Asking price for the Vieuxtemps Guarneri: $18 million

June 20, 2010 at 04:38 AM ·

From this  New York Times article about it: "the actual asking price is now $18 million, which would make the Vieuxtemps the most expensive musical instrument on the planet. Ian Stoutzker, a London banker who owns the Vieuxtemps, has entrusted Geoffrey Fushi of Chicago with the job of finding a buyer."

What does this mean for violinists? 

Replies (100)

June 20, 2010 at 06:33 AM ·

The escalation in the prices of "top" violins has given a shot in the arm to the makers of quality new instruments. But for the buyers, however, there are going to be a nagging doubts. When a maker claims to have copied the "What's-his-name" Strad, Guarneri or whatever there's precious little chance now of either the maker or the punter ever finding out how the sound measures up to the original. It becomes ever more difficult for a serious violin student to know what a top fiddle is like to play if the chances of ever seeing, let alone trying, one are virtually zilch. There wil be increasingly fewer reference points for the assessment of new work by those who really need to know, the young and inexperienced, IMHO.

June 20, 2010 at 07:30 AM ·

So many of the best instruments in the world are owned by collectors who don't play (or don't play well) and the only way that the instruments even get played the way they deserve is by being loaned to musicians.  I have to wonder why some wealthy person would even want a violin unless they played it.  If I couldn't play I'd feel as if I was doing my violin a disservice.  Holding it hostage by keeping it silent.  Having an instrument I can't play would bother me to no end.  

June 20, 2010 at 08:31 AM ·

This is ridiculous!! No instrument is worth that. Anybody paying that  sort of price is in my opinion and idiot or a collector (or both!)

These instruments are over rated anyway, a good modern fiddle made in the last 50+ years will probably sound as good or better, and cost a tiny fraction.

The world has gone mad. (People who can afford that sort of money should be taxed at 300% on the price they pay, in my opinion).

 

June 20, 2010 at 08:38 AM ·

Anyone able to recommend a good recording featuring this particular instrument??   Or perhaps someone here has heard it live at some time?

Wondering if we've any bold and brave v.commers in or near Chicago who might go along and ask to try out the violin for a few minutes, then report back to us on here with their opinions!? 

 

June 20, 2010 at 08:58 AM ·

Rosalind - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_8M9Ycd35k

June 20, 2010 at 12:48 PM ·

There is nothing wrong with what modern Luthiers are turning out!  I understand about owning a piece of history, but buying from our Luthiers today is history in the making!  I would love to hear todays contemporary greats play performances with a contemporary violin and put the 1713 such & such and 1805 so & so aside for a few years.

June 20, 2010 at 12:51 PM ·

Thanks for that link, Mattias. Just took a look/listen. First of all, bravo to Kristof Barati, a violinist I never heard of till now. It is a brilliant performance of an extremely challenging piece. At the same time I must offer one criticism, which relates to assesing the sound of the violin: his bow arm/hand is rather stiff, and  the tone production seems a bit hard and inflexible.

It's difficult to separate the violin from the violinist in a performance and even more so on a recording. We have to take into consideration the acoustics, the engineering, the repertoire chosen, the approach of the player (hence what I said above) the reproduction - usually not the best on youtube - our own listening equipment, etc.  Trying to balance all this, what I think I'm hearing is a violin that is very sonorous, gutsy, and clear. Is it also beautiful, rich, complex, and sophisticated? From this player with that selection, I really can't tell. I would have prefered to hear something slower and more expressive. I did read that Joshua Bell was also very impressed with it.

Now to Bein&Fushi. This is a very aggressive, high-stakes firm, that really likes to push the envelope. I'm on their mailing list, and I do appreciate their complimentary calendars and other material with violin photos, etc. BUT... In their newsletter #21 they feature the Vieuxtemps del Gesu, calling it "the top violin for sound and performance" and "the greatest masterwork of all time with unmatched tonal qualities." I'm sure that had they gotten hold of Rosand's del Gesu - which sold for a 'mere' 10 million dollars, they would have said the same about that violin. They also quote from the diary of Alfred Hill, in which he apparently said on June 10, 1891 "the 'Vieiuxtemps' Guarnerius...has probably the grandest tone of them all." Those 3 dots in the middle were made by B&F. Whether anything significant was left out, I don't know. But here's what I do know. In their landmark book on the Guarneri family, published in 1931, in their del Gesu chapter, the Hills made a list of about 50 del Gesus whose tone they liked best. The Vieuxtemps was indeed on that list. But when they narrowed it down to a final 9, the Vieuxtemps did not  make the cut! Of course tonal assessment is very subjective. As the great collector, David Fulton has said in a Strad article, "there is no single greatest. Only the best instrument for a particular player at a particular time, in a particular piece of repertoire."

So why hasn't someone like Fulton, or the Russian billionaire who bought Rosand's del Gesu, snapped up the Vieuxtemps? I really hope they don't. Particularly at this time, with the world-wide economic crisis, this strikes me as an obscenely greedy price. I can imagine Gordon Gekko looking down - or rather up - and smiling!

PS I more than second the motion for top-notch contemporary instruments, while admiring fine classic ones as well.

June 20, 2010 at 09:38 PM ·

I would love to see the contemporary greats (Hahn, Bell, Pearlman, Vengerov, Mutter, Madori,etc) Perform works either live and or recorded with their Strad, Amati,whatever AND a Burgess or Manfio, etc., in a blindfold test (perhaps both violinist and listeners) and see just how many can tell the difference!

If only I were more in many eyes that I could dare and that dare be taken!

June 20, 2010 at 09:44 PM ·

 But you see, there really is a difference between a Strad and an instrument freshly made, and there is a difference between an instrument made with fine wood and one that is not. Huge differences. And "tonewood" is a limited resource. Part of what makes a fine concert violinist a fine concert violinist is having this kind of discernment and recognizing the need to find a good instrument.

There are programs out there to connect investors in fine instruments with artists to play them. The only problem is that the artist does not have the security of owning an instrument. But many people do loan out the instruments. 

June 20, 2010 at 10:16 PM ·

 I think this price is Cheap.

Great violins are under priced compared to equivalent art objects but  extraordinarily overpriced compared to the best modern work  judged both in artistic and utilitarian terms.. Great violins that are played are seriously degraded on a daily basis..the best way to invest is get one with a high reputation, keep it in museum conditions, make sure that it is played enough to keep it in the public eye and watch the others deteriorate with use as the value of your investment increases.

Great tone wood is not all that rare but the folk that can spot it to harvest or buy are. 

June 20, 2010 at 10:32 PM ·

Szeryng paid 80,000$ for the Leduc Guarnerius del Gesù in 1968...I still have the newspaper when the deal occured... 18 millions!!! for the Vieuxtemps... You now have the pernicious effect of the Segelman's estate fraud involving so many traders from England and U.S.A.  They have no limits... They are not music lovers. They are like these insect collectors and who kill them before putting them into a glass. The sound of these wonderful instruments will dye for ever...

June 20, 2010 at 10:59 PM ·

Lots of great posts so far.

Raphael, Beck and Melvin particularly got my attention. Raphael highlighted some business practices,  the weaknesses of recordings in evaluating sound, and the difficulty in separating a violinist from the violin.

Beck also mentioned that escalating prices of older instruments have stimulated interest in alternatives, and that's been a big motivator for contemporary makers. Love of the craft is great, but if it won't go far toward paying the bills, some sacrifices will be made.  After a long interim period, makers can finally make a living at it once again, and maybe even afford to keep careful notes and do some research..

Melvin is right on all counts, including that a museum is the best environment for preserving instruments, but I'll also affirm that celebrity adds value too (for reasons that are somewhat beyond me), so the practice of lending expensive violins to up-and-coming players is not entirely altruistic. If one is lucky, the loaned violin might become the "Former Joshua Bell", placing a premium on the value.

Does anyone want to invest in  Lorena Bobbitt's knife? It's quite ordinary, but there is a great story behind it. ;-)

How much will someone pay for some famous athletes unwashed stinky socks? LOL

June 21, 2010 at 12:51 AM ·

Just read a passage in Ysaïe's biography... Vieuxtemps was his teacher and he once attempt to buy this particular del Gesû from a London dealer but could not afford it. So, the story is not new. He finally found one offered by one of his students. It belonged to Isaac Stern later.

June 21, 2010 at 01:15 AM ·

Laurie - and everyone - it depends on the particular Strad and the particular modern fiddle. I've personally tried some big named violins and bows - including some Strads and a Tourte. Believe me (or not), they're not all great or all even very good. Yes, a small handful really seem to have magic. I hope to put out an article very soon - maybe in a blog here - about a recent auction experience that does include a great Amati, Vuilliaume and a great Lamy bow. But many highly touted examples are not as good as many contemporary works. A lot of great violinists, from Kreisler to Oliveira, have freely switched back and forth between classic and modern fiddles, with no one being the wiser.

I'm fully prepared to believe that the Vieuxtemps is a great fiddle. But it's still being offered for an obscene amount of money. Yes, not compared to paintings. What is a Picasso going for now-a-days $100 million? And you can't even play on it (or maybe even figure it out - but that's another discussion!) But that's crazy too. Or maybe crazy like a fox. I'm no economist for sure. But it seems to me that a lot of pricing involves very interested parties in cahoots to artificially drive prices of certain items up  light years beyond the general rate of inflation.

It also seems to me that the only answer is for nobody to buy it or analogous things at analagous prices. For powerful would-be buyers to say "no - you go too far." But probably someone will buy it, and  at the asking price - if for no other reason than because he can.

June 21, 2010 at 03:31 AM ·

I think the Strads are way overpriced. For antique collector is probably ok but I don't think that the best violinist has to play Strads to remain the best. I've heard a story where some of the top violin experts (performers as well as violin makers) listen to someone playing strads and some recently made violins behind the curtain, and they have to guess which one are the strads, most of them got it wrong, the result is so mixed that it's just random chance when they got it right. I think it's from the book "The Violin Maker". 

Also I heard that good newer violins are usually more weatherproof. But there are some people who just have to play the Strads, that's more of personal preference and prestige, and not so much for making better sound, I think. 

 

June 21, 2010 at 12:08 PM ·

'I don't think that the best violinist has to play Strads to remain the best"

True! Hilary Hahn is managing quite well with her Vuiliaume!   Gidon Kremer traded in his del Gesu for an Amati. Considering the quality of both a Vuillaume and a Nicolo Amati that I've recently tried, I can understand this.  Christian Tetzlaff sold his Strad  after acquiring a contemporary violin by Peter Greiner. Again, it comes down to a particular instrument for a particular player. Many people do want to play  - or even more so, want it known that they play - on a Strad or a del Gesu for the prestiege they hope it will add to their reputation. Others appreciate the rarity and mystique of such instruments as antique artifacts. I do, too. And don't get me wrong: some clsssic instruments really do sound amazing. But many don't.

But re this specific situation. We're in the worst world-wide economic situation since the Great Depression of the 1930's. We're still just getting used to the fact that the Kohansky-Rosand del Gesu was sold  this past fall for 10 million dollars. Now, within the same season, another del Gesu made in the same year, and I'm sure no better, is being offered at almost twice that figure! What's wrong with this picture?

June 21, 2010 at 12:52 PM ·

 There may be something wrong with this picture in the hearts and souls of vain people who would make these kinds of bids (and offers) but that is the nature of the market. Would we prefer that a committee evaluate the value of our property and then determine the price we could get for it? They wouldn't stop at one off $18M violins. They would likely take it all the way down to $5k violins.

 

June 21, 2010 at 01:29 PM ·

Here's a quotation frm the Bonhams website:-

Philip Scott, Head of Bonhams Musical Instrument Department comments, "The strong Bond Street tradition of musical instruments sale and the absence of a dependable paper currency has meant that objects like jewellery and musical instruments have become an alternative global currency. Buyers came from all corners of the globe to avail themselves of the buying opportunity at Bonhams."

These instruments are simply becoming a way of holding and transferring, not money, but wealth. They are becoming financial rather than musical instruments. They are articles of currency, and the fact that they are playable violins is a side issue. You might hold gold bullion, or works of art, or property. Rare stamps (who has seen "Charade"?)can be such an instrument, and so can these famous Cremonese violins being bought and sold at fantastic sums.

Is this fiddle "worth it"? Is an ounce of gold "worth" $1250?

gc

 

June 21, 2010 at 02:48 PM ·

After reading the recent post after my last I did remember my experience with a fine Italian violin made in Milan which is not far from Cremona, a violin made in 1786.  Yes, playability and sound was the best I have played heard to date.  I have to also admit that in his office durring my lessons it had something extra when my teacher played it in contrast to his personal violin, which is not as old, ..... but in the auditorium that he, his wife, and their collegue played I do sware that 90%+ would not be able to tell.  Perhaps if they were in Carnagie Hall that number would drop to maybe 80% or 85%..... I am glad that fine violins are being loaned to acomplished violinists. To be able to be at a performance when one or more of those violins are being played... Beethoven was alive when that violin was made, Mozart was composing when someone was playing that violin, that violin was around when Copland was just getting started, etc.  Is it not acceptable for a violin great make a recording today using a fine contemporay violin made in the last 20 years? Yes I feel that it is acceptable.  I would love to hear such recordings.....

June 21, 2010 at 03:03 PM ·

Not commenting on the price or value--but apparently the violin IS unique. In a June 18, 2010 Science article, Curtin says the Vieuxtemps has an acoustical feature that doesn't show up as well, if at all, in any other violin he has examined. Also, relating to repairs and patches near the soundpost and bridge, Terry Borman reported the instrument is in pristine condition.

June 21, 2010 at 05:09 PM ·

Definitely not fond of prices like this, but they are driving good violinists to find good modern makers.  Otherwise they risk being in the sort of situation that kneecapped Dylana Jensen.  I couldn't imagine any up-and-coming violinist looking to establish a reliable career putting themselves in the position of letting a stranger control their fate that powerfully, and that's what prices like this do to newcomers and young players.  If it's a choice between living with the risk of getting kneecapped like that and playing on a modern fiddle, point me at Zyg or Iizuka.  They're beautiful devices, and at least you know that it'll always be there and no one can yank it out from under you.

June 21, 2010 at 06:50 PM ·

I understand that rare violins, paintings, stamps, coins, books etc. have always had intrinsic wealth value. And as I've already suggested, I'm hardly advocating any sort of clamp on the free market system. On the contrary - and again I'm no economist -  it seems that things can be corrected if those who can afford what is clearly a very greedy price would say "yes, we can, but no, we won't". It happens with real estate all the time. Ultimately, I suppose something is "worth" what at least one person is willing to pay for it. If nobody wants to pay your price, your options are basically to either come down, or hold on to your property indefinately. Of course, I can't seriously imagine B&F backing down. They'd lose face.

What indeed makes an ounce of gold worth x today and y tomorrow? It seems that there's a certain amount of artificiallity in all of this. But here's what's clearly different with violins: they're not just artifacts; they're tools of our trade. Yes, Strads have always been relatively pricey. OK - VERY pricey. But until not very long ago, highly successful soloists could afford to own them, and del Gesus as well. Now iit's just a given that institutions, conglamorates, hedge funds - whatever - will own some of the finest tools of the violinist's trade. Yes, we're lucky to be able to turn to modern makers, something I've always been a big advocate of. But we could have done so - and many of us have done so millions of dollars ago!

June 21, 2010 at 07:30 PM ·

 Laurie, would you mind elaborating on the "big differences" between Strads/Guarneris and every other violin out there? I've played about five Strads and three Guarneris. (most of them on a long and lovely afternoon at Peter Prier's shop in SLC--cheers!) They were all marvelous. But there were some Vuillaumes, Gaglianos, Guadagninis etc that were on a completely equal level in my opinion, and they all (and everything else I've ever played in my life) were completely blown away by a 1791 Storioni.

And that's only talking about the old famous instruments. Terry Borman is one of my favorite makers ever, not just of "modern makers." Tetzlaff's Greiner seems to be serving him just as well as any overpriced Cremonese thing. The Emerson Quartet sounds just as good if not better on their Zygmuntowiczes than their old Italians. 

So....IS there really a difference? Or are some names just so incredibly famous that they can alter even our perceptions?

June 21, 2010 at 07:32 PM ·

A few years ago I met a woman who owned a brand-name old Italian violin.  She had bought it in the mid-1960's for about $2500.  At the time, this was about like buying the equivalent of a new Honda Accord.  Not pocket change (for most of us), but for a young professional with a good full time job, which she had, it was a manageable investment

The same instrument, which she still owns, is now worth somewhere in the mid-six figure range.  No young violinist with a symphony, opera, or ballet job would be able to swing that, at least not without a fairy godmother.  The top soloists might be able to buy these instruments, but they have been priced out of the range of almost all other players. 

Price vs. value is a tricky subject.  When an instrument ceases to be a tool and becomes an investment, a collectible, an antique, or whatever, the players lose.  Unless of course we want to see all the classic instruments become museum exhibits.

June 21, 2010 at 11:04 PM ·

 I think the comparison to other antiques has far more merit than the comparison to objects of art.  Few people beyond players and luthiers see a violin as an expression of visual aesthetics.  Many people are affected by the visual art of the masters such as Van Gogh, Monet, etc.

In either field, the market is determined by that one fool with too much money who decides that they are going to pull the trigger on the deal regardless of the price being too high.  Then the rest of us have to adjust accordingly.  It's an unfortunate and sad situation.

By the way, it's usually mentioned on these types of threads that a large part of the value of an instrument is the extraordinary response, not just the sound.  That is, the tactile impressions and opportunites the particular violin gives the player are important considerations.  Personally, I haven't had the pleasure of handling one of these beauties, and as pointed out above--it's getting less likely that I ever will.

June 21, 2010 at 11:15 PM ·

 People always talk about the issue from the audience point of view; how most people can't tell the difference between old and new violins. This is not the total story. Playing on a fine old instrument is a totally different experience for the violinist. So many things become easier to play. That is partly why they are desirable and expensive. Most good violinists can force a mediocre instrument to sound good, but that can be very tiring and uninspiring.

I'm not sure that a record price on the Vieuxtemps prevents students from experiencing what a great violin is like to play on. Most of the bigger shops in the country have a few great instruments in the vault and are happy to let you play on one. They know the power of fiddle lust....There are plenty out there that have been overshadowed by the big names and which can be a revelation to play on. Let's face it--does it really matter to us mortals if a Del Gesu is valued at 1 million or 18 million? We can't afford either.

June 21, 2010 at 11:51 PM ·

 We must not forget the audience. A certain percentage of the audience is looking forward, not just to great composition, great musicians but also a concert played on what are considered the ultimate masterpieces of violin making and this means that they are generally wanting to hear a great old Cremonese to feel that they got their full moneys worth. ....Unless otherwise educated.

June 22, 2010 at 12:59 AM ·

If a fiddle allows me to play better, then, while the audience may not realise the instrument is better, they certainly get a better performance from me.

Mind you, they might not notice that either...   ...

gc

June 22, 2010 at 03:38 PM ·

Scott is right, in that top violin shops do have a few great old fiddles in the vaults. My suspicion is that they are going to become increasingly less generous about allowing the young and inexperienced to try them. One small "clonk" and it's megabucks off the value.

June 22, 2010 at 07:59 PM ·

Thanks for the audio link.   Fascinating.   It certainly sounds amazing.  

Compared to a Picasso, I guess it is a bargain and I know that personally I'd get a lot more pleasure out of buying the violin rather than the painting!   But I still would like someone to put their finger on the reason why this del Gesu is worth so much more than other del Gesus?   Is it simply the provenance of the instrument? 

I also wonder if the method of fixing the price isn't a bit like how real estate agents work.   Put the house on the market at say $xmillion but the actual price paid works out quite a bit less after one has done the haggling.  

June 23, 2010 at 03:09 AM ·

Because old classic violins are so inaccessible there has become  a greater  demand for fine contemporary violins.  That is a win win for both makers and players.  The more collectors hoard fiddles made by dead makers the greater the benefit to the living. 

June 23, 2010 at 03:54 AM ·

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNVARrq3bos&feature=related

the news reporter said to have valued almost 40 million for paganini's del gesu.

June 23, 2010 at 03:13 PM ·

Unique ! Priceless !! For once, these words mean something.

June 23, 2010 at 05:45 PM ·

With paintings and fiddles there's some of the "run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes" mentality, too.  If the last guy got $1.4 million, let's try for $1.8.

June 23, 2010 at 08:03 PM ·

Some have mentioned the utilitarian value of these pricey artifacts.  I would argue that given the astronomical prices, the utilitarian value tends towards zero.  This may sound blasphemous, but if I were a multi-millionare and invested $10 million plus on a violin, I would not play it.  Instead, I would lock it up in a climate controlled vault and look at it from time to time only when the sun isn't shining.  Frankly, I think it's crazy to spend that much on a fiddle, but even crazier to spend that much then lug it around in the car, the subway, orchestra rehearsals, in the rain and snow, etc.

 

June 24, 2010 at 02:57 AM ·

But great violins need to be played on to stay great, as well as serviced as needed from time to time. Heifetz, when he willed his del Gesu to the San Francisco museum, stipulated that it be played on special occasions by "worthy players." Rosand has said that the Russian billionaire who bought his del Gesu promised that he'd lend it out on occasion. Rosand was concerned that it really be played. David Fulton, the great collector, has occasionally lent out some of his great instruments. An avid amateur himself, he plays on his own instruments, and lets fine players come over and try them. 

Of course it can be a scary thing to think, my God! I'm holding  and playing on something worth millions, but is as fragile as an egg!! But as James Ehnnes, who performed on all of the violins and violas in the current Fulton collection on the DVD, Homage, said, you can't focus on that. Good violins in healthy condition were and are meant to be played. I can say from my own experience as a professional who has tried 5-6 Strads, 2 del Gesus, several Amatis and Guadagninis, etc. etc. - first you begin with oohs and ahs about the instrument itself. Then you get down to the business of playing on it - and I mean really playing. That's still what they're made for.

BTW, if anyone doesn't have that DVD, Homage, run and get it immediately! if you love great instruments, photographed with great close-ups, and played on and commented upon by a hell of a player, then this DVD will make you feel like a kid locked in a candy store!

June 24, 2010 at 08:49 PM ·

 Frankly, I think it's crazy to spend that much on a fiddle, but even crazier to spend that much then lug it around in the car, the subway, orchestra rehearsals, in the rain and snow, etc.

Smiley, I knew a concertmaster who left his Rocca in the pub. Quite a few top fiddles have been left in taxis. You are right.

June 24, 2010 at 09:23 PM ·

Yes David.  Taxis have a hidden magnetic attraction for priceless instruments.  Many such instruments have been left behind in taxis.  I agree with you Raphael, but I'm pretty darn careful with my $10K+ instrument.  If I had one worth 10 times as much as my house, I'd be downright anal.  That means, it's gonna stay locked up in the vault.  And to be honest, I don't even think I'd string it up.  At least, I would loosen the tension on the strings for long term storage.  I know it's wrong, but that's what I'd do.  The good news is, I am not rich enough to buy such an instrument, so you won't have to worry about me taking one out of circulation.  :-)

 

 

June 24, 2010 at 10:03 PM ·

Thats what you SAY Smiley - but if you truly are a musician (and everything points that way) you simply could not resist playing on the best instrument available to you.  you might go crazy stringing, undstringing, stringing on a daily basis until eventually you would leave it strung, then play it every day, then be unable to resist performing on it (I mean you want to sound your best), then practicing on it (I mean how can you perform if you don't also practice on the same instrument), attending chamber music groups, orchestra and even playing at Great Aunt Wolfheart - and eventually, its inevitable .... you would leave it behind in a taxi.

June 25, 2010 at 12:41 AM ·

lol!

June 25, 2010 at 01:52 AM ·

Can't argue with that.  From now on, we'll start calling you Elise the omniscient.  Now, there's no way I'll buy a Strad, even if I win the lottery.

 

June 25, 2010 at 01:56 AM ·

Au contraire, from now on there's no way you would NOT buy a strad if you won the lottery :D

June 25, 2010 at 02:18 AM ·

Now, I'm gonna have nightmares.  Headlines will read, amateur musician wins lottery, buys Strad and leaves it in a taxi.  Maybe I should just find a nice taxi driver and give him $5M so he can buy his own Strad.

June 25, 2010 at 02:50 AM ·

Smiley, why take a Taxi if you were that rich? Hire a driver. ;-)

June 25, 2010 at 04:20 AM ·

Or just never leave the house.

I've got it: Live in a motorhome!  There, we put the smile back on Smiley. :)

June 25, 2010 at 05:38 AM ·

Top instruments ??

The makers of my 3 very reasonably-priced new violins wouldn't like it if I called them BOTTOM instruments.

June 25, 2010 at 05:50 AM ·

@Joyce - I think you put your finger on it - the reason priceless violins get left in taxis is because they are loaned to individuals who are not rich and hence can't afford the transportation appropriate to the value of the transported item!

I'm kinda surprized that they are not stolen more often for the same reason.  Million dollar instrument in a flea-bag hotel for example...

June 25, 2010 at 06:31 AM ·

Elise, it's probably true in most cases, but didn't Yo-Yo Ma forget his multimillion-dollar cello in the trunk of a taxi in NYC a few years ago? It's hard to imagine that he was not rich (I wonder if his mode of transportation has changed since). I believe that the risk of forgetting their instruments is much higher for soloists, because they travel a lot with their instruments, and they are too used to carrying them around, so they don't think much about it. I have never heard of a collector or an amateur leaving his/her super expensive instrument in a public place. Of course, they have fewer chances to do so, but I suspect that comfort level is the main reason. I'm sure Smiley's Strad will be safe. :D

June 25, 2010 at 07:44 AM ·

The downside of being loaned a TOP instrument is that the insurance company will insist you install a large, expensive, and ugly safe in your house. Maybe you are made to pay the premiums yourself, too. Then I presume you have to keep taking the instrument back to the lender, like a naughty child, to check you have not damaged the thing.

The time will come when you will also have to employ a team of burly minders, in constant attendance. Dark glasses and suits, intercom up the sleeve, - you know, Homer Simpson did the "security guard" thing in one hilarious episode. If you chain the case to your wrist, sure as eggs you'll lose the key. And those armoured vans they use to transport megabucks - they just attract criminals with oxy-acetylene torches.

June 25, 2010 at 11:31 AM ·

:D

I was just thinking of Joshua Bell playing with his violin case chained to his bow arm.....  Bet he could too...

June 25, 2010 at 11:43 AM ·

Glenn Dicterow once left his - which actually is the property of the New York Philharmonic - del Gesu in a taxi on the way to a concert. Amazingly, he got it back by show-time! He told the taxi driver -"any time you'd like tickets to the NYP, they're on me!"

I could never have imagined leaving my violin anywhere - until I almost did. I was having dinner once after a concert with a good friend who's a bassist. When we got up to go she said "aren't you forgetting something?" And I really had forgotten. Of course, it was a lot harder to miss her instrument!

June 25, 2010 at 12:58 PM ·

200 years from now, Laurie's great, great, great, great, great grandchild will post a new thread about Bein and Fushi offering a violin for sale for $8 Billion, the Ex-Smiley Strad. :-)

June 25, 2010 at 01:12 PM ·

From my perspective as a maker, I like to keep in mind the obvious fact that the high prices of the most sought-after classic Italian instruments represents their value as investment vehicles, not their value as musical instruments.  Not to belittle the musical capacities of a great Cremonese classic instrument, but clearly they are not one- or two thousand times better for making music than is a good contemporary violin, yet some may cost that much more.  That's because their buyers are betting the value will appreciate more reliably than the stock market, or some other alternate investments.  Since blind listening tests employing knowledgeable audiences have repeatedly failed to single out a superior sound for these old Italian instruments, compared to good modern ones, I really don't think players need to bemoan the un-affordability of a good Strad or del Gesu.  There are more fine instruments being produced today than at any time in history.

June 25, 2010 at 02:32 PM ·

I know that right now I just think this way because I'm young and stupid, but I just think that there's too many good things that could be done in the world with $18,000,000. To think about all the people that can't even afford more than one meal a day, all the kids that are not getting adequate education... To know that that much money is spent on a single violin just seems incredibly frivolous to me!

June 25, 2010 at 04:41 PM ·

Manuel, look at it this way:

When someone spends the money on that violin, the money will probably go back into the economy in some form, and be spread around in various ways. Some employees will be paid, some of it will be put into other investments, some will even end up at the convenience store or with auto workers, or with the poor immigrant who mows someone's lawn. Of course, the money probably came out of the economy on the other end, from business profits or liquidated investments. So I'm not sure the sale of this fiddle will have any net effect on poverty. Money has just been shuffled around.

If instead, the money was given to worthy charities, that would be nice too.

June 25, 2010 at 04:53 PM ·

Manuel, don't ever get over being "young and stupid".  It's a beautiful thing.  When someone is paying $18 million for a violin, a yacht, a mansion, whatever, and others, including the country's children, are going hungry and without medical care, something is skewed.

June 25, 2010 at 08:49 PM ·

But, Douglas, such valuations follow the law of diminishing returns - you pay a huge amount more for a tiny improvement . A bottle of  Chateau Latour 2000 is over £900 . Is it seven times better than Cos d'Estournel 2000 at about £140? No - it's a bit more interesting, but the label is much sexier. How can you quantify qualia anyway?

In any case - my 1840 Mittenwalder is terrific! And I only paid £800 for it.

gc

June 26, 2010 at 02:03 AM ·

Manuel, don't ever get over being "young and stupid".  It's a beautiful thing. 

I'm old and stupid.  Is that beautiful too?

June 26, 2010 at 02:53 AM ·

Smiley, it's gorgeous!

June 26, 2010 at 03:00 AM ·

Smiley, you are neither old nor stupid, compared to me. :-)

A couple of things from other posts I'd like to call attention to:

I can generate some enthusiasm for bashing the rich guys too, since I will never be one. At the same time, I don't know of a society in human history which has managed to significantly curtail individual wealth due to individual enterprise, resulting in a reduction in poverty.

Theories are great, and they may eventually bear fruit. In the meantime, few of us here are truly living at the subsistence level, and any one of us can save one or ten starving children. All we need is the motivation to do it, hardly different from the rich people.

My crazy sister has adopted a total of four "fetal alcohol syndrome/crack cocaine babies, and a few other "difficult to place" foster children. She's talked a few times about money concerns, but never about resenting the rich folks.

We can blame others, and we may be right, but in the meantime we can take some action ourselves if it's truly an issue.

 

 

June 26, 2010 at 03:26 AM ·

And many of us do.  For years now, the people with the least money donate the highest percentage of their incomes to charity, and give the most hours to volunteering.  Maybe that's part of the reason the rich are rich and the poor are poor.

June 26, 2010 at 03:34 AM ·

Lisa, I volunteer time and donate money too. I don't know how it stacks up against the rich people, but one thing I've concluded is that if I spend too much time making comparisons, my own efforts are compromised.

We've got three supported children in Africa, one in Brazil, and I'm trying to be there in some small way for my sister's kids. They've turned out to be really neat people, but one or two of them may never live on their own. This sister is older than I, so at some point, the responsibility could be mine. It sounds kind of cool, but I don't really have a good sense of what I might be taking on. Or they might go to my other sister, an adopted Korean  war orphan.

June 26, 2010 at 03:59 AM ·

 The "ex-Smiley" Strad, I like that!

Mara, you are talking as a person who has played Strads, who probably has this kind of sound in her ear and can make comparisons among these. No, Strads are not created equal, and certainly a great modern can rival a lesser Strad. But the fine instruments are in a certain class that is different from a student instrument.

It just would not be correct to say, "There's no difference, it's just vanity, it's all just how you play the instrument" etc.  This is not was Mara was saying, but sometimes people who have not experienced a fine instrument come to the conclusion that there is simply no difference between these so-called "fine instruments" and other instruments, other than price. 

I can say there is a difference, speaking from the personal experience of going all the way through music school and most of my professional career with an extremely substandard instrument, only to be completely floored when I finally got my hands on a fine instrument.

Certainly, a professional-level fine instrument doesn't have to be a Strad. It just has to be a fine instrument, and it's very hard to identify one if you've never played one for any period of time. And it's not just the Strads and Guarneris that are getting out of financial range for musicians, it's also the Vuillaumes, Gaglianos, Guadagninis and Storionis! 

If the finest instruments are all sitting in vaults, it's hard to experience one. And if you are lucky enough to find a patron to lend you a fine instrument, it is very often a wrenching experience when it is inevitably taken away (and given to a younger, cuter player!) It's often very difficult for a violinist to replace such an instrument with an affordable one that the player can buy himself or herself.  But at least the player who had a fine instrument on loan knows what to look and listen for! (sorry about the dangling participle there.)

 

June 26, 2010 at 05:34 AM ·

The worth of a wonderful instrument is in the eye of the beholder.  I have had the privelge of playing on a Strad, and owning the Gaetano Guadanini from 1856.  And I now have a modern American violin that will, if all goes well and it lives that long, join the ranks of many of the old beauties.  One time, all the Strads were new and young.  It is with good care and playing that they made it to where they are. 

Do I think that $18 mill is outragous?  Yes, in this current economy, I do.  But most likely that violin will either languish until the economy comes up to its value, or they will reduce the price.  Either way, I do hope it goes to a person who plays and can play it to its potential.  I have heard way too many fine instruments wasted in the hands of incompetent players who have more money than talent.  Sad for the instrument.  Saw an ignorant person had turned a genuine Strad into a wall mounted flower pot, too.  (Moenning and Hill authenticated that, but it was so damaged it was gone.)  To me the worst crime is the cost is so extravagant that a fine player who does not have $18 million and would bring life to the instrument will be denied the use of it.  And the world denied the beauty that would bring.  Just my thoughts.

June 26, 2010 at 01:40 PM ·

Well, okay, I'm not that young and stupid, I guess I could have made my thoughts clearer.

I'm not saying that when someone spends $18 million on a violin, that it will cause poverty. I am also not saying that if they just turned around and gave the same money to charity, it would end poverty. Of course, that's impossible. I am just making an observation.

I think there is something terribly wrong with our world when some of our brothers and sisters can't afford to eat while others have enough power to spend that much money on something that is pretty much a luxury. I am not blaming poverty on the rich, I realize anyone can do something to help. I am just commenting on the state of things, and of course I realize that it has been this way for thousands of years already...

June 26, 2010 at 05:23 PM ·

@Deborah:

.....

Full many a gem of purest ray serene,
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flow'r is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.
.....

(surely Thomas Grey put it best?)

its emotionall safer, I think, to consider how many wonderful instruments have actually made their way to wonderful violinists to play for us....

June 26, 2010 at 05:46 PM ·

Manuel, I share your sentiments to some degree.  But many of us have spent substantial amounts, even if far less than $18 million, on violins, money that we ourselves could have donated to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters.   In that respect, it's hard to draw a distinction between spending $18 million on a Guarneri and spending $20,000-$30,000 on a top-flight contemporary violin.  (And maybe someone who has $18 million to plunk down for a violin has actually given substantially larger amounts to helping his or her needier fellows.)

So that leaves me in a quandary.  Should I sell my violins and give the money to feed the hungry?  Sometimes I feel qualms about being so much richer than the greater part of humanity (though I'm not really rich at all) and enjoying the material satisfactions my surplus "wealth" allows, but I haven't yet sold everything and taken a vow of poverty.  I think it's a dilemma without a solution.  Or maybe, like most of us, I'm just too selfish to embrace the ethical solution.

Of course, $18 million is the asking price for the Vieuxtemps instrument.  It remains to be seen whether Mr. Fuschi will succeed in realizing that sum for the current owner.  And I think everyone will agree that Aaron Rosand definitely deserves a comfortable retirement and applauds his generosity at sharing the proceeds with the Curtis.

On another topic, it's worth noting that most of the time, when a priceless violin or cello is left in a taxi, the taxi driver makes an effort to track down the owner and the instrument ends up in the right hands.  So when you win the lottery, there's no need to worry.  Go ahead and snap up that Pannette or Vieuxtemps or maybe even a Strad--the taxi driver will return it to you.  (But stay away from Joshua Bell's Gibson Strad--it has a tendency to wander.)

I say priceless violins and cellos because of course taxi drivers are only too happy to get rid of violas inadvertently left in their custody.  In fact, typically they not only return the viola but add some extra cash for saving them the expense of getting rid of it elsewhere.  And I can't imagine there has ever been a recorded instance of someone forgetting a bass in a taxi.

(I apologize to violists for my inability to resist a viola joke.  I actually have nothing but deep respect for violists, many of whom are superb musicians.  In fact, some of my best friends are violists.)

Fuer Elise:  Gray

June 26, 2010 at 10:38 PM ·

This discussion bring me this movie back in my mind. Still not showed in public?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1egAZLlq5E

June 26, 2010 at 10:41 PM ·

I'd rather have red.  Goes better with Doodie... :)

June 26, 2010 at 11:48 PM ·

@ Michael- I really want to see that movie! How can I watch the whole thing?

June 27, 2010 at 01:52 AM ·

 Wow, Michael, I'd like to see that movie, too! But how, where?

June 27, 2010 at 05:25 AM ·

 Bill,

I too am reluctant to "do the right thing". Aid to the poor so often goes towards buying guns for goons or Mercs for Jerks.

June 27, 2010 at 09:29 AM ·

The Trailer was coming out in August 2009. The complete documentary movie is 50min. long. Till now I have found nothing where it is available to watch or to buy. It exist a web-site but it shows limited information. The producer have a phone no. left on his web-site, I think I should call him tomorrow. I know many of us are exiting to see.

June 27, 2010 at 11:54 AM ·

I just found Ruth Palmer's - the violinist commenting in that youtube - website. I contacted her - or her manager. As soon as I get a response, I'll share it!

As to the altruistic bend that this discussion has veered to, it's admirable in theory, but a number of people have pointed out some practical problems associated with it. To take a different bend, and give a sense again of whether it is worth it even if you can afford it, I'd like to share this perspective, again from the position of a professional violinist who has played on some great - and some not at all great - clsssic violins.

Here's my fantasy: someone gives me $18 million free and clear. The only condition is that I must buy something with the money - and only for myself. It can be one thing or any number of things. Part of the money may be used or set aside to maintain whatever I buy, e.g. insurance etc. But otherwise, it must be something physical. I may not invest it in any funds, stocks, etc. In this scenario, I think I'd spend about $10 million or more on real estate, its upkeep and furnishings, and the rest on the violins(s) and bow(s) of my dreams. If that's not enough, it's just too bad. I'd be thrilled with an Amati that I tried, that went at a recent Tarisio auction for a "mere" $300,000 or so. It was, for my tastes, better than the 5-6 Strads and 2 del Gesus I've tried!

June 27, 2010 at 12:30 PM ·

How about this, you other violin makers?

We should put up our own video, soliciting wealthy patrons to buy expensive old violins for us, to use as study objects. They'll last longer and be better preserved than if used by performers, and there's a better chance that more violin makers will produce more and better and healthier and cheaper instruments for use by performers. It's the way to use these resources which results in maximum benefit for everyone, including players.  ;-)

Having them in the hands of performers is woefully short-sighted. LOL

June 27, 2010 at 06:17 PM ·

I'm in!  I got to see a really lovely and well preserved ca. 1700 Strad a week ago Saturday and it was the high point of the year for me.  I needed more time than I got though.

June 28, 2010 at 05:17 AM ·

The last time I saw a Guarneri del Gesù violin, the player who had it on loan from a London dealership would not let me closer than 6 feet, let alone hold, examine or play it.

Police will be surrounding these violins with crime-scene tape soon.

June 28, 2010 at 08:27 AM ·

I was lucky enough this year to see a del Jesu close up, only inches away, although as the player didn't know me she was worried about letting me hold it, which I didn't.

I saw some wonderful Guadagnini's close up recently and had a play on one fiddle used by a famous quartet leader.

A friend of mine had a Guadagnini once - in the days (1961) when you could pick one up in London for about £2,000

I'd be rich now if I had never got married and instead bought all those Hill bows in the 1960's that went for £30 and the Roccas and Precendas that were £500-600

So now I play on a Gaspar of 1586 - although unfortunately its probably German from about 1800. Nice big sound though. (Unless that's me of course ...)!!!

 

June 28, 2010 at 04:24 PM ·

My guess is that David Burgess' last comment isn't quite as tongue-in-cheek as it seems.  With prices so out of sight, more than a few of these instruments will end up in the hands of museums, just like other great works of art.  Most museums allow scholars access to their collections, as they should.  In the case of these instruments, makers are among the scholars, researchers, and historians.

This is probably a good thing.  Prices are way beyond what almost all musicians can afford.  The instruments don't do anyone other than investors any good sitting in the vault of a Japanese businessman or Russian billionaire.  We all hope these investors take good care of them, but there's really nothing to stop someone from painting one purple and orange, drilling a hole in it for a mic, and using it in their rock band.  Or from leaving one in a taxi, on a train, on the front porch. or where they can back over it in the driveway, all of which have happened in recent years.

The Hope diamond is just too valuable for anyone to wear to even the fanciest dinner party.  The toniest dining room doesn't  feature a Leonardo or Vermeer on the wall.  The free market has determined that most Strads, del Gesus, etc., are too valuable to be in the hands of musicians.  Better that at least some of them go to museums where luthiers and players can at least visit them.

June 28, 2010 at 10:02 PM ·

"there's really nothing to stop someone from painting one purple and orange, drilling a hole in it for a mic, and using it in their rock band.  Or from leaving one in a taxi, on a train, on the front porch. or where they can back over it in the driveway,"

or taking it with them to their grave.

June 29, 2010 at 02:14 AM ·

I have noticed that the Vieuxtemps according to a famous luthier is very peculiar because of the sound which is exceptional... This is the first time I hear such comments about a violin. Usually,traders do not care about the sound of an instrument. It is never an issue to raise the value of an instrument. What real evidence there is actually concerning the Vieuxtemps. There are no records of the "sounding" experience concerning the Vieuxtemps or even te Messiah Strad. This is pure speculation. What makes this instrument so particular in sound production compared to the Ole Bull, the Leduc, the King Joseph, the Haddock, the Lord Wilton, the Kochanski , the Plowden or the Kreisler... I just mentionned here the very top del Gèsus, recognized for ther exceptional tone qualities (Notice that Heifetz's David and Paganini's Cannon are not on the list for many comments of famous musicians and luthier's who had so so opinions about their tone compared to the others I have listed).

Never heard any exceptional comments about the Vieuxtemps or read about it. The Hills never made any statements of this nature or some other experts. This is totally new! I do not say that it is false but why did'nt we heard about it before? That is the fundamental question. I am sure that Fulton would have rush to buy the Vieuxtemps 20 years ago if the violin was so exceptional or someone would have certainly approach him to realise the trade... Anything goes with publicity...The Beets Stad is considered by many fine players ( such as Ehnes) as one of the top instruments in the world. It was never publicised that way.

The Paganini has been restored in 1936 by Cesar Candi. Here is an instrument that was famous for its suprematie in sound over all the others... It dried up completely in its glass case and all felt apart in pieces when Candi attempted  the restoration. It surely affected the sound. Now it is played more often and in better condition, but after having heard Shlomo Mintz played on it or Accardo, I am not convinced the instrument is now in the same state ( sound production) as it was when Paganini performed on it... It is still a powerful instrument, but some notes just sound dry or dead when played by any good performer... It was neglected for over 70 years before Candi's restoration and not preserved, but kept in very poor conditions.

If the Vieuxtemps was so unique in sound production, we would have heard about this fact a long time ago!  Now, Mr Ricci , Bell, Zukerman, and Quint, did you confirm that the Vieuxtemps is superior in tone production to the Beet's Strad or all the above listed del Gesùs. Mr Ricci, would you have trade right away your exceptional Huberman del Gésù for the Vieuxtemps? Same question to Zukerman with his Duskin or Bell, with is fascinating "red violin story" concerning his  famous Strad (ex-Huberman)...  I wont ask the question to Yehudi who owned the the Soil and the Prince Khevenhüller Strads, the Egville, Politzer-Kolsoler, Ebersholt, Ysaïe (went on tour with the Ysaïe) and Lord Wilton del Gesùs. In all the books I have concerning Menuhin and his violins, no mention about the Vieuxtemps, and I believe that if the experience was so convincing and mystical, he would have write something about it. It is just a presumption, but Yehudi liked to make comments about particular and exceptional instruments he played on...

It is easy to create a legend around an instrument nowadays. Usually, legends take years to become legends and even then,they remain legends and pure speculation. The collective fascination   is a very strong opium that prevents people in general about true awareness... The actual traders of the Vieuxtemps know a great deal about these plain facts... Everyone here should read about the Segeilman estate scandal... You will learn a great deal how things really work in the extremely narrow circle of violin trades and speculation... Pricing up the Vieuxtemps or any other top instrument is not the real issue. The truth is that lesser known instruments, being a Vuillaume,a Storiani, a Pressenda or an unfamous Srad will increase dramatically. Because these are the instruments sold in the usual market, and that is how traders make their money!!!  Not with the Vieuxtemps...

 

June 29, 2010 at 09:30 AM ·

I think this means that really only very good musicians know if an instrument is any good.

I suppose that's why we should try instruments without looking for and finding out their pedigee, or market price.

June 29, 2010 at 12:12 PM ·

Marc - as I mentioned in an earlier post, The Hills did mention it, and supposedly, Menhuin, too. Bell loves it and expressed regret that he can't afford it, and wistfully wished that some sort of consortium would buy it and let him use it. He did use it briefly not long ago, when he performed in Chicago.

But there we have it in a nutshell: one of the most successful soloists of our time, who owns a Strad and has a nice piece of property in in one of New York's finest neighborhoods, can't afford a violin whose tone he really loves, and that he'd really like to have. This was not the case up to pretty recently. And yet, so many of us seem to casually accept this as one of the realities of the current free market. The only silver lining in what I consider to be this dark cloud, is that indeed so far, prople like David Fulton have not bought it. We may be sure that they know all about it. Maybe a reality check will set it. it will be ineresting to see how it plays out.

June 29, 2010 at 01:15 PM ·

Raphaël: thanks... Sorry I missed that one,but as I mentionned, Is the Vieuxtemps really better then all the instruments of del Gesù listed on my above mentionned list. This experience of mine is about violins I have seen and heard personnaly or by some contact I had over a long period of 30 Years. James Ehnes who has a lot of credential on that particular subject never mentionned anything about one being superior to the other concerning instruments of the  Fulton collection...(now, we speak about the top cremonese including the Pucelle and so many others). He told me about his experiece also with the Betts stradivari and the Haddock del Gesù. The Haddock is the instrument praised by the Hills in their book... It belonged to Thomas Mawkes who bought it on the advice of Rode ( in 1832) being one of the best instrument in the world... And it is in perfect state of preservation, like "La Pucelle"...  I had the same comments about the Kreisler from Ehnes and 3 other violinists who played on it. It is now at the Library of Congress... and I could go on and on... especially about the Ole Bull...

My point is the following: is the Vieuxtemps superior in sound to all the other instruments on my list...I have strong doubts about this...really. And I do not trust the actual trader of the Vieuxtemps on that particular matter... He is building up a legend...

June 29, 2010 at 01:47 PM ·

Check the June 18, 2010 issue of SCIENCE--story titled "Probing the Secrets of the Finest Fiddles." Ilya Keller calls it one of the two greatest instruments. Research by Joseph Curtin, James Woodhouse, Terry Borman, and a number of others in this article.

June 29, 2010 at 02:15 PM ·

I suppose that they will come out again with their famous mathematical sounding test !!! It is like the crowd of serial music fanatics-they hear things not intelligible for the common mortal. Thanks a lot for the information! A hundred years ago, thousand of articles were written about the famous secret of the cremonese varnish recipy, being solely responsible for the sound. Now, we use all scientific devices to explain something which,in my very humble point of view, is more a subjective matter. The player should have all the credits first,than the violin... I have read these kind of articles many times and I am not convnced at all. It kills the  miracle per se of great instruments. They were the result of great human creativity at a time when mathematical explanations were necessary, but not absolute. Inspiration came from the beauty of nature and things all around. Not from a precise and infaillible formula. The wood is not as healty today as it was 300 hundred years ago, due to industrial activity and pollution... 

June 29, 2010 at 02:16 PM ·

Maybe that fiddle's not really worth $18 million, but I wager it will deserve 100 posts on violinist.com.

June 29, 2010 at 02:33 PM ·

The more we talk about it, the more they are pricing up!!!

June 29, 2010 at 06:11 PM ·

"one of the most successful soloists of our time, who owns a Strad and has a nice piece of property in in one of New York's finest neighborhoods, can't afford a violin whose tone he really loves, and that he'd really like to have. This was not the case up to pretty recently."

B&F's newsletter hawking the Vieuxtemps includes a few excerpts from Arthur Hill's diary designed to whet the appetite of billionaire kleptocrats from the FSU.  Among these is a statement that Ysaye really wished he could buy the Vieuxtemps but regretted that he couldn't afford it.  (Neither could the Hills, apparently.)  This was in 1891.  Somehow, Y. managed to surmount this calamity and continue to enjoy success in his career.

www.beinfushi.com/downloads/BF-newsletterNew-linked.pdf

And anyone who has heard the Gibson Strad in Joshua Bell 's hands knows that he doesn't need the Vieuxtemps to continue his career. 

Has the Vieuxtemps ever been in the hands of a top-flight soloist or even a professional  violinist since Vieuxtemps relinquished it?

June 29, 2010 at 06:49 PM ·

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck, its a duck.

But what of a piece of carved wood with strings on that looks like a violin, is talked about as a violin - but is never played as a violin.  Is it a violin?

I think not.  Its a template for one, a curio, an investment, and also an object d'art and investment vehicle.  But to be a violin you have to sound like a violin.

'The Vieutemps Guianeri: an $18,000,000 violobject...' :-\

June 29, 2010 at 07:24 PM ·

Elise - well at least if a violin doesn't quack like a duck, we're off to a good start! ;-)

Marc- of course  the Vieuxtemps is NOT head and shoulders above all the others. It's in the ear and hands of the beholder. As I also said, quoting - or paraphrasing - David Fulton, there IS no objective best. It's the best instrument for a particular player in a particular piece at a particular time. Once Ysaye and Thibauld experimented with Y's Strad and del Gesu. T. not only prefferred the Strad's quallity, but projected better with it. With Y., it was the opposite: he prefferred and projected more with his del Gesu. So which fiddle was "better"?

No fiddle playes itself. One of the two del Gesus I've tried so far is the "Kreisler" at the Library of Congress, back in 1989. The E was maybe the best E I ever played; the A was similar to the E. The D was tough and hard; the G even more so. On the lower strings, I had to start each note with an accent. I shared my reactions with the curator who supervised the safety of my visit. He said "You're actually doing very well. Isaac Stern was here recently to try it, and he couldn't play it at all!"

It's also in the hands of the seller, who wants the violin world to get super excited by what is at least partially hype.

June 29, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·

Elise - well at least if a violin doesn't quack like a duck, we're off to a good start! ;-)

Marc- of course  the Vieuxtemps is NOT head and shoulders above all the others. It's in the ear and hands of the beholder. As I also said, quoting - or paraphrasing - David Fulton, there IS no objective best. It's the best instrument for a particular player in a particular piece at a particular time. Once Ysaye and Thibauld experimented with Y's Strad and del Gesu. T. not only prefferred the Strad's quallity, but projected better with it. With Y., it was the opposite: he prefferred and projected more with his del Gesu. So which fiddle was "better"?

No fiddle playes itself. One of the two del Gesus I've tried so far is the "Kreisler" at the Library of Congress, back in 1989. The E was maybe the best E I ever played; the A was similar to the E. The D was tough and hard; the G even more so. On the lower strings, I had to start each note with an accent. I shared my reactions with the curator who supervised the safety of my visit. He said "You're actually doing very well. Isaac Stern was here recently to try it, and he couldn't play it at all!"

It's also in the hands of the seller, who wants the violin world to get super excited by what is at least partially hype.

June 29, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·

Elise - well at least if a violin doesn't quack like a duck, we're off to a good start! ;-)

Marc- of course  the Vieuxtemps is NOT head and shoulders above all the others. It's in the ear and hands of the beholder. As I also said, quoting - or paraphrasing - David Fulton, there IS no objective best. It's the best instrument for a particular player in a particular piece at a particular time. Once Ysaye and Thibauld experimented with Y's Strad and del Gesu. T. not only prefferred the Strad's quallity, but projected better with it. With Y., it was the opposite: he prefferred and projected more with his del Gesu. So which fiddle was "better"?

No fiddle playes itself. One of the two del Gesus I've tried so far is the "Kreisler" at the Library of Congress, back in 1989. The E was maybe the best E I ever played; the A was similar to the E. The D was tough and hard; the G even more so. On the lower strings, I had to start each note with an accent. I shared my reactions with the curator who supervised the safety of my visit. He said "You're actually doing very well. Isaac Stern was here recently to try it, and he couldn't play it at all!"

It's also in the hands of the seller, who wants the violin world to get super excited by what is at least partially hype.

June 29, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·

Elise - well at least if a violin doesn't quack like a duck, we're off to a good start! ;-)

Marc- of course  the Vieuxtemps is NOT head and shoulders above all the others. It's in the ear and hands of the beholder. As I also said, quoting - or paraphrasing - David Fulton, there IS no objective best. It's the best instrument for a particular player in a particular piece at a particular time. Once Ysaye and Thibauld experimented with Y's Strad and del Gesu. T. not only prefferred the Strad's quallity, but projected better with it. With Y., it was the opposite: he prefferred and projected more with his del Gesu. So which fiddle was "better"?

No fiddle plays itself. One of the two del Gesus I've tried so far is the "Kreisler" at the Library of Congress, back in 1989. The E was maybe the best E I ever played; the A was similar to the E. The D was tough and hard; the G even more so. On the lower strings, I had to start each note with an accent. I shared my reactions with the curator who supervised the safety of my visit. He said "You're actually doing very well. Isaac Stern was here recently to try it, and he couldn't play it at all!"

It's also in the hands of the seller, who wants the violin world to get super excited by what is at least partially hype.

June 29, 2010 at 10:47 PM ·

Raphael: I got it now,really!!!(lol)

June 30, 2010 at 12:48 AM ·

Hi truth or pay crazy money for a tool that answering your question, I tell them I'm from Argentina and guitarist of violin do not understand anything but an uncle of mine had one and my abuuela the death of what I wanted to pull and hold it for several years research on the internet it seems that the violin was made by a luthier recognized within the on a label says hand made in milano romeo FECE Antoniazzi 1890 and thinking that at one time almost as bad sell currency that seems to be worth much more .. . Perhaps one day learn to play it if you do not sell it first hehe greetings

June 30, 2010 at 01:00 AM ·

Most electric violins quack like ducks.

And they are over priced, too

gc

June 30, 2010 at 01:27 AM ·

ducks too, are very overpriced in London`s  Chinese restaurants. 

June 30, 2010 at 02:36 AM ·

Oh dear what have I wrought!

but can a violin swim like a duck - or maybe we should go back to the titanic topic to find out...

June 30, 2010 at 03:26 AM ·

Let me end by apologizing for all those replications! I don't know what went wrong. Oddly enough, a short post that I tried earlier, also apologizing, never made it onto the thread. Again, I'm really sorry about that.

Anyway, this topic has obviously hit a nerve, filling up so quickly (even w.o. my replications!) I guess will soon see how it plays out. I'm reminded of something the actor, Charlton Heston said: "The trouble with movies as a business, is that they are also art. And the trouble with movies as art is that they are also a business.' That's probably never been more true than now-a-days when it comes to violins.

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