bright for this already loud instrument.

April 28, 2009 at 04:17 PM ·

Of the three you mentioned, I have only played Matsuda's, I think three throughout the past few years. They were very nice instruments with warm sounds, but just not for me. It took me over a year to find my current instrument, after trying many modern makers including Cox, Curtin, Wiebe, Darnton, Bence, Rufino, Matsuda, many modern Italians, and some older instruments in my price range. I ended up buying a Widenhouse that I really love, it has a depth and quality of sound that is very satisfying to play. While many of the instruments that I tried would have been great to have, with each there was always something about them that gave me reason enough not to buy them. Though my Widenhouse does have a few quirks about it, the pros outweighed the cons. I would suggest when trying an instrument, make a list of things you like and don't like about it, and if the cons don't prove enough to count the instrument out, maybe you've found your new violin...

April 28, 2009 at 04:18 PM ·

I like Carl Becker Jr.s work enough that I owned one for a number of years, just for inspiration. I didn't buy it for the sound, but for the amazing craftsmanship and style.

They've gotten rather pricey though, as in maybe two or three times the price of the other makers you mentioned. Wish I hadn't sold mine.

April 28, 2009 at 07:45 PM ·

Kinberg violins are rare (~75 in existence) and are passed among the musicians. You probably won't find them in the dealers shop.

April 29, 2009 at 07:31 AM ·

I will be looking at Kinberg, Joseph Hel and Curtin next week.  Kinberg is priced at $55,000.  Is that price high or low?  And how much does J. Hel go for in today's market? I haven't got the quote from the dealer yet.  Curtin is listed at $32,000. 

April 29, 2009 at 06:22 PM ·

The Hel violin is priced at $50,000.  Too much or fair?

May 1, 2009 at 05:00 AM ·

David is right, Carl Becker's work is incredible.

I have known and played a number by all 4 (owned instruments by 2, almost 3)—Carl Sr and Jr, Franz Kinberg and Matsuda. They are extremely different from each other and the advice to try a variety of makers in one's price range is always wise. My dad owned an early Kinberg from the 50s, a Strad model, and was sorry he had to give it up. I owned a later Kinberg, 1972 Guarneri model and only sold it to by my present Italian fiddle. I had several Matsuda violins (Strad models), but my students kept buying them from me and I just never got around to replacing the last one.

All the above makers are in some of the finest orchestras of the world, including Chicago, etc.

Other makers to consider are William Whedbee—beautiful lyric tonal qualities from the get go. Also Ran Dim and Vanna So, a protégé of Matsuda. I think the last 2 are sold via William Harris Lee in Chicago.

I don't own any of the makers at present, so have nothing to gain by commenting. I don't take commissions, etc.

Happy hunting and don't buy a violin that doesn't call you to open the case and make music.


May 1, 2009 at 07:29 AM ·

I will be looking at a Bellarosa violin as well.  Anyone played it before??  I apreciate all the feedbacks!

May 3, 2009 at 04:53 PM ·

I saw that someone mentioned William Whedbee. I have had one of his violins for two years, I absolutely love it! It is so sweet and lyrical. My teacher really likes it too; she even asked if it was italian before I told her where it was from! I have not played on a Matsuda, but I know a girl who owns one and she sounds great playing that violin (of course she could make any instrument sound amazing, but I really liked her sound compared to other great violin strudents I have heard).

May 6, 2009 at 04:42 PM ·

One of my curent violins is a Guarnerious model by a predecessor to  Carl Becker Senior.  It was made in Chicago in 1917 by Carl George.  I had originally searched for Carl Becker violins in the early 1990s but this violin  has far surpassed the Beckers that I tried at that time.

I am now searching for a 7/8 size violin because of my age and reduced physical ability. Does anyone know where I can find a quality smaller sized violin ??  Possibly a younger student who is migrating to a 4/4 size .

Ted Kruzich



May 9, 2009 at 04:47 AM ·

Ted—Contact William Harris Lee in Chicago's Fine Arts Building or Greg Sapp in Montgomery, IL. If they don't have it, they will find it and both are great to deal with—very reasonable and great sounding violins. Good luck—D.

June 15, 2009 at 04:48 AM ·

There are a handful of makers that have a small full-size Guarneri pattern in their bag of tricks.  I corresponded  with one on the left coast who found that it was popular among Asian kids with slightly smaller hands.  In times gone by, such were known as "ladies' instruments."

June 15, 2009 at 06:17 AM ·

I have tried an Alf (2), Curtin, Grubaugh, Croen, Ruth, Burgess, and Gusset (3) all at the VSA show last November.  They were all very, very good violins and all in the price range that you seem to be looking in.  I also tried a ton of violins that were entered in the competition.

Other modern makers violins I have tried in the last year that liked include, Davida Sora, David Van Zandt, and Mario Gadda. 

I have also been lucky enough to try some high end violins in the last year including 2 from the Gagliano family, Tecchler, Camili, Lupot, Bisiach, and Pedrazzini.

I've also tried a few that I didn't like.

Since you live in Eugene, I'd really strongly recommend David Gusset.  His violins sound great (IMO) and his workmanship is outstanding.  I have tried one or two more of his violins at the Marylhurst show in April of this year so I have probably tried 5 or 6 of his instruments.  I have liked all of them, and yes they are all different.

In closing, I'd like to agree with what Smiley Hsu said.  "the only thing that really matters is how YOU feel about the instrument.  Does it sound good to you and does it feel good?" 

If you are buying an instrument to play, I'd suggest you buy one that you like.  If you're buying one as an investment, that's a totally different thing.

All the makers you have mentioned have made some excellent violins.  You are certainly looking at good work across the board. 

Keep looking, when you find the one you like, you will know.

August 18, 2009 at 01:02 AM ·

If anyone is interested, my father (retired violinist almost 102 years old, here with me reading these posts) is considering selling his 4/4 Full Size Franz Kinberg Violin made in Chicago 1964. It is in excellent condition and has wonderful tonal quality. I am, sadly, a pianist...



October 4, 2009 at 11:45 PM ·

This may be dead info for the OP, but I just visited a shop holding at least one of each of the original names.

The Matsuda was not exceptional, but I mean that also in a good way.  It looked like a decently antiqued del Gesu copy-- but not an eccentric one -- and it played quite well.  Really well, actually.  With no obviously stereotypical Guarneri stuff added to the sound, it just was flexible, pretty easy to play in tune, quick to respond, etc.  Nice tone that wasn't too bright or dark.  Maybe lacking in the last amount of individual character and soloist power, but a perfectly useful violin for a freelancer or a student waiting for her first fabulous axe.  As with all things, setup matters-- the one I saw in the US was much more pleasing than one I'd seen across the pond -- but from the evidence I've seen, Matsuda offers good quality and excellent value.

The Kinberg, which I gather is not the only style he made, was physically attractive, quite coherent in sound, and probably loveable to the right player.  I also found it a bit slow and heavy, like a viola.  But if that is what you like or maybe if you're better than I, it was a nice instrument.  An excellent second violin?

The Carl Becker, like most of the Strad-model Beckers, had real character and genius in its best qualities.  Beautiful varnish nicely kept up, fantastically clear diction, a real sense that it was all hanging together harmonically.  A true class act.  Perhaps a little stiff and missing the last real easy acceleration toward the high volume-- hard to know in a brief trial.  Anyway, hot stuff.


October 5, 2009 at 06:40 PM ·

May 7, 2010 at 04:23 PM ·

I played a Carl Becker Sr. violin from 1925 recently, a strad model. It played easily and sounded excellent until I noticed a strong wolf tone on the c which imparted a slight distortion to the sound of the a string range. It was beautifully crafted, with excellent wood and good varnish.

June 23, 2011 at 01:45 PM ·

Takanori, after reading this wonderful conversation, I am dying to know what you purchased!!!!!!!!!!! Do tell.

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