When are modern violins not modern violins?

June 28, 2012 at 04:45 PM · This subject was touched upon in another thread. I think it is worth pursuing further.

If one was to purchase a new violin today, how long would it take before it had a "mature tone"? 5, 10, 40 , 50, 100, 200 years? What do readers think?

I think new and old violins sound different and I am not wanting to debate which is better.

I have both old and semi- modern violins. I prefer the semi-modern which is thirty years old.

Cheers Carlo

Replies (83)

June 28, 2012 at 04:56 PM · ... and starts the second round ...

my violin will complete one year in August. and it is for me the best violin in the world

June 28, 2012 at 05:58 PM · Certainly many decades for the natural resins in the wood to crystallise, and leave resonating space in the fibres, and lighten but not weaken the plates); for the glue in the purfling to dry out and liberate the plate-vibrations; for the players vibrations to imprint themselves in the wood (proven!); for the wood to deform slightly under the string pressure...

Well-seasoned wood will help. Over-thin plates will imitate older, dryer, thicker ones for several months, bur will eventually deform undr the varios stresses and sound less.

The lighter, cellular structure of older wood, with suffient thickness, will render best the silky "bloom" of the tone. The power and projection are less affected by age.

How do I know? Observation, plus a good grounding in acoustics, and much reading (e.g. C.M. Hutchins)

June 28, 2012 at 06:04 PM · Not answering your question, but I thought modern violins are the violins that were made in the 20th century by makers who are now deceased. The violins made by living makers are called contemporary violins. This was according to one violin maker I talked to.

June 28, 2012 at 06:10 PM · "for the players vibrations to imprint themselves in the wood this proven!)"

Yes, and there are fairies and angels all around us ;-)

June 28, 2012 at 07:31 PM · Joyce, you may be right, but I would describe a violin by a 20th century maker, now deceased, as a semi-modern.

Cheers Carlo

June 28, 2012 at 07:57 PM · Tobias, poetry apart, at a microscopic level, the fibres re-arrange themselves. But I like to believe in fairies some of the time!

June 28, 2012 at 09:46 PM · Old good violins are better than modern bad violins. Modern good violins are better than old bad violins.

I sell mostly to players who own an old instrument. Here in this photo two players of the Gewandhaus Leipzig give a look in my viola in the Musikvereine, Viena, where it made its debut when it was less than an month old, the player's former viola was an old one.

June 28, 2012 at 09:58 PM · Of the subject, but Mr Manfio I am intrigued by your brige with a lot of wood at the top?

June 28, 2012 at 10:03 PM · I use a very high bridge in my violas.

June 28, 2012 at 10:11 PM · Adrian wrote:

"Tobias, poetry apart, at a microscopic level, the fibres re-arrange themselves."

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A citation, please?

June 28, 2012 at 10:15 PM · These are Szeryng's words:

"What are the problems concerning antique violins?

I have talked at length with experts. The result is extremely simple. The material seasons and ages. With time the wood becomes more venerable... but ultimately ... too old.

It does not exactly decay, but cerainly does not improve, and loses elasticity.

I mostly play one of my two modern violins.

With all due respect, we must not forget that the finest classical violins are at least 250 years old. I am an incurable optimist, but I'm convinced that the Stradivaris, the Guarneris, the Amatis, the Grancinos, the Ruggeris, the Gaglianos and the Stainers will not be "playable" much longer unless they are completely restored.

This then gives rise to the problem of whether such an instrument can still be considered antique and original or whether instead it is the restorer who has bestowed upon that violin its balanced timbre and sonorousness, rather than the violinmaker who made it.

Consequently, the question arises of whether it is not more practical to resort from the beggining to a new instrument" (FRNAKFURTER ALLGEMEINE, Magazine, 30.01.87)

And in the Strad, september, 1988, we will find:

"In his final period, in addition to the "Le Duc, he (Szeryng) played on two French violins, one by Pierre Hel made in 1922 and the other by Jean Bauer, a comtemporary maker."

June 28, 2012 at 10:18 PM · Luis, I couldn't agree more with your first sentence In your first post.

Luis and David. As your instruments come back for adjustments over the years, how do you find they change over time?

Cheers Carlo

June 28, 2012 at 10:19 PM · Sorry, double post

June 28, 2012 at 11:47 PM · "Luis and David. As your instruments come back for adjustments over the years, how do you find they change over time?"

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Carlo, I believe they do change, but need to follow that with a lot of caveats and qualifiers.

Many of us in the fiddle business, who hang out with a lot of other fiddle makers and have contact with the researchers, "know" less than we once did. I don’t mean that we’re getting more ignorant, but that when one stays open to learning, some beliefs will need to be cast aside in light of new information. Our training, some of it based on 300 years of “word of mouth” and anecdotes, has turned out to be less than rock-solid and timeless.

Detailed memory for sound over long time spans isn’t good, unless one has had a great deal of exposure to that sound, like a family member’s voice. My Dad’s voice has certainly changed over the years. I still recognize it in an instant, but it’s not the same voice he had when he was 30. The changes might not jump out at me unless I thought about it, or played back-to-back recordings from over the years.

I’ll say more later when I have more time, but in the meantime, here’s one study which was done on “playing in”, which didn’t find big changes. It’s not perfect, and it's only one study (we're working on doing better, but there's not a lot of money allocated for fiddle studies) but it might be something worth entering into the mix with dogma, beliefs, marketing ploys and anecdotes.

http://www.phys.unsw.edu.au/jw/powerhousetwins.html

June 29, 2012 at 01:30 AM · Many players are afraid that some contemporary instruments have overthinned plates and that the sound will deteriorate with time. In my opinion, when the plates are overthinned its consequences can be noted as soon as the instrument is finished in the form of a rather hollow sonority, the basses will be bad in the upper positions of the G string (wolves, hollow sonority), the dynamic range will be too narrow and the instrument will choke when played with the bow near the bridge in fortissimo.

Another possibility of the "sound deterioration" theory is that when the player buys the instrument he is still not mature enougth to judge instruments. So it is "fantastic violin" when he gets it, fantastic to the technique and reperoire the player have in the time he got it. After 5 years the player starts studying virtuoso pieces, he is a much better player now and he discovers that the C in the 7th position of the G string is quite bad, so the "sound deteriorated". As a matter of fact the problem was there since the instrument was made and it was the player - who was not exploring this notes at that time - who was not able to spot the problem.

Other, more prosaic reasons for sound deterioration are a bad set up (someone decided to "improve" the soundpost and bridge...), bad string choice and old strings, some professional players develop a tolerance to old strings and that will "kill" the sound, of course.

June 29, 2012 at 02:20 AM · One problem with quantifying this subject is: how mature is mature? In my experience, it depends a lot on the individual instrument. In a blindfold or behind-the-screen test, if you were to compare one of my Vittorio Villa violins and one or two of my Ed Maday violins, with the Kreisler del Gesu or the Molitor Strad - both of which I tried extensively - I truly believe that most listeners would pick those particular classic violins as the new instruments, and those particular new instruments as the older ones. I'm not saying otherwise better or worse. These specific examples were carefully considered.

But on the average, as to the question of how long it takes for a violin to reach peak efficiency and its full pallette of complex overtones that it's capable of - the Hills, Francais and Moening have all said 20-50 years of almost (the Hills amended that a bit) constant playing. However, with all due respect to these distinguished folks, it is my personal experience with owning many contemporary violins that I'd feel comfortable taking off the zeros. Certainly, with a good, well made and well set-up violin that is well and intensely played, you easily know what you're dealing with within a couple of years or so. It may not have reached quite its full potential, but the increments will get more subtle after that approximate point.

BTW - David speaks of a "detailed memory for sounds" or lack thereof. That's why I keep a file and log on every violin that I have, noting any adjustments, changes in its tonal development, etc. It's very helpful.

June 29, 2012 at 08:33 AM · Years ago there was a 'cellist in the Hallé Orchestra (Manchester, UK) who was also a trained maker.

One of his stories was that he had a new Bisiach 'cello sent over which he bought. He didn't get along too well with it, to the point that he seriously considered getting the wood thinned. Undecided, he left the instrument in the case for 10 years; then, to his surprise, it seemed miraculously improved.

I have a viola bought new nearly 20 years ago. I hardly ever play it - but the sound now seems more open and direct than it did when absolutely new. I begin to suspect that in the early years of a fiddle's life there might be some age-related changes independent of the amount of playing.

With a violin bought new and used regularly (even in the Vienna Musikverein, no less !) I think 10 years elapsed before colleagues stopped treating me as an idiot for buying it and began commenting favourably on the noise it made.

I auditioned for my first job (successfully) on an English made violin that was scarcely one month old. The panel commented favourably - but 18 months in it became louder and less even, indeed it seemed very different from the thing I'd bought. I read somewhere (maybe Heron-Allen) of "the beguiling softness of new work". A new instrument will give a tantalising glimpse of how it will be many years hence; but before it softens to maturity it should get louder. I've had no reason to doubt this - since losing my old Vuillaume in divorce I have bought and kept a few new fiddles and this seems to be borne out by my personal experience.

On another violinist.com thread listeners were asked to compare sound-clips of new versus old fiddles, and I think most preferred the recorded sound of the new - indeed,indeed writing about a Strad as if they thought it "clapped out". The advantages to a player of a mature instrument are none too obvious to listeners, I suspect.

As stated elsewhere, my 1974 Lucci violin is beginning to seem "Mature". It's well-wooded, and not long ago it seemed tinny, reluctant to open out. But I have seen new violins reviewed in The Strad described as "mature" sounding - a Morassi comes to mind. Possibly that's the "beguiling softness of blah blah" (which helps sell new stuff) but one can never be entirely sure.

I've encountered quite a few players who, 2 years or so after purchasing an new fiddle, find themselves unnacountably uncomfortable with it. Instead of waiting for nature to take it's course they will do as I did and sell the thing - or worse, take it in to be "retoned".

This is not a scientific article - please make allowances for possible age-related cognitive impairment and hearing loss on my part.

Cheers, DB

June 29, 2012 at 10:27 AM · Lyndon: Raphael wrote: "I'm not saying otherwise better or worse."

Why are you talking about "beating" a stradivari then? I think your attitude of good (old) and bad (new) is not helpful at all. As I said before in the other thread: Violins above a certain quality level are a matter of taste. When I try a new violin, I first look if all notes are playable (up g string especially) Then I check the evenness and dynamic range and the possibility of dfferent colours. Note: I do not check the colour of the Violin itself but what it is able to sound like in my hands. Some suite me, some don't. And still there could be the same "quality" in those two cases.

I don't know why you so stubborn about this subject!?

June 29, 2012 at 11:32 AM · Lyndon: Simon pretty much beat me to it. I also said that it depends on the individual instrument and that my specific examples were very carefully considered, having extensively tried both the Kreisler del Gesu and the Molitor Strad. I've also played on about 5 other Strads, 1 other del Gesu, a few Amatis and a few Guadagninis, etc. At a recent auction showing, one of my Villas beat out the Von der Leyon Strad - a conclusion shared by 2 other professional string players with nothing to gain or lose. At another auction showing, I and a colleague preffered the sound of a particular Biziach to a Strad. Certainly I had no axe to grind there. I neither owned nor intended to bid on either one. Maybe my all time favorite violin - at least as it struck me at the time, was a particular Amati at yet another auction showing. What does this say? That I'm not esconced in either camp in the old vs new debate, and that it depends on the individual instrument. Besides playing on so many high-end violins, I've performed as a professional soloist on the stages of Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center, and have released 2 professionally made solo CD's. How many Strads have you tried? Do you even play at a professional level?

Everyone else - sorry. I really don't like getting on my high horse, but there comes a time...

June 29, 2012 at 12:11 PM · Lydon wrote:

" plus antiques almost always go up in value, at least with inflation, modern drop 50% in value the minute you walk out the dealers door."

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Rubbish.

With both antique and modern fiddles, it depends on the instrument, where you buy it, condition, whether it turns out to be what it was sold as, and a host of other factors.

June 29, 2012 at 12:23 PM · We talk a lot about Strads, Del Gesùs, etc., but when we go to the backstage of orchestras we don't see these violins...

From what I see today if a player can afford a good contemporary instrument it is quite a good thing because most players today most players are obliged to play rather humble instruments, even in good orchestras.

We have to live within our reality. But I may be wrong.

June 29, 2012 at 12:42 PM · "We talk a lot about Strads, Del Gesùs, etc., but when we go to the backstage of orchestras we don't see these violins..."

Manfio;

Certainly not in all orchestras, but still in several. Try going backstage in San Francisco. In other words, there is still more than one reality...

I honestly don't have much I wish to offer concerning the transition of a "new" instrument to an "old" one. I think the threshold depends on perception... and therefore a bit contentious.

To Lyndon;

I have to admit, I'm a little disturbed by the drum-beating on this thread (and others), Lyndon. I find the constant hum a distraction from the discussion.

Why isn't it enough that you prefer old things yourself. Plenty of players are with you... It's not a religion or politics, it's simply a preference. Those who don't agree with you aren't going to suffer an eternity of pain (at least not for that reason!) or end up overturning a broccoli mandate (or tax, if you prefer).

There are some great contemporary instruments out there as well (that have very decent resale histories, BTW), and frankly, if I were making my living playing and didn't have a boatload of money, I'd be looking at them carefully. I'm admittedly very selective, but I've been known to offer a few... and the clients who own them are quite pleased with them.

Maybe in the price range you work in you have some frustration with the competition of low price imports, or clients who seem uneducated in the market... but putting out a product that serves your client base is the key, I think. Satisfying yourself only goes so far. Try listening to good players, even when they're saying things you don't want to hear, and then make your product excel. If I were only to sell instruments that met my own tastes exclusively, I'd have a shop full of unsold fiddles.

June 29, 2012 at 12:54 PM · Lyndon;

BS. You're mixing markets, mixing instrument categories, speaking about things you really don't deal with, and making generalizations to boot. As far as I can see, no one here is talking Strad vs all comers.... and there are as many crappy older instruments out there as newer ones. Comparing old $2,000 - $5,000 fiddles to a Stradivari in terms of construction and workmanship might indicate that you need a stronger eyeglass prescription.

As far as reading V.com, I occasionally check in. I honestly have no difficulty with those here who advocate new instruments by the high end makers. Many make very nice fiddles. These makers are still living, and making more fiddles, so there is not the same market incentive as with an old Italian violin, but they don't cost as much either. I've suggested that a number of makers list their high-risk behavior on their websites to help support demand/value, but I don't think they've taken me seriously. :-)

Frankly, I dont see any threat to the old instrument market from a group, or groups, of players who are happy with contemporary violins. The really fine, uncorrupted, classic instruments are rare... and even in this economy there is plenty of demand for them. Those that sit on the shelves may still be there for many reasons (good/bad). Some may not be as nice as the owners or dealers want to believe, or the dealer doesn't have the ability to reach the appropriate market for them. Others that linger may be overpriced (greed is present in any industry). Some may be mis-evaluated. I have a couple I list now and then, but honestly can't bring myself to let go of yet (I keep trying, but fail to do what needs to be done in the end).

The kicker is; If the market truly did shift to a preference for new, rather than old, instruments... it's just the market. You'd have a choice to follow it or not. I don't see that happening at all, frankly, and I'm happy that the market is in a place where some of today's gifted makers can make and sell their instruments for enough to prevent their cupboards from being taken over by ramen noodle packages.

Sorry to Carlo for side tracking a bit. My motives were good ones, I promise. :-)

June 29, 2012 at 01:07 PM · Jeffrey, I enjoyed reading your post, no apologies necessary. It is always good to read a comment by someone who knows what he is talking about.

Lyndon, you have a vested interest in promoting old violins as that is your business. If the old is always better bubble burst, where would your work go?

Modern violins can be a fantastic investment too. I bought my Cap ten years ago at £17K and one sold recently at auction for £54K. Tell me any other work tool that can go up in value like that whilst being used to earn money. And no, it was not made in China, although I have no problem with Chinese violins.

I have no ax to grind. I have both old Italian and modern Italian instruments. I personally prefer the sound and response of my newer violins. Would a Strad be better? I'm sure many would be.

Re: Your Tyrolean/Italian violin. Why not take it to an expert and find out who made it? Then you can sell it as Italian and not a maybe.

Could we now go back to the subject of how violins change over time. Please...

Cheers Carlo

June 29, 2012 at 01:08 PM · For those who don't know Jeffrey Holmes, he's one of the actual authorities in our instrument trade. He sells both old and new.

June 29, 2012 at 01:58 PM · "you modern violin people have just been taking over the board and talking a lot of rubbish IMO, why would you want to pay 30,000usd for some modern italian that probably started its life in china, when you could easily find a beautiful antique that sounded as good or better for 10,000usd"

The implication that anyone who plays a newish violin, particularly an Italian one, is automatically an idiot is, frankly, offensive.

I know personally the makers of the last few fiddles I bought - I've had photos of the timber emailed to me before construction even began and exchanged correspondence about thicknesses, varnish etc.; I'm positive they weren't made in China and I didn't pay anywhere near $30k.

We all have to bite the bullet and get the best we can afford; any "old Italian" on the market for $10k is almost certainly clapped out, IM extremely HO.

I'm certainly NOT banging on about the superiority of new versus old, indeed I used an ancient Vuillaume for many years - but I can't afford one like that now. The supply of old Italians particularly in viable physical condition is small and the prices accordingly steep, as Jeffrey Holmes explained.

New fiddles need evaluation, which is an interesting process, and professionals need to contribute their opinions so that "History" can judge them fairly in due course.

Cheers, DB.

June 29, 2012 at 02:53 PM · Lyndon, if your expert is recognised and will write a paper for it as definantly Italian, the price should be 30K and you can sell it for that. I have heard from dealers how people have tried and liked a violin, but did not buy it because they wanted to spend more. Conversely, if no one will say it IS Italian you mis-represent it by saying that it might be.

Now, about how violins develop...

Cheers Carlo

June 29, 2012 at 03:10 PM · "Now, about how violins develop..."

Yes, indeed. Let's hear it, folks.

June 29, 2012 at 03:19 PM · Question for David, Jeffrey, Claudio...: Almost all "old" instruments are now set up to fill larger halls than existed when they were made. Their 'terms of projection' have been changed a lot (even though I remember reading that, originally, violins were considered 'outdoor' instruments because when compared with the viol family, they were considered too strident for chamber music).

I'm guessing modern instruments are built to fill those modern halls 'naturally,' even when they are modeled on/copied from the patterns of the old instruments.

Since Strads, Amati, Guarneri, etc., were not made to be played under 'modern' conditions, what does that say about the possible development over the years of contemporary violins, made to sound (when new) as close to the old instruments do when old? does that make any sense? I'm juggling with something I don't quite have the language for.

June 29, 2012 at 03:28 PM · Lyndon;

I accept you may not have intended it, but I think if you re-read your own original unedited post you'll see how someone might infer an indirect comparison. It's the way, and order, in which you presented your information (I'd call it ranting). I really don't want to continue this on Carlo's thread, so I'd appreciate it if we can at least make an effort to address his question.

In an effort to do so:

I'd say that the perception in the trade concerning what's "old", in general, is about 150 years. In texts (like the Blot books) and documents one will often see makers like Rocca & Pressenda listed as "Modern Italian". It's certainly arguable. In truth, I personally think of these makers as a "link" between the classic makers and more contemporary methods/styles.... I consider Vuillaume similarly. Of course this is a line drawn and determined in terms of construction and period, and does not answer the question of sound/tonal maturity... an area I'm still not willing to step into. Call me chicken. :-)

June 29, 2012 at 05:47 PM · David Burgess, I read the article you placed as a link. The conclusion seems to be, that after three years of playing there is no measurable change. The problem is too short a time scale, and too small a sample. To do this long term, with a big enough sample, would cost a huge amount, and the results would be available to our great grand children. Still it is an interesting study.

A question for makers, do your older instruments sound better than your brand new ones? I realise this isn't a fair question as you will be changing models, improving varnishes etc over time, and each violin has it's own sound anyway.

Cheers Carlo

June 29, 2012 at 05:50 PM · Marjory, I'll take a stab at a couple of things.

We don't know what Strads originally sounded like. There are some accounts of how they compared with other instruments around that period, but even if we set them up with original setups, hundreds of years have elapsed since the instruments were made.

On contemporary instruments, some makers can target various kinds of sound. In other cases, they do what they do, and it happens to fit a certain segment of the market. What soloists like is sometimes quite different from what section players like. For example, I recently had two violins here side by side, which sounded quite similar. Neither has a sound which could be described as "soothing" under the ear. One belongs to the concertmaster of a major orchestra. The other was sent out on approval, and run by some section players in another major orchestra. They not only didn't care for it, but I picked up some hints that their negative reaction was pretty strong.

Some orchestras have a characteristic sound they want to maintain, and instrument acquisitions are expected to blend into that sound and help maintain it. I recently had to take the adjustment back a few notches on a viola I'd made to get it to fit in with the section. I don't care for it that way, but it's not my viola any more, and it has a job to do. Jeffrey knows which one I'm talking about, because he does quite a bit of work for the Cleveland Orchestra string players.

I think there are contemporary makers who can make an "old" sound if they want to (whatever that means, it's a rather nebulous term), and other makers who would rather give a hard-playing soloist a good axe. A fiddle (and a playing technique) which gives a listener happy ears 3 feet away isn't necessarily the same thing that gives an audience happy ears out in a hall. ;-)

Occasionally, I get players who want an old sound, and to them, that means a fuzzy or unfocused sound. I don't like to make fiddles like that any more.

June 29, 2012 at 06:15 PM · "A question for makers, do your older instruments sound better than your brand new ones? I realise this isn't a fair question as you will be changing models, improving varnishes etc over time, and each violin has it's own sound anyway."

I don't know. It depends on who you ask. I like the newer ones better, otherwise I wouldn't continue to incorporate some changes I have made. But there was this associate concertmaster who thought he just had to have a particular one I'd made 25 or 30 years ago. I didn't want to sell it, partly because it had sentimental value. The owner had passed away, and I'd purchased it from his estate. But the violinist kept bugging me and bugging me... so it's just another axe now. Wah.

June 29, 2012 at 06:21 PM · David, interesting comment regarding orchestral sound. I use my Castello when I want to blend into a section and the Capicchioni when I play solo, for just those reasons.

Cheers Carlo

June 29, 2012 at 06:24 PM · David;

Thanks for digging in on Marjory's question... 'cause I have very limited time today... and I think it was a good question.

I'd agree with David, and have said some similar things at various times... I think it's also appropriate to point out that the "voices" in certain orchestras vary a bit depending on the music directors tastes... especially when it comes to the wind players... and I notice the pitch of the A has increased slightly in some orchestras.

Things can go a number of different ways. Maybe an interesting story for some: I have a client who owned a very nice Turin fiddle in grad school. Lots of projection, plenty of flexibility, pleasing character, bright and clear. He loved it. He was doing a lot of concerto work, playing recitals, and performing in a couple good quartets. Out of grad school, he nailed a job with a major orchestra. 6 months went by and I got a call. "Jeff, I'm having trouble getting my fiddle to work in the section". It turns out he couldn't get it to be subtle enough at low volume. We ended up finding him another fiddle in the end. A Jack Lott. Again, a very nice violin, maybe a bit more subdued/warmer, but it was still clear, spoke very easily and he was much more comfortable within the section. He acquired the "right" violin for his use, within the framework of what was required by his job.

I think active makers, who know what they are doing, have an enviable ability to adjust the instruments they are making to the needs of the market at any particular time. Not that a good violin for now won't be good in 5 minutes. Things just don't change that quickly and needs/tastes vary too much within the industry. I think a good violin, properly maintained, will remain a good violin.

String technology has it's place in all this as well (for both newer and older fiddles). We've seen a good number of new choices enter the market in the last decade. There are other things too... more subtle maybe... neck angles etc. that vary with the players needs and tastes.

BTW: I don't think David is saying that old fiddles are necessarily "fuzzy", just that some players perceive "old sound" in that way... Actually, I think of many of the better older violins as rather punchy and clear.

June 29, 2012 at 06:44 PM · Right. You get some players who don't have much experience with the better old fiddles.

People can form conclusions from average or bad old fiddles, just like they can form conclusions from average or bad new ones. It's tough to generalize about either category when both have such a broad spread.

June 29, 2012 at 10:30 PM · If you made a violin from wood cut in the 1700s would it have 'old violin' quality? Or would the violin date from the day it was constructed?

I ask because the face plate of my violin is from a beam from an old building (victorian I guess - late 19thC I suppose). Does it have a head start on aging?

I'm the first owner and its definitely settled in over the first 1-2 yrs to become more mellow.

June 29, 2012 at 11:23 PM · Carlo asked: "A question for makers, do your older instruments sound better than your brand new ones? I realise this isn't a fair question as you will be changing models, improving varnishes etc over time, and each violin has it's own sound anyway."

To add to what David said, in my case, it varies a lot. Most of my new ones sound better than most of my older ones, partly because I've gotten better at it. BUT, the older ones have changed somewhat erratically. Some have improved very noticeably, as David Beck mentioned, without being played. Others have changed little. Not many have gotten worse, although I can't say that none have. (I may be unusual, because I still have nearly all of the first 20 or so I made.)

I do get nervous when somebody wants to buy a brand new one, which has happened, because I don't know what it is going to do. I've been lucky so far, but you never know.

June 29, 2012 at 11:25 PM · "If you made a violin from wood cut in the 1700s would it have 'old violin' quality?"

Short answer, NO.

June 29, 2012 at 11:33 PM · "If you made a violin from wood cut in the 1700s would it have 'old violin' quality?

I'll agree with Lyle. It's been tried numerous times, and seems to offer no benefit.

Except that violins are better if they have a story behind them, so it's good for that. LOL

June 30, 2012 at 02:03 AM · "my violins already been to a top expert, hes the one that said it was most likely italian, and definetly not german or eastern european, he said if it is italian its worth a minimum of 30,000usd and if we could identify the maker 50,000+, so worst case scenario, its not italian and your paying full price for it at 12,000, otherwise its an incredible bargain,..."

If I had a nickel for every time I heard that old one. Let's face it: every old instrument in every shop is really an old Italian (the "expert" said so) but we can't prove it so you're getting the deal of a lifetime! Really worth $100,000, but if you buy it TODAY you can have it for $5000! Such a deal!

June 30, 2012 at 02:08 AM · As someone with a science background, I would love to see a well-constructed, double-blinded study of perhaps 25 violins.

Maybe a few del Gesu, a few Strads, an Amati, a Vuillaume etc... then 1 each of perhaps 15 top-notch living makers, and maybe a pair of $300 Chinese violins thrown in for the hell of it.

The same musical passages would be played on all instruments by the same violinist, and the blinded panel picking for "quality" would be composed of professional violinists, some of who include those with much experience playing the 200+ year old masterpieces, and some of who that haven't had that means or opportunity.

My supposition is that a statistical analysis of the results would find that the professional musicians wouldn't consistently (key word) be able to pick the $600,000, $1.2M and $2.5M instruments apart from the $6,000, $12,000, and $25,000 instruments.

The "risk" of such a study of course, is that there is much to lose in the high-end world of violins and auctions etc... if it could almost definitively be proven that the benefits of uber-expensive violins are not substantial to that of expertly crafted moderns by top makers. I'd also guess it might be tough to recruit famous violinists to serve as judges, because they might view it embarrassingly if they judged a new $10,000 violin as superior to a $1,000,000 instrument.

And frankly, given how relatively simple it would be to conduct such a study as or somewhat similar to the above, I believe the biggest reason it has never really been done is due to some of the "risks" I mentioned. There is really no vested interest in running such a study, as there is little to gain but knowledge, but potentially much financially to lose.

June 30, 2012 at 02:18 AM · Someone who has a scientific background should know better than to throw around suppositions and beliefs.

You're implying that all of those world-class musicians who have chosen old instruments are silly asses who don't know any better.

June 30, 2012 at 03:09 AM · Scott Cole says: "You're implying that all of those world-class musicians who have chosen old instruments are silly asses who don't know any better."

-----------------

Ummm? No; I didnt say that, at all in fact.

Someone should read for content, and when possible, not extrapolate beyond exactly what was stated. Perhaps give it a re-read.

June 30, 2012 at 03:24 AM · There are definite measurable acoustic changes that happen in the first few weeks after an instrument is strung up, presumably due to settling and microcreep related effects. After that, varnish continues to affect things for several more months (or years?), depending on what was used. Then there is the slower breakdown and/or polymerization of hemicellulose and other non-crystaline materials in the wood, causing changes in density, stiffness, and damping.

All of these processes are of a continuous nature, never totally stopping, but gradually declining over time. So I don't know how you could put brackets around new, contemporary, modern, mature, or old. It's all a continuum, but certainly the first year or two should have the most dramatic changes.

June 30, 2012 at 05:55 AM · A professional orchestral player in my area had to turn his own fiddle over to the repairers for the day and was offered the use of a concertmaster's violin, which happened to be Girolamo Amati II already about 250 years old.

He couldn't play it; he found it intolerably harsh.

The "maturity" in a violin like this refers more to an improvement in efficiency than a change towards a soft and woolly sound.

David B. and Jeffrey H. have dealt with this "horses for courses" aspect brilliantly; this is very relevant to this OP. Hi-jacking Carlo's thread with an agenda of debunking the subject and promoting a dangerous brand of tub-thumping fundamentalism isn't helping.

Time and use will never change a bright instrument into a "dark sounding" one. The character is there from day one but the true worth of a fiddle emerges as physical changes outlined by various posters take place. IMHO.

As David Burgess outlined, players can have erroneous expectations. He wrote "Right. You get some players who don't have much experience with the better old fiddles."

The learning-curve for players is long and arduous, indeed. The literature likes to tell us e.g. that Strads are useless, wood too thin; Guarneris hopeless, wood too thick. With that sort of info as starting-point it's little wonder young players turn up at dealerships in a confused state !

June 30, 2012 at 07:15 AM · "My supposition is that a statistical analysis of the results would find that the professional musicians wouldn't consistently (key word) be able to pick the $600,000, $1.2M and $2.5M instruments apart from the $6,000, $12,000, and $25,000 instruments."

Benedict, here is what you said. The first thing is that it's your supposition and not based on any evidence. The second is that, according to your "supposition," professionals can't tell the difference between, basically, ANY price level. Really? Why even limit the floor to $6000? Just say that no one can tell any violins from any other violins and leave it at that.

June 30, 2012 at 07:15 AM · When I wrote "at a microscopic level, the fibres re-arrange themselves." David Burgess wrote "A citation, please?"

I'm still hunting through my many downloaded articles! I had read that certain molecule chains are torn by the vibrations, allowing freer resonance, and slowly re-form if the violin is not played. But they will re-form slghtly differently according to the tone of the player.

Doesn't a miracle remains a miracle, even if it is explained?

June 30, 2012 at 07:29 AM · i recall that, in his book, arnold steinhardt sold his pressenda because he found that, at that time,although it was a robust instrument, the violin was not so versatile (if i recall correctly). after many years of maturation (his maturation, not the violin's), he came across the same violin and found it to be as versatile as he wanted it to be. perhaps the underlying sentiment was that people change more dramatically than a violin (kept in good condition).

so, i can see David Burgess' and Jeffrey's points within that context i.e choosing an appropriate instrument would occur at the intersection of a violinists own maturation with that of a violin's existent and expected maturation.

June 30, 2012 at 11:17 AM · What, Lyndon's still banging his drum on a different topic? LOL

A little more on changes:

As Don said, there are dramatic changes in sound which take place when a violin is first put under string tension. When a new violin is first strung up, I'm always curious to see how it turned out, and have the urge to play it and do some sound adjustment. But it's really a wast of time. It will be different the next day.

After a couple of weeks, it's starting to get to the point where you have an idea what you've got, and it will hold an adjustment for several days or a week. After a month under tension, it might not need attention for a year or so. This assumes that when the instrument was first strung up, the varnish had already dried to a stable state. If the varnish keeps changing, that's a whole nother wild card. I like to have violins strung up for at least a couple of months before they go out the door so the player has something pretty stable.

Longer term, I don't have much solid and totally objective to offer, and I'd rather not rely on subjective opinions. I've tried making periodic recordings and comparing them, but even a tiny change in microphone position, or a closet door positioned differently can produce bigger changes in the recorded sound than subtle changes in the violin.

Well, maybe one observation or two:

When purchasing a newer violin, I think it's better to purchase something slightly on the "tight" side of your taste. I don't mean "bad", but on the tight side of what you find acceptable. I think they tend to get "looser" with time (and maybe playing, but it's hard to separate the two), and if you start with something loose, it may get floppy. This progression probably happens with older instruments too, but I'd expect that the rate of change would be slower.

More caveats (I just can't make it simple, can I)? :-)

I think it's possible to build an instrument with a wide enough range of adjustment potential to accommodate most of these changes. I'd rather build a violin which starts out pretty stiff (it can still sound excellent right away, but that requires some extreme adjustment tricks), and then over the next hundred years or so, there's enough latitude in the adjustment to keep it pretty consistent.

That's about all I have time for for a while. Jeffrey and I have a teaching gig at Oberlin College which starts tomorrow.

June 30, 2012 at 03:14 PM · The Hill's book on the Guarneri family quotes from Louis Spohr (1784-1859) who in 1817-17 had the opportunity to try 4 Stradivaris in new and unused condition "as if just finished".

The Hills state that he concluded his account of his trial of these with the following:-

"Their tone is full and powerful, but still new and woody, and they must be played on for ten years at least to become first-rate".

Note that this trial took place some 80 years after Stradivari's death. Even Strads didn't all fly off the shelves - indeed I understand there were nearly 100 unsold instruments remaining in the workshop at the time of his death. Someone must have been spreading "anti new Italian" propaganda even way back then. No names.

Cheers, DB.

July 1, 2012 at 01:04 AM · Maybe these four instruments were still available, new and unused, because they weren't that great in the first place?

I have no way of knowing. Just presenting alternate ways of looking at the situation.

July 1, 2012 at 01:12 AM · Many players - even professionals - are not looking for sound, they are looking for beauty and pedigree. I will quote the Hills:

"An ugly or even plain instrument, though excellent in tone, is again and again rejected. Many may view this statement with incredulity; it is nevertheless strictly true, and the statement is the outcome of innumerable experiences." (see the chapter on varnish on the book about Stradivari).

July 1, 2012 at 03:09 AM · "i think a double blind test of really good 30,000usd antiques vs really good 30,000usd moderns would be a toss up too, these tests are designed for shock value, not accuracy"

These phrases/terms are incompatible in a statement:

"I think"

+

"double blind"

+

"would be"

Either you do a double-blind, scientific test or you don't. Making predictions based on your pre-existing belief system is meaningless .

July 1, 2012 at 03:26 AM · David Beck said:

Note that this trial took place some 80 years after Stradivari's death. Even Strads didn't all fly off the shelves

---------------------------------

But isnt it true that "Strad" wasnt "Strad" until something like ~80 years after his death? Or am I mistaken? I had never heard the above "pristine Strad" info, but given I dont think he came to be worshiped of sorts until well long after he was dead, that might not be surprising.

July 1, 2012 at 03:29 AM · There is a bigger problem [with scientific tests]. Science is only as good as the quality of its measurements - the more impartial the better its predictive ability. Thus, you can measure the speed of a nuclear particle and define its qualities because those things are truly objective. The more science strays into the subjective the harder it is to make predictive conclusions (a conclusion is only as good as its predictive ability).

If we had a measure of tone that could be quantified objectively then it would be almost trivial to test whether an old violin sounds better than a new one. However, all we have is opinion - 'I think' and that is not really a measurable quantity (hence all the problems wiht olympics of artistic (e.g. ice dancing) sports.

I think the best science can do is to say that 'most people' or if you like 'most professional violinists' (where 'professional (or whatever catagory) has to be defined rather arbitrarily) prefer violin type A. But there will always be another catagory of people that might well prefer the opposite.

IMO its not a realm for scientific evaluation - any more than doing a scientific test of whether picasso was a better painter than van gogh....

July 1, 2012 at 03:36 AM · Scott Cole said:

The first thing is that it's your supposition and not based on any evidence. The second is that, according to your "supposition," professionals can't tell the difference between, basically, ANY price level.

----------------------------------------

I think you're looking way to deeply into this. For starters, you're ignoring "consistently" which I even tried to denote with "key word" for emphasis. Yes, some experts might be expected to be more discerning, but I expect other experts would not be.

Also, you're incorrect to fault my "supposition" as unscientific. Another (fancier) term for supposition, is the scientific term, "hypothesis".

And frankly, I think you do a disservice to the craftsmanship of the modern maker to suggest that the $12,000 or $25,000 violin, if you're so 100% sure in confidence that the "professionals" would with frequency be able to tell apart those 12k and 25k instruments from ones many multiples more expensive in price.

At least I admit to being somewhat uncertain and would love to see such a double-blinded study conducted. I'd love to hear your supposition for your confidence that professionals COULD with some statistically significant frequency tell apart the $25,000 violin from the $2.5M violin (and I say that with honest interest and not sarcasm).

July 1, 2012 at 03:49 AM · Elise said:

Science is only as good as the quality of its measurements - the more impartial the better its predictive ability.........The more science strays into the subjective the harder it is to make predictive conclusions.

-----------------------------------------------

Elise makes several fantastic points.

Yes, this would be, by nature, a very subjective study. And she's correct that with increasing subjectivity, scientific findings necessarily do tend to decrease in value so to speak.

But if we are to believe that certain "experts" in violin and music etc... do in fact exist (and I think we all do believe this), then at some level I think we also have to trust their judgement (and ears) as experts in the field.

July 1, 2012 at 05:10 AM · To answer the original question, I would put an estimate somewhere near Raphael's as to how long it takes a new instrument to show what direction it's going: 1 or 2 years. I have only commissioned one instrument, and it went through quite a bit of change in its first year then not so much thereafter. My conversations with innumerable colleagues over the years have confirmed this ballpark figure. I think that if you wait around much longer than that to see significant change, you could be waiting a very long time! An instrument has a basic voice, and you get what you get.

What really counts: can the instrument project a broad range of dynamics; and can it sustain its qualities from the softest to the very loudest dynamic, over the entire tonal range? When you play an instrument that has a pleasing voice, and can project that voice over all octaves and dynamics, then you have something special, new or old.

The Stradivarius that I play (owned by my orchestra) has these qualities, but I am always able to choose a compromise based on the adjustment: how much projection, how much ease of response, etc. Of course, the instrument as it is now is quite different than it would have been originally. I wouldn't claim to be able to pick out old Italian instruments consistently in any kind of test, but I am instantly able to identify instruments that meet the criteria in the last paragraph.

I also hope we can put to rest the idea that orchestral players/instruments need to blend rather than project. In the three orchestras I've been a member of (Saint Paul, Chicago and Los Angeles) players were interested in the same qualities as the soloists: projection and quality, often in that order! I have never been interested in anything less than a solo quality instrument, and I have never heard of anyone feeling pressured to change instruments for any reason. The only exception would be a young principal who came into the job with her own instrument, and was encouraged to get an instrument with more "soloistic" qualities.

It's interesting that someone brought up Arnold Steinhardt above. In the Guarneri Quartet's book, The Art of Quartet Playing, the four players are asked whether they consulted each other before acquiring or changing instruments. The answer was a unanimous "No", since it was assumed that when each player was happiest with his voice, it would be for the benefit of the group. They all played solo-caliber instruments. And John Dalley made his own bows, to boot!

July 1, 2012 at 05:28 AM · the study, as i understand, seeks to find answer to an underlying question: is it possible for people who are well-placed to judge the qualities of tone on the basis of performance to differentiate (in the conventionally expected (or 'mythical') way) and between old italian violins and contemporary violins.

i don't really see what is subjective about this study; i do see that there is a lot of complexity that might pose challenges to the study itself - and these have been highlighted many times (people require more time with the instruments, for instance). also, because one is dealing with complex human beings, despite blind folding them, you cannot really strip them of their psychological complexity...so its not as dirext a quest as a mouse finding the cheese. however, one one uses the term "subjectivity", one implies that supremacy of opinion over rationality. if anything, people are more likely to have an opinion that old italians are better than other. tehrefore, this study would be more correctly called counter-subjective if anything:o)

anyway, because of that complexity, i think people can throw up features of this complexity as contrary evidence against the tests. however, lets not forget that the test is there to debunk what it conceives as being a very strong myth and that people who believe in that myth are not in a minority. now, because of that complexity, one may talk of a very strong probability that the old italian violins did not live up to the challenge. that such a very high probability garnered through scientific method (or as close to that as the organize could summon at that time in that place) exists against the common place traditional (ie non scientific) belief in the necessity of old italians being -generally- superlative....and, indeed, that all arguments throw up against the study pose a small probability of error compared to the larger probability of the test being largely on the right track....well, i think its clear where the scale is tipping towards. yes, you can argue against this higher probability (vide the numerical outcome) but then again the universe is an outcome of probability and not necessity. or somesing ot that sort

July 1, 2012 at 05:30 AM · "Maybe these four instruments were still available, new and unused, because they weren't that great in the first place? "

Very likely ! This is fascinating but ANECDOTAL evidence. Judge Judy wouldn't allow it in her courtroom.

Benedict Gomez is right to observe that Strads became fashionable about the same time - Viotti being one of the pioneers who put them onto the big-time map. Like Carlo, Spohr must have been curious as to how and when after manufacture it's considered a fiddle begins to play really well.

It's a pity no-one asked Beethoven, or we'd have had the results of a double-deaf test.

Hills were using this info to support their theory that the more robust instruments take 60-80 years to begin firing on all cylinders. Their opinion might have been skewed by their experiences with the Vuillaume and other top French fiddles, which after 50 or so years of use were beginning to play really well without quite attaining the timbre of the old Cremonese fiddles. They must have thought that another few decades and BINGO, a Vuillaume will sound EXACTLY like a Strad. This didn't ever happen, IMHO.

According to the same "Guarneri Family" tome, top players were starting to take up fiddles of this calibre seriously when they, the instruments, were around 30 years old. Affordability might have been a factor here. The "market" in the wider sense probably took time to catch up.

As to Nathan Cole's "I also hope we can put to rest the idea that orchestral players instruments need to blend rather than project."

I have to report that my experience has been different, but then I worked in the UK. It might be evidence of that "English reserve" in action as regards the rank-and-file. First-desk folk here do gravitate towards more soloistic instruments. A distinguished principal Violist here commented after a trial of new instruments "they sound O.K. in their own, but they don't blend". I have known concertmasters get distinctly touchy when I owned an instrument that seemed to be in competition with theirs. Guess it's to do with olde class-system over here; - we have to "know our place".

However, I couldn't help noticing that in the USA David Burgess and Jeffrey Holmes have experienced orchestral players' needs that are somewhat at variance with your undoubtedly valid observations.

Cheers, DB.

July 1, 2012 at 06:49 AM · (OT:) L.C., your foto makes the page too wide to be read on my small screen. Removing or making it smaller would reduce the width!

Greetings

July 1, 2012 at 07:15 AM · Lyndon, you missed the point again.

It was not to show "moderns fiddles are better". The test showed only the opposite: "old fiddles are *not* (automatically) better".

Since centuries we are told, and spread the gospel around, "old fiddles are superior to new ones".

This is not supported by facts, it's nonsense in it's simplicity, but this hasn't reached the public awareness yet. There's a big "old is better"-lobby, and there is as much inertia of mind here as it is in religion, for example.

PS: picking average stradivaris makes sense - it would have been a distortion of the samples, because, as we suppose, there is no living Stradivari around.

To compare top level samples out of a top level pool, a much greater number of samples is needed.

July 1, 2012 at 07:18 AM · "Lyndon, you missed the point again."

The subject of the thread is:-

"Instruments: How long does it take for a modern violin to have a mature tone?"

July 1, 2012 at 08:13 AM · Lyndon,

you seem to be familiar with a lot of ridicolous ideas, thanks for sharing.

But don't make out they came from me.

And David can speak for himself, I suppose he will just ignore your stupid insinuation.

July 1, 2012 at 09:15 AM · Nathan wrote: "When you play an instrument that has a pleasing voice, and can project that voice over all octaves and dynamics, then you have something special, new or old.", this is a very good point indeed!!!

www.manfio.com

July 1, 2012 at 09:36 AM · "i think david burgess would consider himself as good as stradivarius???"

Lyndon, I certainly hope you're better at repairs than at mind reading! ;-)

Nathan, I didn't mean to imply that ALL ensembles place a high priority on the blend, because that wouldn't be right at all. It's just something I run into sometimes. I'm aware that many of the Los Angeles players have been quite involved in seeking out violins with good solo performance properties.

As you mentioned, the Guarneri Quartet seemed to have no interest in blending with each other. When they would come into the shop, it was almost like a friendly competition between them sometimes, seeing who could best get their instrument set to "kill mode", and surprise the others. LOL

Interesting guys. David Soyer performed on a Suzuki cello for a while, just to make it more entertaining when people would come up after a performance and ask what he was playing. :-)

July 1, 2012 at 11:16 AM · Right David, I knew you weren't speaking about orchestral players as a rule. I remember being amused when I was younger, seeing chamber and orchestral players get a bit defensive about their need to project, and I just did it myself! But an instrument is certainly useless in orchestra if it can't maintain its quality to the softest dynamic also. That's where so many fall short, and why many of us, if we had to choose, might err toward that side of things. But ideally you get the whole dynamic range.

July 1, 2012 at 02:18 PM · Can anyone confirm the story that as an experiment all the first fiddles of the New York Philharmonic were once issued with Stradivari instruments and that the sound was excruciating ??

The few Strads I have tried weren't screamers unless attacked in an unsympathetic way, but maybe if a player had just changed from a radically different machine with little time to adapt one might have expected a few unmusical squawks.

It's how you play 'em.

July 1, 2012 at 02:39 PM · I've never heard that, and strongly doubt it. For one thing there are, I think, 18 1sts in the NYP. That's a lot of Strads to garner. I know that Glenn Dicterow has used a del Gesu in the NYP for some time, and previously used a Strad, and that his stand partner, Sheryl Staples, also uses a del Gesu. There has been in the section, a Strad here, a this there.

As I've said many times, old or new, this or that, it depends on the particular instrument, the individual player, and the chemistry between them.

July 1, 2012 at 07:25 PM · Now I have a different question which I posed somewhere a long time ago. I don't remember the answer, if there was one:

Is there a formal dividing line in the violin trade between "modern" and "contemporary"? When I think of classic modern Italian violin makers, such big names as Scarampella, Fagnola and Poggi immeditely spring to mind. These are makers whose main working life, I believe, covered the late 19th century into the mid-20th cent. When I think of contemporary makers, I think of makers who are alive and making violins these days.

But it seems that there's room for overlap. Does it just go by the maker or also the instrument? For example, I believe that Poggi was making violins into the 1950's. Let's say we have a Poggi from 1953. (Not sure when he died, but let's suppose for argument's sake.) And let's say we have a long-lived maker, still making violins, who made one as early as 1952? Is the 1953 Poggi still "modern" and the 1952 violin by Mr. X "contemporary"?

And for how long is something contemporary or modern? I know that in most fields, something is considered an antique when it hits 100. How long does a contemporary violin stay contemporary - 10 years, 25 years? Ultimately it doesn't matter much - more an issue of clarity and reference.

OK - I'm taking a little vacation. You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Or something.

July 3, 2012 at 05:14 AM · Listen to Linnea, daughter of violin maker Bergern Fredricson playing on one of his brand new violins "Ole Bull " Guarneri del Gesu Bach Partita 2 Allemanda ----

Are there any other example of new violins, or contemporary violins played well on I-tunes or You Tube that we can hear? Charles

July 3, 2012 at 06:36 AM · I commissioned a violin 20 years ago from Adrian Studer, probably the top maker in NZ. What I have noticed is, rather than a major change in tone, a huge change in response as the violin has been played in.

Cheers Carlo

July 3, 2012 at 08:26 AM · My 1993 Guido Trotta "Heifetz model" changed enormously, too, and for the better. I played it regularly in my orchestra; it's the one I boasted before about playing in the Vienna Musikverein.

[Edit] The change is largely one of response. I agree with Carlo.

The maker arived in the UK with this violin which before handing over to me he wanted to display at an RMCM exhibition. When I arrived to pick it up at the end of the event it was being tried by a viola player. From a distance it sounded like Norbert Brainin, (famed quartet player who used a Guarneri). Any doubts vanished - I was about to get exactly what I wanted. The effort needed for me to get the desired results gradually diminished over time and although I retired from the orchestra and use the violin but seldom now, it surprises me every time I use it- it seems to continue to get better just left in the case !

As to terminology, it's been explained that "Modern" can mean anything from Pressenda onwards to some fiddleologists. "Contemporary" seems to apply to makers still active. I note that Marlin Brinser's "Dictionary of Twentieth century Violin Makers" has a category entitled "Late Italian'.

Late is not as in deceased or tardy, I gather. I think he means very recently established at the time he compiled his book, 1978 - e.g. Stefano Conia and a few others.

July 3, 2012 at 02:44 PM · I should have added to my comments above that the violin I heard on you tube had all of Carlo's requirements of tone plus expressiveness, and I loved the sound. As to Carlo's recent post I don't agree. Nor do I believe that his original question can be answered except as follows. I hope that whoever purchased this violin will take care to avoid extremes of temperature and humidity, keep is reeasonably clean, secure it in a good case, take care to carry it on board in flights, and take it only to the maker if there develops any problems, such as playability, response, new strings from time to time, etc. I hope the maker teaches his daughter how to evaluate violins, so that she can check the violin and not someone else in his absence. I respectfully disagree with another of Perlman's comments (he is my favorite player) regarding Elman's habit of taking it in for adjustment, etc. I think it is possible for this violin to continue to be great for the time period Carlo mentions in this post. Has anyone listened to it on You Tube? Charles

July 3, 2012 at 04:43 PM · @ Charles, it's not clear to me how you disagree with Carlo's last post.

I found the sound-clip to which you refer:- the link is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhPzOy98n4k

Seems like a decent standard-issue new fiddle to me.

Google can provide all manner of "new fiddle" clips if you search, including the new Yamahas. and Tetzlaff on his Greiner.Try, for example, the website of Marco Imer Piccinotti. You will remember the "Ole Bull Guarneri" project fiddles which were at one time freely available on the internet. Maybe they've gone now.

I seem to recall that I liked those by Daniele Ciaccio and Katharina Abbühl. I see on Daniele Tonarelli's site he made an "Ole Bull" too but I don't think it can have been ready in time for that exhibition. Perhaps he is a "Late Italian". Christoph Landon speaks about the project on:- http://vimeo.com/11728208

July 3, 2012 at 07:25 PM · Huge difference in responsiveness??? Due to Playing??? Changes in bridge, post, bass bar??? Changes in Carlo??? David: I appreciate your comments as well as from many others. Thank you for the references for something I can hear. Charles

July 4, 2012 at 06:52 AM · "difference in responsiveness??? Due to Playing??? Changes in bridge, post, bass bar??? Changes in Carlo???"

I don't know what tweaks Carlo's violin got, but my 1993 Trotta "Heifetz" model is in the same "set-up" as the maker arrived at together with Emmanuel Hurwitz (distinguished UK player) before delivery to me. Strings are now Obligato rather than Dominant - very slightly darker in sound. Such improvement as I have detected isn't down to intervention by repairers.

I'd agree that my playing & hearing cannot be the same now and that there has to be a subjective element in any judgement that the violin "improved". Nevertheless my experience SEEMS to tally with other posters, i.e. quite a lot of change in the first 2 years; then a very slow "maturing" thereafter. I now experience a strong "generic Guarneri" tone whereas the sound was initially ambiguous and slightly woolly, though pleasant.

The violin is becoming itself.

July 4, 2012 at 08:51 AM · I have the impression that Leo, my 1978 made violin (in my possession since 1981) got better during the last two or three years. Smoother, high positions on D more responsive. I'm very happy with it, and now I feel equal (soundwise) compared to my violinist partner, who has an old french fiddle with a gorgeous tone.

But, since I restarted serious work only four years ago and I practise constantly, it's not so easy to say who improved more, me or Leo.

July 4, 2012 at 12:30 PM · There were rumours that Heifetz had a refrigerated violin-case.

I agree that a whining tone is to be avoided. We need a WINNING quality.

It doesn't much matter if the violin tone wins by points or a knockout.

July 4, 2012 at 03:17 PM · "There were rumours that Heifetz had a refrigerated violin-case."

I always heard his three favorite warm-up scales were C-F-C. Now we know who started the hole in the ozone.

Maybe they should be called his "cool-down" scales?

July 4, 2012 at 03:44 PM · Regarding "contemporary", can it ever refer to someone who is not alive? I don't think so. "Contemporary with" clearly means "alive with"---otherwise it wouldn't have any meaning at all.

Once I was contemporary with Sergio Perreson. Now I am not. Or rather, HE is not.

On the other topic, I've consistently seen that when played my violins smooth out and become more responsive, and that seems to slow down around two years, but not stop. If they aren't played, some get more responsive anyway, and some don't (I still have one that took two years of non-playing to open up, then became something else almost overnight, without playing, turning into a really nice violin), but I don't think the smoothness happens without use. By "smoothness" I mean the lack of crashy higher overtones, mostly.

You can see the same process in old violins that haven't been played in a long time. In fact, I have seen old and newer, played, violins come into my shop smooth and broken in, and lose that over a couple of months of non-playing, which is a really frustrating thing to watch.

It's pretty clear to players, but the "measurers" don't see it on their charts, so for them it doesn't happen. If it's imaginary, then I must only make harsh new violins, but in the past made only smooth ones, and that keeps happening: the old, played ones are invariably smoother than the new ones I compare them with when they are together in the same room. I would like an explanation of how that happens without any change in the sound, because the older ones were once new and harsh, too.

For me, "modern" begins with the start of the modern violin, after the baroque and classical (transitional, some call it)--somewhere around 1780 and the following years. This also conveniently is near the division between the old Cremonese makers and those who, realizing that there was something there worthwhile and forgotten, started copying them--Pressenda, already mentioned, was one of those people; Lupot was somewhat earlier. Guadagnini sits on the cusp. That seems like a reasonable dividing point.

July 4, 2012 at 04:24 PM · Joyce Lin mentioned a definition that modern violins are made in the twentieth century and contemporary violins by living makers. (Btw Rafael: Ansaldo Poggi was born in 1893 and died in 1984)

This begs the question: when is this definition of "modern" going to change: by 2050 or 2100?

On the original question here a comparison with the antiques world:

Believe it or not, when my father started collecting and advising in antiques in the 1960s and early 70s the top European antique dealers did not consider the Empire ( Napoleonic) period truly antique. For them French - and pretty well all other - antiques covered the period including Louis XVI- also called classicism - and ended more or less by the end of the 18th century. Not that they didn't deal in Empire and younger furniture - even Art Nouveau if it was first rate - etc. but this was the way they looked at things. Over the years their focus shifted and the concept of what is an antique changed, as the older pieces became more rare and more expensive, and peoples taste changes as well. ( btw the antique market crashed in the mid 80s and never recovered sofar - imho something bound to happen to the antique violin market some day as well but let's hope East Asia will keep it going for a while)

The idea however that anything over a hundred years is antique was more a North American concept; this may also be a better way of defining "modern" in the violin world.

It makes more sense to define a time lapse rather than an actual date imo. In other words it makes more sense to call violins modern if they are less than a hundred years old rather than post 1900. This due to the fact that they mature over time.

The difference is small now but in another 20 years it would mean post 1932 versus post 1900. At the middle of the 21st century it sure wouldn't sound right to call a 150 year old violin "modern".

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