Anne Akiko Meyers + Keith Olbermann + Molitor Strad

October 27, 2010 at 10:53 PM ·


October 28, 2010 at 10:22 AM ·

 The gag -- horrendous. The instrument -- beautiful. I had a chance to (briefly) see it in advance of the auction, and it's even more beautiful in person.

I just wish the microphones in the studio could do the violin justice...

October 28, 2010 at 01:28 PM ·

 And by the time has been transmitted, recorded on someone's video, uploaded to YouTube, gone through YT's processing, and then played back on a computer audio system, there might be some slight deterioration in the audio.

October 28, 2010 at 02:52 PM ·

 The gag, although horrendous, was entirely predictable; no TV show of that type is going to pass on an opportunity like that!  I liked the choice of music, slightly out of the ordinary perhaps (someone in the YT comments apparently loathed it), but ideal for showing off that instrument's wonderful singing tone, not to mention Anne Meyers' exquisite playing.

October 28, 2010 at 02:56 PM ·

Of course there was a lot of BS about the Strad.

I was talking to a violinst friend on the blower today and she said that apparently some famous fiddler had said that playing a Strad was "like standing on the edge of the parapet on a 50 storey skyscraper,  and playing a Guanarius del J was like standing with one's feet firmly placed on the earth."


Anyone know who said it?

October 28, 2010 at 03:35 PM ·

I think Ms. Meyers did not understand one of his questions, and missed an opportunity to educate people about the violin.  He commented on how it sometimes sounded like there were multiple instruments playing, rather than just one violin.  This is something of a revelation to non-violinists, who typically do not realize that violinists can play on more than one string at a time.     

October 28, 2010 at 06:24 PM ·

 A note to all of those playing on other violins. Double stops have been trademarked by Stradivarius Inc. and cannot be employed by players of "inferior" instruments.


October 28, 2010 at 07:13 PM ·

Ah, now I understand why I can't scratch no decent ciaccona out of my pink STENTOR VSO.

October 28, 2010 at 09:15 PM ·

<< that playing a Strad was "like standing on the edge of the parapet on a 50 storey skyscraper,  and playing a Guanarius del J was like standing with one's feet firmly placed on the earth." >>

I heard an interview with Rachael Barton Pines recently.  She plays a GuanEri (I capatalized the "E" because guanAri is evidently a venereal disease! )  She said that a Strad sounded crisper and that a Guaneri was more buttery and mellow. 

Bruce - thanks for posting the video.  Even with bad audio, I still enjoyed it!

October 29, 2010 at 05:24 PM ·

AAM has played with my orchestra 3 times now, playing on a different violin every time (a Strad, a Vuillaume, then a different Strad).  She sounds like... herself.  I think the Vuillaume might have been slightly louder than the other two -- but I'm comparing memories from 1996, 2001, and 2008, so I wouldn't trust me.

October 29, 2010 at 07:26 PM ·

 HA! My $150 Chinese cheapie will blow that Strad to smithereens.

October 30, 2010 at 10:32 AM ·

As Nate so rightly says, it is the player and not the instrument that counts. (Even in 4/4 !!)

Playing a Strad/del Jusu/Guadanini/Amati etc is great and adds that extra 1 or 2 percent, and may carry a little further, but in the end its what the player is able to do that is important!

October 30, 2010 at 10:26 PM ·

You have to account for the fact that the fine instrument affects the player greatly, and this is one of the many reasons that pretty much all fine players seek out these instruments. The instrument is capable of so much, and this wider range of possibilities, in turn, opens up the player's abilities. 

October 31, 2010 at 07:24 AM ·


I think this is true. However, certain players will get a lot out of a certain instrument like a Strad, whilst other high powered players may not sound that different, on the very same Strad.

I suppose in the end someone can sound wonderful on a £30,000 ($45,000) instrument and not that different on a $3,600 Strad or Guarnari. I know a quartet leader who sounds wonderful on a "fairly" cheap beaten up Guadanini and I doubt he would sound any better on a Strad costing ten times more. I also know quartet players who have Strads and sound pretty thin and inconsequential! (Don't ask for names ... I'm in enough trouble these days as it is!!)

October 31, 2010 at 10:18 AM ·

Just to add a little more about the value of having a top instrument like a Strad, and this is just a personal opinion, having watched some other youtube clips of Anne Akiko Meyers, I did not really notice much difference in her playing on earlier instruments (no idea what they were) to the new Strad. I may be wrong, because the sound was obviously variable, but sometimes quite good. Also the sample was probably not enough and we need to hear live performances really to judge.

Maybe that's just the point, sometimes it makes little or no difference, but with some players maybe a lot more when playing a Strad/Del Jesu etc.

Maybe I'm arguing against myself, it wouldn't be the first time!

October 31, 2010 at 03:04 PM ·

People give standing ovations every time there's a soloist at orchestra concerts. It doesn't matter how well they played, the audience always thinks it's good. It is the same for strads.

October 31, 2010 at 03:06 PM ·


You may well be correct!!

October 31, 2010 at 03:40 PM ·

Hilary Hahn seems to be doing OK with her Vuillaume... nobody seems to be saying "oh, if only she had a really good violin"  (although she would probably sound great on one of "those")

Tetzlaff used to play a Strad (right?) but now plays a modern instrument and seems to be doing just fine... 

Lara St. John's "Gypsy" CD was recorded on a violin that was one year old (I assume she plays her Guadagnini on the others).

Actually it's very easy to listen to samples via Amazon, incl. AAM and whatever Strad she was playing on at the time, from 1988 to the present.  Considering that Amazon imposes the same crappy sound quality on everyone, it might actually be a pretty fair way to form an opinion.

November 1, 2010 at 08:59 AM ·

It's impossible to tell much about the sound quality from the video, yet one commenter on the Youtube site states,

"as a former violinist of ten years, this video brought me to tears? as the sound of this violin was just mind blowing."

Rather typical of people's reactions when they have prior knowledge of what's being played.


November 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM ·

I need to catch up here. Did Anne Akiko Myers buy the Molitor Strad? Or did someone buy it for her for her to use? Or did she just borrow it for a short time? In any case, I'm surprised. I like her playing. It's warm, senuous and stylish, and I like a number of arrangements that she's recorded. And dare I add - respectfully - that she'a a beautiful woman! But having tried that Strad myself on two occasions (including recently at the auction showing), and having heard others play it, I stand by what I said in the earlier thread on why some Strads are not so good:

To give a brief addendum in this regard to my long blog about the April Tarisio auction  - this October auction features the "Molitor" Strad c. 1690's. I tried it privately more than 10 years ago. Then just the other day, when I heard somone else try it, and when I soon tried it myself, I was amazed at how accurate my memory was from the first time.

Here was not a bad violin. But compared to great classic instruments it left much to be desired for my tastes. It is clear, focused and brilliant, with a silvery quality. That for me is a problem right there - I prefer a golden or red-blooded quality. Of course, as with say wine tasting, none of these adjectives can have the accuracy of a mathematical equation, but hopefully I'm conveying something meaningful. It was brilliant and cutting. A strong soloist could cut through a sympathetic orchestra with it. That's good. But after cutting through, I don't feel that a lot would be delivered to the audience in terms of color, warmth and complexity. I feel that any number of modern violins - including most of those in my own collection have a nicer and more interesting sound than that particular Strad has. On the other hand, once again an Amati was my favorite, with a warm golden tone and  a good deal of complexity - though I wasn't blown away as much by this Amati as I had been by the one in the April sale.

In other words, they are all individuals. I'm sure it will fetch a very decent price. But tone plays a role in the pricing even of Strads, and I'm sure that if the "Soil" Strad - a known great concert violin, beloved of Menhuin, Perlman and their audiences - were to go on the block, it would fetch quite a lot more.

I like almost all of my violins - most of which are contemporary - more than the Molitor that I mentioned above.

Re the Molitor, one maker famliiar with it told me that he thought it had a narrow size, combined with a high, round, stiff arching, which militated against a great sound.

Of course everyone has different tastes and playing styles, but  I've felt this way about that Strad no matter who was playing on it, and so have a number of people in the know. But as long as she likes it...

November 1, 2010 at 11:03 PM ·

 Geeez stop shouting. I'm taking your bold privileges away.

November 2, 2010 at 02:37 AM ·

Sorry! What happened was that I copied and pasted my earlier posts onto a temporary e-mail program to edit. Then it came back like that when I copied and pasted again. Don't know why as it didn't appear that way in that program.

November 2, 2010 at 01:20 PM ·

Ha ha, I found out that you can't do that on this forum. I pasted in text from a Word document once, and it changed the formatting of the entire thread!  Erasing all the text in my post didn't fix it. I had to spend about an hour dinking around with the html in the "source" view.

November 2, 2010 at 06:15 PM ·

Raphael / David:

Do you know if the Molitor is a long pattern Strad ? 

November 2, 2010 at 07:14 PM ·

Well anyway, AAM seems to like it...  I'm sure she will continue sounding fabulous (and wouldn't buy a violin that didn't help her do that).

November 2, 2010 at 09:00 PM ·


I don't think the Molitor is a long pattern.

November 2, 2010 at 11:03 PM ·

Was just wondering, thye year being 1697

November 2, 2010 at 11:24 PM ·

As that anonymous maker explained to me - no, despite its date it's not a long pattern. Or rather, it's not long. He decribed it as a small version of the long pattern, which is why it's probably physically comfortable for Ms. Myers, but what also may contribute to its tight sound.

From what I've since read in Laurie's interview, AAM bought it almost on impulse.  It's genuine. It's in great condition, and maybe previous owners also bought it thinking that all it needs is a bit of adjustment to sound amazing.  But the size, narrowness, arching, etc. are instrinsic factors. That said, it may just happen to be the right instrument for AAM, and I truly hope that she's happy with it for a long time to come.

November 3, 2010 at 08:04 PM ·

Actually I just took another look at the Tarisio October auction catalog that features the Molitor, and it gives a body length of 355. That's not small, and in fact is considered pretty textbook today, isn't it? But it's certainly not a long pattern. I believe that some of those exceded 360! I wish they had listed other measurements. It would be interesting to know about the bouts.

November 3, 2010 at 10:05 PM ·

I don't know whether the following measurements I've just made on my old orchestral violin are relevant to this discussion, but it is a violin with a body length of 360mm.

Bottom of neck to the F-hole nicks: 200mm
Neck length: 125mm
Playing length of strings: 330mm
Top bout: 168mm
Lower bout : 208mm
Middle bout: 110mm
Depth of instrument at the edges of the plates: 39mm 
Overall length from top of scroll to bottom end: 588mm
Width of pegbox at fingerboard end: 24mm

Being an amateur at this I probably haven't got all the terminology correct, but I've endeavored to measure as accurately as I could.  I would have liked to measure the arching, but I'm not sure how.  Anyway, the arching doesn't look too high or too flat. 

November 4, 2010 at 04:23 AM ·

Dimensions (from Tarisio):

Length of back: 35.5 cm
Upper bouts: 16.1 cm
Center bouts: 10.9 cm
Lower bouts: 20.1 cm

Condition report, including dimensions at:

November 4, 2010 at 10:54 AM ·

Huh - those are very narrow, aren't they, esp. the upper bout?

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