Years later, Jensen's words ring true.

March 5, 2010 at 06:38 AM ·

I have not been on here for a while, mostly because of health reasons. But I still talk to the great violinists I met in CA. (often mentioned as the, "studio guys.").

 

You know that was 4-5 years ago, and now that I think about it, Dylana Jenson had it right. In one of the many of the discussions we had on here she said the difference between fiddles is few can be called true solo instruments. Of course for her the only true soloist instrument is made by Zygmuntowicz. 

 

After trying so many myself, and talking to those guys who were involved in playing so many instruments, the culmination of all of that was Jenson's words: only a few make true soloist instruments. For those involved that eventually meant: Zyg, Curtin, Needham,  Burgess and Bellini (though not all Bellinis or Zygs fell into this soloist catagory). Thisis not to say that we did not appreciate the other makers, it is to say that these were the only soloist instruments we played in the states.

 

Those are my 5 cents, what are yours?

 

Replies (52)

March 5, 2010 at 12:00 PM ·

I agree totally.

Will the fiddle blend in, or stand out?

The soloist fiddles could all sound different, as suits the temperament and preference of the player, but the section instruments must have some similarity of tone, so as to create homogeneity.

The soloist fiddle must contrast with that homogeneous sound, not mix in with it, otherwise you wouldn't hear it above the orchestra - it isn't volume or power necessarily that makes it audible, but a strong contrast in quality of sound.

gc

 

 

March 5, 2010 at 12:10 PM ·

i am not sure if there is more to add to raymond's current thesis, that a few are meant to be solo and the rest not, like with everything else in the universe.

what strikes me is the notion that even choosing among the solos, you may not find your true love.  water water everywhere, not a drop to drink if you are not lucky or having the luxury of having a top maker exhaustively rework the violin until it reaches the point of your liking,,,

it begs the question how many super talented size 8 and 15/16s are walking around in size 9s...:)

March 5, 2010 at 03:27 PM ·

I don't know ennough to comment on this thread, however when you want to buy a violin and try a bunch of violins, it's true that some come out with a full glorious tone in contrast to other instruments who sound beautiful but "shy" or "low profile character".  Usually there is much less of these lucky "full glorious tone" ones according to those who search for violins. So if it's as hard for normal violinists, I can imagine that it doesn't get better for soloists looking for instruments...  Also it depends on the player...   

I enjoyed reading this too on Dylana Jenson's interview!

Anne-Marie

March 5, 2010 at 04:30 PM ·

Who am I to question someone of Ms Jenson's stature, but the statement that Zyg is the only maker worthy of soloists is absurd in my opinion.  At any rate, I think it is important to establish priorities when choosing a violin.  If you never play solo with an orchestra, then having a "soloist" instrument is not particularly meaningful.  Actually, I would say that in some respects a so called "soloist" instrument is NOT the best choice in many cases.  If the majority of your playing is in small chamber groups, then a warmer, richer instrument with a smoother sound will be much more pleasing to the player and the audience versus an edgy, powerful sound that drowns out the other musicians.

March 5, 2010 at 05:44 PM ·

No Croen, no Jiang, no Widenhouse (et al.)?

Seems that there are quite a few others that could join that list-- especially if by "solo" events you include very small chamber groups or recitals.
 

March 5, 2010 at 05:44 PM ·

 Back in Stokowski's day, the Philadelphia Orchestra was filled with solo instruments and many soloist level players. The sound tell me all I need to know about section vs. solo instrument.

March 5, 2010 at 06:02 PM ·

David Soyer, of the Guarneri Quartet, speaking in a question/answer session at the Guarneri exhibition at the Met in NYC, was asked the question what he looked for in a quartet instrument. He scoffed and responded that all he wanted was the best instrument that he could get,  that he'd manage to make it fit in, and that if someone offered him something describing it as the ideal "quartet" cello, he'd run in the other direction, because that designation invariably indicates an inferior instrument

March 5, 2010 at 08:38 PM ·

 This is a ridiculous thread. Soloists violins as opposed to non soloists violins!

Sound is totally subjective and usually influenced by the age, name and price. To suggest that a career was ruined by not having the right instrument sounds a bit lame. As Heifetz said when somebody remarked on how marvelous his violin sounded, "I don't hear anything."  I'll bet Perlman would sound marvelous on any half way decent fiddle.

March 5, 2010 at 09:21 PM ·

March 5, 2010 at 09:47 PM ·

Regarding Roland's remarks. There was a CD issued about the time Perlman acquired the Soil Strad on which he played both that instrument and the Guarnerius (del Gesu) he had been using. Of course Perlman sounded marvelous on both instruments, but that Strad had far more and better sound than the Garnerius.

I've not heard that many famous violinists perform with orchestra, but I have heard Heifetz and Perlman and both sounded to me as overwhelming in comparison to the orchestras as they did on recorded performances of the same works (Beethoven and Tchaikovsky concertos, respectively). On the other hand it was from hearing Eric Friedman performing the Brahms live than I learned far more about the compositional structure of concertos. His sound was largely "supressed" by the orchestra's sound, but the way the violin penetrated and the way the composition's harmonies were structured, his overtones came out above the orchestra's sound (in frequency, not decibels) and created a sound structure that seemed to me to be perhaps just what the composer wanted the audience to hear. I think Friedman was playing a Strad at the time.

Just my $0.02.

Andy

March 5, 2010 at 11:40 PM ·

Excellent point, Andy, that simply loudest is not best. I think many people buying violins lose track of that.

March 6, 2010 at 05:09 AM ·

For the most part I agree with Darnton's comments, but there seems to me a difference between a solo instrument and the others. And while I would agree that most can adjust to any instrument, I still think that what makes a fiddle great in a solo enviroment is not exactly what makes a fiddle great in a section. All in all I would take a solo instrument because you can adjust down, while getting a section instrument to break through is a bigger struggle.

 

As for Widenhouse and Croen: The people involved thought both makers were incredible, and very comparable. They also thought both makers did not make  a true soloist instrument. I aggree with what that group thinks, which again is not a put down on either of those great makers.

 

Note: I have not included their thoughts about the European makers because I am not clear about them, and my turn in Europe to play the best modern makers was cut off short when I suffered a stroke. I would greatly enjoy hearing comments about the modern makers in Europe,  from those who have actually played many of them. It seems obvious to me that makers like: Chaudiere, Robbin, Ravatin, Dillworth, Rattray, Ertz, Pistoni,  Rigazzi, Greiner, etc. need to be considered. How many of them make solo instruments is not something I know right now, however. 

March 6, 2010 at 05:23 AM ·

I understand the difference in sound between Perlman on the Soi Strad, and on the del Gesu. I know exactly the recorded pieces he is talking about. To me that sound he got on that del Gesu could very well be the best sound I have ever heard. The only sound that I like as much was Heifetz on the ex-david.

 

Which I think shows you the difference in fiddle sounds. On the del Gesu he is gutsy, almost harsh. On the strad he is much smoother. I appreciate him greatly on both fiddles, but for me there is not question about which I like better.  

March 6, 2010 at 02:15 PM ·

 "To me that sound he got on that del Gesu could very well be the best sound I have ever heard. The only sound that I like as much was Heifetz on the ex-david."

Have you played either of those instruments yourself, Raymond?  They are both wonderful...  and very different.  Sorry your health has been troubling.  Hope you're feeling better.

The problem I'm having with your posts is, that you seem to be mixing what I consider (though it certainly is an "educated" one) subjective opinion into a mix of other opinions from a specific group of musicians (and there are certainly "group" tastes) within a limited sample size...  It logically goes to follow that if what you call "solo instruments" are few, then not all of any makers output will come up to your standard...  which you yourself have hinted at... and therefore, unless your sample size was significant (more than 2 or 3 instruments by each maker) suggesting that only those US makers listed produce a "solo" instrument is probably unfair and inaccurate.

My experiences are that fine makers are capable of producing fine instruments consistently...  where as they might only produce one in ten that really "gets me" personally, tonally.  Others hit (my) mark more often... In other words, especially when dealing with instruments made by makers who vary their patterns (make more than one model), I may play several that might be nice, but forgettable, then one that really knocks my socks off.  

Also, some instruments sound quite differently after being pressed into service for 6 months, a year, two years, etc.

It may be that you feel that you need present information the way you do to inspire discussion, or maybe you're just a difficult personality...  Maybe it's both. My sampling size isn't big enough to tell.  :-)

I do suggest that if one wished to compile a list of makers who produce instruments suited to soloists use, that one might talk with a larger number of soloists who use them...  especially those like Elmar Oliveira, Roger Ricci and others, who have used multiple numbers of contemporary instruments in concert.  These opinions, combined with those of players like Ms. Jensen, might be interesting and educational.  If this has been part of your research, I think it's important to present it.  What I'm reading here seems a bit myopic.

Cheers!

Jeffrey

March 6, 2010 at 03:34 PM ·

There's an insecurity that buyers have that causes them to look for confirmation of the decision they've made, and attempt to convince others that they did the right thing, especially when it's a minority-backed decision that's come to a obscure conclusion. I think these threads of Raymond's are more transparent as they become more repetitious.

March 6, 2010 at 08:33 PM ·

Listen,

When I am looking for a violin:-

I want to hear danger in the sound.

I don't want "mellow".

I want nasty.

I want edge.

I want a fiddle that will deal with being hit hard. That will not crumple.

I don't want "smooth"

I want response

I don't want "sweet"

That's my job.

I can get sweet, mellow, gorgeous, long notes, fat, lovely.... out of anything.

Even a modern fiddle.

I can make any violin sing.

That's easy - that's about the bow technique.

What I don't find very often is an instrument that can do crunches that will project, and respond to proper articulation, as well as all the other clean stuff.

They really are rare, soloist fiddles

gc

March 6, 2010 at 09:33 PM ·

Hey Graham;

That had a nice swing to it!  :-)

March 6, 2010 at 11:00 PM ·

Raymond, you trouble maker. LOL

Addressing some of the criticisms, the instrument search Raymond was involved in was the most comprehensive, involved the greatest number of musicians and the greatest number of instruments, that I've ever heard of. The people referred to as the "studio" guys kicked off this search, but it expanded to involve input from a multitude of other players, including some top soloists.

I've heard and played two of the instruments that received strong consensual approval, and they were indeed nice sounding violins, of a caliber I don’t run into very often. I've also heard and played both of Dylana Jenson's violins, and I can say the same about them.

I don't know what Raymond owns, so I don't know whether suggestions of prejudice, or needing affirmation for purchase decisions he has already made, might or might not have some sticking potential. I know he doesn't own any of mine. Not everything needs to motivated by evil or selfish agendas. ;-)

And I hope people won't take Raymond's list as being exclusionary, or be too hard on him. After all the phone calls, emails, travel, shipping, playing in halls, running instruments and names by soloists, etc., I think anyone would get excited if they see some patterns emerge, and want to share this with others.

I hope people won't be too hard on Dylana either. Without hearing (live) and playing the violin she gave up, and without being able to do what she can do with a fiddle, I think it's impossible to second-guess how difficult it was to find an acceptable substitute, particularly without being awash in money. And there were dramatically fewer viable modern options thirty years ago. She's a neat person, and a helluva player.

 

March 7, 2010 at 01:00 AM ·

The violin maker, Joseph Curtin, published some articles in Strad a few years ago summarizing his acoustic analysis of "concert solo" violins versus other violins.  The short summary is "concert solo" violins pump out more volume in the overtone frequency range of 2500 - 3500 hertz. (I hope I'm remembering the numbers correctly).  This frequency range is the same as the overtones from the human voice.  He cites studies that say the human ear is highly sensitive in this frequency range.  Stated another way in simple terms, "concert solo" violins pump out a frequency distribution that is more easily heard over the other sounds of an orchestra, and more pleasantly perceived as natural to the human condition.  Joseph Curtin has a lot of charts and graphs on the subject, but that is my summary of his findings.  So there really is such a thing as a "concert solo" violin, and it can be identified by acoustic data.  Curtin does that in some of his charts, as I recall.  Curtin implies in his article that he has used this data to change the way he produces his violins. 

March 7, 2010 at 01:20 AM ·

> So there really is such a thing as a "concert solo" violin, and it can be identified by acoustic data.

No, that's just a "good violin." Period.

There are plenty of great string quartets where all the players all play superior "solo instruments" as well as orchestras with sections FILLED with old French and Italian greatness that don't seem to have a problem presenting a unified blend of tone quality.

To add to the previous post, try turning down the mid-range frequencies on a classical recording and you'll see easily why it's so important. This is why it is tough at times to listen to chamber music on a cheap car stereo that can only reproduce screeching highs and fuzzy bass.

March 7, 2010 at 01:50 AM ·

Yup, thank you Jeffrey!

gc

March 7, 2010 at 03:16 AM ·

>I don't want "mellow".

>I want nasty.

>I want edge.

>I want a fiddle that will deal with being hit hard. That will not crumple.

>I don't want "smooth"

>I want response

Graham,

You might like my $300 student instrument.  It has all those traits in abundance.  :-)

 

March 7, 2010 at 03:43 AM ·

 Well, in general I try to stay away from these threads, and to be honest I am not even on this site very often anymore. Mr. Holmes’s comments, and more notably Mr. Darnton’s comments, have regrettably gotten me here. As has the friendship and respect that I have for Raymond, who, before his stroke, was a great player who had great ears. He probably still has great ears! You don’t play since you were 6 and play for some great philharmonics without attaining great ears.

 Before I start, full disclosure: I own a Needham and a Curtin, which I think are to die for. There are a few other makers that I am interested in and waiting on at this time, but that is what I bought in this long search.

 “There's an insecurity that buyers have that causes them to look for confirmation of the decision they've made, and attempt to convince others that they did the right thing, especially when it's a minority-backed decision that's come to a obscure conclusion.”

What instrument would that be? He owned a Pogi and other Italians of that period, which he put for sale a couple of years or so after he started listening to all of these moderns with the rest of the group. At the time that he should have been trumpeting Italian makers from that period to get the most out of the sale of his early 20th century Italian fiddles, he was instead speaking the virtues of Needham, which was at the time the consensus of the group (we later found violins by Curtin, Bellini, Burgess, and Zygmontwicz that we also thought were soloist instruments).

He listed 5 makers: Zygmuntowicz, Needham, Curtin, Bellini, and Burgess. Before he could pull the trigger and take ownership of two violins from these makers he had a huge stroke and was not sure if he would ever walk again. So what buyer’s insecurity are we talking about Mr. Darnton? Hell, if you knew him you would know that he has who knows how many millions from buying and selling real estate. So what buyer’s insecurity?

 

 

March 7, 2010 at 03:45 AM ·

 Especially when it's a minority-backed decision that's come to a obscure conclusion.”

 

You could certainly call us a minority because we were a small part of the violin world. Still, by the time the thing took a life of its own, we had 12 or so players (I mean players!) who were involved in it religiously. And for 6 years we tried and listened to God knows how many fiddles. We even travled all over the states to do so. They were great times, and all of us who were involved still look back to all of that as, “The good old days.” So yes, it is a minority, to a certain degree. On the other hand, what group do you know of who did more to try fiddles than we did? And since Raymond’s “thesis” includes Jenson as part of his argument, well I guess you’d have to include her on this as well. Her conclusion was that only one maker really made a solo instrument. I, and the rest of the group saw it as she did, but eventually we thought 5 makers belonged in that group. Heck, I remember  opposing her on this for a while. But at some point we all came to believe that this is the difference among makers.

 

“Obscure conclusion?” Is the research that Mr. Curtin did obscure too? His findings agree with what Raymond wrote? How many millions in federal grants would he have to spend on this kind of research before you would say that it’s not “obscure or myopic?”

March 7, 2010 at 03:50 AM ·

 “I do suggest that if one wished to compile a list of makers who produce instruments suited to soloists use, that one might talk with a larger number of soloists who use them...  especially those like Elmar Oliveira, Roger Ricci… What I'm reading here seems a bit myopic.”

 So how many soloists would suffice Mr. Holmes? And how many recordings and how many philharmonics should the group have played in before we could be respected or not thought of as, “myopic?”

 Ricci, I met him myself. He played my Needham and said it was a, “solo instrument.” We talked modern fiddles for hours on two separate days and he pretty much said that soloist instruments were hard to find. He went on to mention Zyg, Bellini, Curtin, Bague, and Chaudiere as "soloist instruments." Funny, sounds like he agreed with Raymond’s myopic thesis!

 Holland, who is a great soloist, thought exactly what Raymond wrote.

 I remember comparing notes on fiddles with Emil Chudnovsky, who I think is a great soloist as well. We both had tried a few of the same violins from the same makers, and we came to the same conclusion: “A very good fiddle, but with a limit." The limit that Emil was talking about was Raymond’s obscure thesis. Ask Emil if Needham, Bellini, and Zyg make solo instruments, in other words, asks these soloist if they agree with what he wrote. Oh and ask Jenson too!

 Mr. Holmes wrote, “The problem I'm having with your posts is, that you seem to be mixing what I consider (though it certainly is an "educated" one) subjective opinion into a mix of other opinions from a specific group of musicians (and there are certainly "group" tastes) within a limited sample size...  It logically goes to follow that if what you call "solo instruments" are few, then not all of any makers output will come up to your standard...  which you yourself have hinted at... and therefore, unless your sample size was significant (more than 2 or 3 instruments by each maker) suggesting that only those US makers listed produce a "solo" instrument is probably unfair and inaccurate.”

There are many problems with what you wrote there. First of all you seem to state that his presupposed thoughts formed his opinion, when it is the other way around! He did not start by thinking that few make solo instruments; he ended up thinking such only after hearing so many! If this is what you meant, then his logic is intact, yours is not.

Perhaps you understood him to say that there were only a few soloinstruments, when what he said was there are only a few makers that make soloists instrument. Note that he never said these were the best makers. In fact, his thesis goes up against the idea that these makers are better because for him, and to us, there are two very different kinds of great violins: those that do well in section work, and those more suited for solo work. It is others who are saying that a great violin is a solo violin, which would mean that violins that are not able to cut through an orchestra are not great. Again, others said this in this post, but he never said this.  Hesaid we had played many great makers, who made DIFFERENT GREAT instruments. 

 

 Secondly, you state that his sample size was too small. When did he say it wasn’t? We did play more than 3 samples from many, many makers, but we would all admit that we have not seen it all. Who has?

And when did he say that his opinion was anything more than the subjective opinion of he and the group he had become a part of? Look at his words which he ends his first post with, “Those are my 5 cents, what are yours?” Does he call his opinion the final word on the matter? Hardly, he says they are worth 5 cents! Not much in this economy! Then he asks for the opinion of others, why would he do that if he thought his word on the matter was anything but subjective!

 None of us who were involved would say we have anything but subjective ears and opinions. God, if he were to join the thread, could say otherwise. The rest of us have fallible ears and minds, and we struggle to make sense of it, etc.

 Then you comment on what he had to say about Perlman’s del Gesu, “Have you played either of those instruments yourself, Raymond?  They are both wonderful...  and very different.”

 Did he say he had played them? He made it clear that he was going off of what he heard on tape. His words, “I know exactly the RECORDED pieces he is talking about.”

 Then he goes on to say that both sounds are great in different ways: “I appreciate him greatly on BOTH fiddles, but FOR ME there is not question about which I like better.”

 Notice he said, “for me.” In other words, he says that this is just his (and the rest involved) subjetive oppinion, over and over again. 

 At one point you said that he was unfair and in accurate to many makers. But how many times did he say that so many of the makers we tried were great? In his words, “As for Widenhouse and Croen: The people involved thought both makers were incredible, and very comparable.”

 This is a running theme throughout his posts, that is, that the makers who he did not think made solo instruments were not necessarily inferior to those who did. Again in his words, "I agree with what that group thinks, which again is not a put down on either of those great makers.”

 Lastly, he shows that his opinion is very much limited by including a host of great makers in Europe that he says we did not try enough of. His words, “I would greatly enjoy hearing comments about the modern makers in Europe…” And, “It seems obvious To ME that makers like: Chaudiere, Robbin, Ravatin, Dillworth, Rattray, Ertz, Pistoni, Rigazzi, Greiner, etc. need to be considered.”

 Mr.Darnton and Mr. Holmes, you owe this great violinist, and great man, a word of apology. I hope you are both men enough to make it.

 Lastly: I remember that “crunchers thread he wrote.” I remember it because I laughed my….off! That had to be one of the funniest and insightful post that I have read on here. I hope those of you who have commented on it in your posts in this thread are not mocking him. 

To bad a man that played that well, that loves violins that much, that has that much humor and guts, and so much experience to share with us, gets treated like this.

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 7, 2010 at 04:19 AM ·

This things about the frequencies is very interesting! And as every good professional orchestra member had to be soloist level to get there and do many solo concerts/audition and probably wanted to be soloist before getting there (or at least bought a soloist level violin...), It's most likely they all have violin that could fit a soloist quite well, no?  So I agree with Marty, it's good violins period. These studies should mesure the frequecies of each violin of each orchestra member before telling that the soloist's violin is different. Did they do this???  (it's not a school band orchestra that accompagnies the soloists usually...) But it's just my two cents. 

I recently went at a concert with a soloist and, in the second part where it was just the orchestra alone, the concert master had a little solo... (I swear they were no dfferences in power or anything with the soloist and it was as beautiful)

Anne-Marie

March 7, 2010 at 07:36 AM ·

 Lucky is the maker who can make "solo" violins all the time.

Every egg a bird, every ball a coconut ! In my time I used a terrific Vuillaume, but many other violins i tried by this maker just didn't measure up. Each violin seems to be an idividual - at least in Europe ! And i think the arbitrary line of demarcation can sometimes be crossed by changing the set-up. Good for those Americans, for their reputation for consistency.

I am inclined to think that "solo" implies a quality that will turn the heads of listeners and make them want to listen. I do know of players who have tried top instruments and found them too harsh to play on. Yet the same violins do not sound harsh when expertly played. Shrill and tinny is not the same as solo quality, surely. Smiley has a point. I recall a concertmaster who, when his violin was in for repair, had a violin on loan from Hills which he thought was the absolute bees knees for sound until he had a solo to play at a recording session, when he found it just did not deliver - he borrowed a colleague's Grand Amati and used it instead (Hallé orchestra, Sibelius 6)

It did seem to be true that section players were apt to prefer a softer, more blending, sound. One scotsman had a particular aversion to a Pedrazzini that made regular appearances. "I wud nae gie ye tuppence for it". (for pronunciation, think of the caretaker in "The Simpsons").

March 7, 2010 at 12:48 PM ·

Hm..Probably it's not my place to say this since i'm still a student..But..

I think there's no such thing as "solo instrument", but "good instrument" did exist..Since it all depends on the violinist itself..An instrument that you called "solo instrument" played by a student, it'd sound "ordinary"..But a "student instrument" played by violinist virtuoso (just let's pick Itzhak Perlman) it'd sound "out of ordinary"/marvelous..
 

It all back on the violinist..It's the "primary key", the violin is the "secondary key"..

Beside, when you play in an ensemble, you'd want that your instrument could be "one" with another instrument, yes?But do you need to buy what you called an "ordinary violin" to play in ensemble?
 

I guess not..You just need to play and become "one"..

But when you want to play solo..Just play solo, play to be the main "harmony"..

Simple, it all depends on "how it is played"..

 

Just my opinion though..

 

Cheers,

Stephen

March 7, 2010 at 01:18 PM ·

spring fever or violin fever.

mark twain once said,,,we should be careful to get out of an experience only the wisdom that is in it---and stop there; lest we be like the cat that sits down on a hot-stove lid.  she will never sit down on a hot-stove lid again, and that is well; but also she will never sit down on a cold one any more...

we owe those who have tested those violins deep gratitude for now for many there is a list to start from.  yet, i fail to see how raymond's health and wealth status has anything to do with the credibility of his opinions, if subjectivity is already being called into question.  we just have to get over the fact that for the most part violin testing is subjectivity testing;  it is a matter of how reliable and trustworthy the opinions are.

in the classification of violins into solo vs section, what do we call dylana jenson's violin before it was reworked to her liking?   section?  pre-solo?  a project?

are any current section pre-solo then?  

if section are not "inferior", are there any violin makers out there starting out with the aim to be a section maker? :)   why do ALL violin makers at one point or another or from the beginning to the end model after strad? PERHAPS TO TRY TO MAKE A SUPERIOR IF NOT THE BEST VIOLIN??? 

repeat after me:   a violin that is superior-but-we-not-saying-others-are-necessarily-inferior is a superior violin.  duh. 

 

 

 

March 7, 2010 at 04:46 PM ·

Al, I think Raymond's wealth was mentioned in response to allegations of "buyer's insecurity", and any implications that there might be a financial motive in his posts. And the health was mentioned, because if I understand it correctly, he doesn't own any of the fiddles he mentioned, because his health deteriorated before he got to that point. I don't think these things were thrown in out of the blue. Objectivity had been questioned.

Opinions about instrument qualities are subjective, of course, but there's pretty good agreement among really good players. This isn't to say that they'd all choose the same fiddle, but that there's a range which they will generally agree fall into the "good" category.

March 7, 2010 at 07:49 PM ·

Thanks David, you understood my argument correctly.

Al you made some interesting arguments that we should all think through.

Lastly, as I reread the thread, I realized that at times I mixed Mr. Darton's post with that of Mr. Holmes. I apologize for that. My real problem was mostly with what Mr. Darton wrote.

Many on here are going up against what Raymond thinks, which is fine, and actually good (I am sure he agrees). We could all put violins into many catagories: dark and bright, new and old, etc., and in this thread his catagory is instruments that can cut through a philharmonic, and instruments that cannot. He then goes on to say that instruments that can are few, but not necessarily better. This is his belief, and it is ours.

If I were to write more about it I would touch on the GENERAL things  WE think make a solo instrument. One is power and thickness of sound, another is whether the instrument has a cap ( a place where it cannot be pushed any further), and  another is if an instrument cuts. But what enables an instrument to cut is often hard to control in your hands,  and for some, tonely  underiable. I think this is why so many players have played the great del Gesus and thought, "not my cup of tea." It is the reason why many have played my Curtin and thought, "great, but not for me." And this is why we think that a solo instrument is not always best. 

To US, thinking that a solo violin is ALWAYS better than the others is, well, myopic. 

 

March 7, 2010 at 08:55 PM ·

 "To US, thinking that a solo violin is ALWAYS better than the others is, well, myopic."

Nicey used...  :-)!  The word was probably too strong a one for me to employ in my own post, especially evident after your explanation of the process.

 

March 7, 2010 at 09:43 PM ·

Without getting into a deep explanation of what a soloist instrument  means, I just wanted to share my opinion about  the great maker Howard Needham. I got my Needham three days ago, and it´s simply a fantastic violin and beautifully made. I have tried many violins here in Europe, modern and old italians, and to me there is no doubt  this is a soloist instrument, as probably many other great makers you have there whose  instruments unfortunatelly I didn´t have the chance to try. Congratulations to Needham for his work and to all those that own one of his instruments!

Cheers.

March 7, 2010 at 09:56 PM ·

"and in this thread his catagory is instruments that can cut through a philharmonic, and instruments that cannot."

Yes but when many orchestra members (who are soloist level) have such instruments, it means nothing no?  Just an interrogation... 

So what is the need for all this debate then???

Anne-Marie

March 8, 2010 at 02:41 AM ·

I find this thread disturbing on many levels.  

March 8, 2010 at 07:19 AM ·

I recall Pinchas Zuckerman saying that yes, there really are bad Strads.

If not all Strads are great "solo" violins, then we should be evaluating individual violins rather than drawing an arbitrary line in the sand to separate a violin-making aristocracy from the supposedly rubbishy rest from the tonal point of view. Craftsmanship is another thing and is rarely linked to an all-size-fits-all tonal excellence. It seems likely that the larger violin workshops of old would cater for differing tastes. These shops would possibly include such as Strad. and certainly Vuillaume, who would reputedly ask clients about their preferences before taking their order.

The instrument is an inanimate object. It will seem to respond to your every whim only if you yourself are in fact adapting to IT.

Makers experienced with working with a certain sort of clientele will achieve some level of consistency in satisfying those customers. How could it be otherwise ? The alternative would be go out of business. "Horses for courses". What's sad is that lots of makers have their stuff sent abroad almost at once and don't get the right feedback.

Folk do like to proclaim that they have bought wisely, but would we expect them to do otherwise than to acquire what suited them ?? "Who's a clever boy then ?"

William has a point - I hope these observations don't make things worse for him !!

March 8, 2010 at 11:04 PM ·

Wow there are lots of makers that could join that list. Since that excersise was done a few years ago I'm sure things have changed and will continue to change in the future.

I currently have a violin made by Kelvin Scott. its amazing,

 

 

March 8, 2010 at 11:30 PM ·

Time to rename the thread  methinks....

Years later, Jensen's words still don't ring true.

March 9, 2010 at 01:53 AM ·

i think we should leave ms jensen out of this because she was talking about her own experiences which should not be tranplanted into a pile created by others.  she is alive and well and capable of doing that on her own if she wishes.   way too much extrapolation.

thank you david for your interpretation of my facetious take on the wealth and health thingy:)   it makes sense.  on the other hand, to some others, a figure of wealth may be taken as a figure of influence, for better or worse.  i think in this case this added influence may be counterproductive to the otherwise valid testing outcomes.  

david you know what is regrettable is that i wish experiences like those testings can be better documented, instead being discussed one slice here another slice there.  at least to me it feels very exclusive and hush hush.  studio guys?  do they wear trench coats?? 

since you are a big published honcho,  why not consider putting together something in the STRAD so that everyone can have access to the findings.  just findings, not conclusions or suggestions.  what were tested, how, who likes what,,, let readers deal with it.

also, i wish the next time around, someone can make an indy cult movie out of this.  i think violinists are dying to watch REAL violin related movies; this will be hardcore.  we need to hear the SOUNDS and watch the visceral reactions on the faces instead of talking about them here! :)  

ps. got to make that movie in black and white.  got to!

March 9, 2010 at 03:25 AM ·

Greetings,

couldn`t we have  some cinema noir with some good looking chicks?  Cameron`s next project perhaps?

Cheers,

Buri

 

March 9, 2010 at 08:16 AM ·

Many new violins are items of furniture, designer accessories even, rather than musical instruments. Many have to go to players of meagre ability and experience. The market, rather than the makers, is largely to blame if the supply of "solo" violins seems limited, or some commercial production seems cynical. It seems that there's a good standard of making world-wide now, and I suspect that there are many, many makers outside that small enclave who CAN make you a great fiddle if you interact with them.

Imagine the result if every new violin equalled the "Alard" Strad. No more discussion threads. Boring.

I look forward to the film noir, though I always prefer a Stradivarian orange-red color.

March 9, 2010 at 02:22 PM ·

"david you know what is regrettable is that i wish experiences like those testings can be better documented, instead being discussed one slice here another slice there.  at least to me it feels very exclusive and hush hush.  studio guys?  do they wear trench coats?? 

since you are a big published honcho,  why not consider putting together something in the STRAD so that everyone can have access to the findings.  just findings, not conclusions or suggestions.  what were tested, how, who likes what,,, let readers deal with it."

_____________________________

That would be a job for the principals, if they wanted to take it on. I was just on the fringes, one of many makers. It looks like a minefield though, judging from some of the reactions in this thread.

One doesn't see many trench coats in Southern California. A guy wearing dark glasses, and carrying a fiddle case should be regarded with suspicion though. ;-)

I wasn't aware that there was that much mystery to it. Two of the people at the center of it have posted in this thread. One does a lot of studio playing at way over scale (like six times scale, I was told by someone else), does some composing and arranging, some solo work, master classes, etc., including a master class at Juilliard if I remember correctly. Sorry, I can't remember all the accolades off the top of my head. Maybe the problem is that he's not much of one to toot his own horn.....  I got a lot of that info from other people. Anyone who has had exposure to the recording scene knows that there are some amazing musicians, including in Nashville.

Some other musicians involved (that I know about, and besides those mentioned in this thread) were from the L.A. Philharmonic and the San Francisco Symphony.

March 9, 2010 at 06:39 PM ·

David Beck wrote, "If not all Strads are great "solo" violins, then we should be evaluating individual violins rather than drawing an arbitrary line in the sand to separate a violin-making aristocracy from the supposedly rubbishy rest from the tonal point of view."

 

Well, yes.

In the wine trade there is a saying that there are no great wines, only great bottles.

gc

March 9, 2010 at 09:35 PM ·

I've always stood out in section work no matter what instrument I've played, and I've played some crappy ones. I had Dylana's same problem, well not that some wealthy man took my violin back, but that I had to give it up because we were financially going under. In that time that I didn't have a violin I borrowed friends instruments and I've had some of those really really bad student ones where the varnish was so thick that sound didn't even come through. I still used it in chamber works. I didn't have a choice, the concertmaster was using a Gagliano, and I produced twice as much sound as he did. We did some Copeland and I was still able to nail those triple fortes. It actually taught me not to be afraid to try and pull the sound out of a better instrument. I used to be so afraid of breaking my instrument, but now that is a requirement when I get an instrument: Can I beat it black and blue and have it still play the most expressive cantablie melodies? Maybe I just got lucky to never have an instrument that couldn't project over anything. That's the only difference I've seen in Solo quality and section quality. Every violinist needs to be able to make and instrument sing and do all the necessary functions of violin playing.

March 9, 2010 at 11:14 PM ·

Although entertaining, I think this thread is proving that it is pointless to say that one maker is better than another, or even one violin is better than another for that matter.  Violin preference is completely subjective.  Some folks like Strads, while others like Del Gesu's.  To say that one violin is better than another is like saying Gwyneth Paltrow is prettier than Courtney Cox.  Grab 10 people at random and see if they all agree on that one.  Then again, you'll get the oddball person who thinks Susan Boyle is the most appealing of all.  Go figure.  Sorry for the sexist analogy, but it's the best I could come up with.  So drink your prune juice and be happy with the fiddle you have.  If you want a better sounding fiddle, PRACTICE MORE!!

March 11, 2010 at 03:30 AM ·

Violin preference is completely subjective.  ...... To say that one violin is better than another is like saying Gwyneth Paltrow is prettier than Courtney Cox.  Grab 10 people at random and see if they all agree on that one.  Then again, you'll get the oddball person who thinks Susan Boyle is the most appealing of all. 

Well, in any beauty contest, I never saw an ugly face being picked although the queen is not always my favorite. I think the discussion here is about the threshold and not necessarily "the" best one.

March 13, 2010 at 03:37 PM ·

Hello everyone,

I find it interesting that many of you assume I said only Sam Z. makes great instruments today. I believe what I said is that I have played on more than dozens of modern instruments that were not suitable to my specific needs on the stage.

I have heard others play on modern, or let's say not Strads and Del Gesus, that sounded wonderful.

My journey was what it was..the violin makers many of you mention I also played and performed on their instruments over the years. I can only speak to my experience.

Dylana

March 13, 2010 at 05:44 PM ·

Ms. Jensen,

The impression that Sam Z is the only great maker today is a statement that was in the original post.

>Of course for her the only true soloist instrument is made by Zygmuntowicz.<

Sometimes people make assumptions that are not 100% accurate.  Thank you for setting the record straight.  It is awesome to have such prominent musicians participating on these boards.  I hope to see you here more often.

 

 

March 15, 2010 at 02:17 AM ·

Smiley wrote: The impression that Sam Z is the only great maker today is a statement that was in the original post.

>Of course for her the only true soloist instrument is made by Zygmuntowicz.<
 

Dylana Jenson goes on to say that she tried many moderns and for HER the instrument that worked for HER was made by Zygmuntowicz. 

 

How is what she just said, and what Raymond said about her opinion, any different? 

 

And if you read what she said in threads about this many years ago, you will read that she makes a huge distinction between a soloist instrument and a section instrument. And like Raymond, she does not say one is better than the other, but that they fullfill different needs. Isn't this what Raymond wrote? The only difference is their "experience" with modern fiddles was much, much more than 20 fiddles, and in that group were more than one person with soloist chops. 

 

It is interesting to me that Raymond, and then Michael who defended Raymond, keep saying that this is just THEIR experience, but everyone takes it as if they said more than that!

And Raymond and Michael both said, over and over again, that an instrument that can be used in a soloist setting is not necessarily better than an instrument that cannot be used that way. This is what Jenson wrote in the past, and essentially what she just wrote now, but so many have interperted it to mean the OPPOSITE of what they wrote. Burgess tried to set the record straight too, but few have listened to him as well.

And then you blame it on the man who started the thread, and thank Jenson for clearing it up? She did clear it up, but what she cleared up are the liberties so many of you took with Raymond's post. Maybe Raymond is just responsible for what he actually wrote? There is a noval idea to this thread. 

March 15, 2010 at 05:00 AM ·

March 15, 2010 at 12:21 PM ·

If I had more time, I would love to go into a lot of detail on violin tone etc. from my point of view. Hopefully when I have a chance, the thread will not be finished.

For now I'll just point out an interesting parallel - see Laurie's interview with Dylena Jensen - to the life and career of Aaron Rosand. He too, as a young man, had a benefactor who provided him with a loan of a major fiddle (don't remember if a Strad or del Gesu). When Rosand announced his intentions to get married, this benefactor, too, withdrew his support and the fiddle! What's with benefactors and marriage?

BTW, which Perlman CD featured him playing on both his Strad and del Gesu? Did it clearly identify which was which? Did he play any piece twice, using each one respectively? Meanwhile, for all lovers of great fiddles compared, I highly recommend the James Ehnnes DVD, "Homage".

March 15, 2010 at 01:59 PM ·

I think the Perlman disc mentioned was from early on, if it concerned his acquisition of the Soil.

But his Bach Sonatas and Partitas are divided between the Soil and the del Gesu he later bought from Menuhin.

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