New Violinmakers to Consider?

January 9, 2016 at 10:07 PM · We oftentimes chat about who the current top violin makers are, based on the famous violinists who are performing on their instruments. The list of makers rarely changes, with names starting with Z., N., S., V., S&G, etc., and winners of gold at the VSA competition always making the list.

My question is more about new emerging makers (notice, the word "new", and not "young" since some makers start violinmaking as a second career) that we haven't seen previously listed on violinist.com.

Any wonderful experiences or surprises to share? Discovered any new talents that the rest of us should consider? Would be great to find a fine instrument before the maker becomes famous and prices skyrocket, or where the waiting time for a commissioned instrument is months, rather than years.

Thanks for any thoughts! (This is a case where "hear-say" is good.)

Replies

January 10, 2016 at 02:45 AM · Eric,

where are you located? There are a few excellent makers in Ontario and Quebec.

Rocky

January 10, 2016 at 02:59 PM · Do you actually need an inexpensive but good instrument? I'm wondering what exactly your motivation is, because according to your bio you commissioned an entire quartet, which means you can probably afford a fine maker who does not have stratospheric prices or a waiting list. It seems like you're looking for investment potential.

January 10, 2016 at 04:08 PM · I actually believe that supporting new instrument makers is important, particularly those who don't yet have their names up in lights. Sometimes you commission because you like something you see and think that a little encouragement (like a commission) would provide the maker with some breathing room to build by inspiration; in other cases, you simply want an example of a makers work that you find refreshing. I have found a few new makers who are tackling all three instruments at the same time; more often than not they'll focus on violins or violins and violas. Without a commission, it's tough for a luthier to set aside cash for materials and the time necessary to make a cello. I, personally, have no interest in investment potential. There are better and surer ways to make money, like in a tech start-up. This needs to be driven by your appreciation of the luthier's craft.

January 10, 2016 at 04:09 PM · Investment potential is a difficult thing in the art market... Van Gogh just sold one of his paintings in his entire life...

Buy the instruments you like.

January 10, 2016 at 04:10 PM · A tech startup is a surer way to make money?

Really?

January 10, 2016 at 04:18 PM · If you keep track of the technology market, there are some good opportunities out there. However, that's not a conversation for violinist.com. :)

I agree with Manfio. Buy instruments you like. I happen to like new instruments, where you can still smell and touch the tackiness of new varnish, where there are still sharp ridges to the scroll, and where you get to place the first ding...

January 11, 2016 at 12:25 AM · The contemporary Cremona exhibition that was recently at Potter's in the DC area had a Tonarelli. Nice but not spectacular. (I think Eric tried it too.)

I played some very nice violins that had won awards for tone, all arranged on a table at Mondo Musica in New York in 2014. (They were among the best of the contemporary instruments I tried there -- so many that they pretty much all run together in my memory.) I wish I could remember the names of the makers.

Also, I rather liked a Guarneri bench copy made by Florian Leonhard.

January 11, 2016 at 01:13 AM · Being a new(ish), hopefully emerging, and definitely not young maker with no waiting list, this thread appears to be a perfectly legitimate opportunity for free advertising. You know how to find me.

January 11, 2016 at 01:18 AM · Thanks for your recommendations, Rocky and Jose. Checked out the maker of your viola, Rocky, and really like her work.

And Lydia, we did try many violins and violas from the Cremona exhibition. While very nice overall, none of them appeared to excite us to the point of wanting to commission a quartet.

I am confident, however, that there are "new makers" who we haven't heard of who should be considered and commissioned. Discovering them is part of the adventure.

January 11, 2016 at 04:23 AM · With truly new makers, I would worry about consistency. They may still have significant variance in their instruments as they refine their making technique and experiment.

An interesting question for the knowledgeable here: For the makers who are winning awards for tone, how many years on the average have they been making / how many instruments have they produced, before they started winning awards?

January 11, 2016 at 10:45 AM · I don't know if it's reflective of violinmaking in general, but I believe there are some makers who start out inspired and after only relatively few attempts, start developing some pretty mature tones. Don Noon, earlier on this thread, appears to be one of those. See his Facebook page for examples of his early works (Opus 10 and 16). I hear lots of focus and complexity, the capacity to be colorful and dramatic, consistency over a series of instruments, and they're pretty darn attractive. Considering that he's just left a first career (Don I'm just repeating what's on your website) as an aeronautical engineer, he's got specific practiced skills that easily cross over to luthiership, including precision, a grasp of physics and, in this case, acoustics. I would say a rare combination of skills and life experiences that's paying off quite nicely in his violin work. I don't know Don, but would point people who are looking to commission a first violin or viola in his direction.

January 11, 2016 at 03:09 PM · Thanks, Eric, for the additional free advertising. I got a laugh from your using the phrases "paying off" and "violin work" in the same sentence.

January 11, 2016 at 04:55 PM · Jose M.G.Belmonte recommended "Danielle Tonarelli (not sure where,Italy)."

I own a 2003 by this maker who works in Cremona - but b.1976 is coming up to 40 and not really a YOUNGSTER !

January 11, 2016 at 06:45 PM · There are several violin makers in Bristol (England). Three which come to mind are,

Nicholas Woodward, of Bristol Violin Shop

Edward Gaut

Steffen Novak

All three have been established for several years, and further details are on their websites (Google their names).

January 11, 2016 at 09:14 PM · I've been very pleased with the viola I've been playing for the past year, made by Shinichiro Yoshikai out of Durham, NC. Beautiful looking instrument and very responsive and resonant. I understand his cellos are very sought after, also. Worth having a look! Yoshikai_Viola

January 11, 2016 at 11:59 PM · Eric, if you attend the last few days of the Violin Society of America convention in November, there should be over 250 violins from makers from about 15 countries to try.

January 12, 2016 at 12:09 AM · Karl I have to agree that's a very pretty viola.

January 12, 2016 at 10:20 AM · Thanks David: I've asked on other Forums about whether it would be okay for players to come to the convention and didn't get a warm and fuzzy reception to the idea. It sounded more like luthiers needed time alone to check out each other's instruments. However, if there is a day where the general public can come through or if there are sessions for musicians and collectors to learn about how to consider instruments, that would be super. I did wander off the streets uninvited at one convention, was welcomed, and spent a good deal of time with Jennifer Becker, learning about the maker of my earlier cello, Carl Becker. Have also commissioned with an Hors Concours, which was pretty darn exciting because we signed the contract the day before he got his third gold. It would be great if VSA could have some sessions for musicians about what went into your making these "boxes" for us and how we should be caring for them. I'm still filled with instrument care information from my kindergarten teacher... Thanks for responding.

January 12, 2016 at 03:35 PM · Eric, the VSA is for any and all interested in violin family instruments, and all are welcome. There is typically a full day (and maybe a little more) at the end of a competition when pretty much anyone who has paid the registration fee can try all the instruments.

If there's nothing in the program about basic instrument making, or instrument care for musicians, I'd be glad to spend some time discussing this with you if you decide to attend.

January 12, 2016 at 04:11 PM · You got a deal! Cleveland in November of this year?

Might be an opportunity for www.violinist.com people who have never met to share a Sprite ~ or something... And, try out hundreds of new instruments and "meet their makers".

To have you there to explain how the luthier (and renowned international instrument judge) looks at the instrument would be an incredible experience.

Thanks for extending the offer, David.

January 12, 2016 at 08:18 PM · I'm sort of in the same situation as Don Noon, except that I have a negative waiting list.

January 12, 2016 at 08:37 PM · I don't plan on judging next time, but I think I've attended every VSA competition for the last 30 years or so. On the off chance that I'm not there for one reason or another, there also might be a chance to sit in on some of the critiques, where individual makers make an appointment with one of the judges to comment on their instruments. Please ask each maker who is in line, first, because some of them prefer that this to be private.

January 12, 2016 at 09:16 PM · Simon Kok, NO DOUBT! Deventer.

I play a "Plowden" Guarneri copy with a slighlty extended body from 2014. Beautiful and great sounding, everybody agrees!

http://vioolbouwdeventer.weebly.com/over-mij.html

January 12, 2016 at 09:18 PM · Relatively not expense these days are violins by George Wulme Hudson. Build between 1900 and 1950. They will prove the top of violins in the future, I am sure!

January 13, 2016 at 12:58 PM · Thanks Herman. As a reminder, this search is for new instrument makers and not for new instruments. Mr. Hudson is probably no longer taking commissions. Mr. Kok's website is interesting, but does not have an English version, so he's probably only targeting a specific audience.

As we get closer to November 2016, more information will be available on who will be competing in Cleveland and suggestions on who to check out would be wonderful. Looking at a room filled with instruments could be daunting and the odds of missing some great new makers would be high... However, being permitted to sit in on a judge's critique session sounds amazing. Thanks for the suggestion.

January 13, 2016 at 01:09 PM · My teacher used to have an exceptional viola by Geoffrey Ovington. I'm not sure how his violins stack up, I've never played one, but I'm told his violas are well acclaimed and this one certainly had a stunning tone.

January 13, 2016 at 01:54 PM · I think the idea that high quality new violins are better than high quality antique violins is ridiculous, high quality antique violins can be had for as little as $5,000 at a reasonably priced shop, a $5,000 new violin doesn't get you much of anything unless perhaps its a top of the line Chinese violin. If two equally good makers were compared, one new and one 100 years old, I would think the antique would be slightly better today, or at worst, just as good. Violins DO NOT get worse with age, unless they have been abused and are in terrible condition.

January 13, 2016 at 02:27 PM · Thanks for that side note, Lyndon. I think your comment might have been meant for another thread. It has no relevancy to identifying new makers. I believe a new living maker might be more productive today than one that died 100 years ago. I'd prefer working with the living one.

January 13, 2016 at 02:31 PM · Lyndon - where in this thread did you get the idea anyone things that "high quality new violins are better than high quality antique violins"? I certainly didn't see that. I think the OP is just interested in which new makers might be worthy of note.

January 13, 2016 at 02:51 PM · My point was if you're not willing to pay $20,000-30,000 for a top modern maker, and are looking for budget modern makers maybe $10,000 or something like that, you might be better off looking at less highly recognized historical antique makers in the $5-10,000 range.

January 13, 2016 at 06:36 PM · Thank you for your advice, Lyndon. I believe that the information you are sharing is very important and would be worthy of starting another discussion, perhaps more focused on your interest in price and historical antique makers.

January 13, 2016 at 09:48 PM · But most "non-established" makers, such as myself, charge much less. My price is still $2000, though with the right marketing I could probably get more. I choose not to.

One well-trained, recently established maker that I know (Kate Rickenbacker) was getting $6000 the last I knew.

January 14, 2016 at 06:14 PM · A while ago there was an interesting question that got no replies:

"Lydia Leong

January 11, 2016 at 05:23 AM ·...An interesting question for the knowledgeable here: For the makers who are winning awards for tone, how many years on the average have they been making / how many instruments have they produced, before they started winning awards?"

Looking at the list of 10 recent VSA violin tone winners (minimum certificate of merit), there are 3 Chinese makers where I couldn't find a bio. Of the others, there's only one who has not been full time into violin making for at least a decade: Artur Friedhoff. He has been an apprentice to a medal-winning maker for "only" 5 years.

At smaller competitions (VMAAI is the one I'm familiar with), quite a number of first-time competitors with very little experience have won tone awards, although usually with guidance from experienced makers.

Repeating something I thought I heard, which seems right to me regarding tone:

A few makers are consistently good, a few consistently bad, and most are in the middle and variable.

August 18, 2016 at 04:43 PM · I purchased 7 violins last November and 6 more last May all from Cremona. Too bad I wasn't able to find time to write something about them. They are all new, and a couple of them were just set up the week I got there. In short, the 2016 Guido Trotta and the 2016 Daniele Scolari are my favorite, though I also like the other 11 violins. Both are about my age (not very young :-)). I wish I had visited Guido Trotta when I first visited Cremona in 2012.But there are fine makers all over the world and some of them are very young!

August 19, 2016 at 01:36 AM · I heard from the grapevine that they are planning to name a street after Kevin in Cremona.

August 19, 2016 at 01:46 AM · We had started a list of the in our eyes most interesting contemporary luthiers some time ago and portrayed a few of them here:

> An overview of contemporary violin makers: information on the life and work of today's outstanding master luthiers.

In terms of beauty, my personal favorites are Christoph Götting and Daniele Scolari

August 19, 2016 at 05:48 AM · Kevin Zhang wrote "In short, the 2016 Guido Trotta and the 2016 Daniele Scolari are my favorite,...".

Neither of these is a newly-emerging youngster. I think the date of birth of both is early 1960s. However, though Trotta has been successful in selling into the Japanese market (and to me !) he is "up and coming" in the USA ! He doesn't boast a flashy website, light under a bushel, yet still sells his stuff.

However, I did buy from Trotta when he WAS a "newly hatched" maker, 1993 - and because he was then just starting out as an independent after years of being an assistant, his prices were then very modest. The OP must be thinking as I did then that if you spot such a maker you can get a bargain - problem is spotting such a person. It was at a Manchester (UK) exhibition that I met this man - I suspect that as has been stated already the exhibitions are the places to tease out newly emerging talent.

When I bought my Tonarelli violin, 2003, this maker hadn't been an independent very long. The violin was on display in the Consorzio Stradivari shop in Cremona - which is an exhibition of sorts though with only about a dozen violins on show. I see that a London dealership sells his violins for about 3 times the price I paid - so getting in on the ground floor really can save money.

August 19, 2016 at 10:12 AM · @ Corilon - nice looking violins. The violin pictured at the top has a kind of chinrest that I'm looking for. I almost always use a similar Kauffman on my violins, which I usually file down a bit to smooth the edges and get it flatter. But they don't usually go over the tailpiece as much as the one pictured. (I don't like the completely centered Flesch.) Do you - or does anyone - know where I can get this kind of chinrest?

@ Kevin - you DO deserve to have a street in Cremona named after you! :-)

Does your collection of contemporary Cremonese violins include any works of the Villa brothers?

August 19, 2016 at 01:03 PM · Rocky, Raphael, you have my permission to send a letter to the city of Cremona to request a street named after me :-) But I hope those makers will not increase my price because of this. Actually I brought my whole family to Cremona in May and my wife and three kids just loved it there. Walking distance to anywhere you want to go, great food, friendly and relaxed people, beautiful buildings, and above all violin for me! That was my third visit and my family's second to Cremona. The very first one was in August 2012 when it was so hot, and we only stayed in Cremona for two hours. Since I purchased my very first Italian violin from Marcello Villa during that trip, I have purchased 10 violins from him and 2 from Vittorio Villa. I kept the first Marcello Villa for myself and loaned it to the concert master of Portland Youth Philharmonic who is also a string quartet partner of my daughter. The girl was also the concertmaster of the National Youth Orchestra last year when performing in Carnegie Hall and on tour in 7 cities in China. I still have one 2015 and one 2016 Marcello violin, and I have sold the rest. Conservatory of music students love Marcello's violins. The 2013 Vittorio Villa was sold to a professional orchestra violinist in China, and my friend and violin teacher (used to be the concert master of a national level orchestra in Beijing and now a violin professor) loved the Vittorio violin. I received the 2016 Vittorio at the end of June.

August 19, 2016 at 01:27 PM · David, you are telling people my age :-)

I already ordered my second Guido Trotta for him to deliver in September 2017 when I'll visit the Mondomusica. My Trotta has great depth across all 4 strings. G string is especially impressive while the E has the brilliance that's second to none of any other violins I have tried. Well, it is not very easy to play yet and the sound though beautiful is still new (not very round). But after about 50 hours' playing, playability and sound have already improved. I wish I could find more time to play all these violins. The 2016 Scolari is similar to Trotta in many ways. I sold the 2015 Scolari to my violin teacher 6 months ago and he loves it, but he does complain that it's still not very easy to play though it's already much easier to play compared to 6 months ago.

I just bought a violin from Marcin Krupa in Poland and it should be delivered to me when the weather is cooled down in September. And I also ordered a cello from his brother Krzysztof Krupa. The brothers have won numerous awards at many important violin making competitions. You can find the pictures of their violins and the sound files from the 2016 Wieniawski violin making competition where 4 of the 11 violins making to the final were made by the brothers. I have also been in contact with some fine makers in France and Germany and may buy some from them as well. I'm aware of the excellent reputation of American makers, but at this time I just limit my purchase under 18K US dollars. With that limit I don't think I have a chance with the very fine American makers. I really want to get a Burgess, but I don't have the patience to wait for 4 or 5 years and I also have to save a little more :-)

August 19, 2016 at 02:24 PM · Raphael,

That chinrest your referring to looks like an ordinary Tekka, sometimes spelled Teka. That's the design I've been using for years, and they're readily available.

August 19, 2016 at 03:42 PM · I'm wondering what job Kevin Zhang. I'd like to be able to afford that lifestyle. :-)

Kevin, do you loan your instruments out? It might make sense to do so to help them develop.

August 19, 2016 at 03:59 PM · Lydia, I'm a full-time engineer at a semiconductor company, and violin business is my second job which I officially started last December (Italian Violin LLC). But my greatest passion is in classical music and violins/violas/cellos. If you live in the greater Portland area of Oregon, yes, I can loan you some instruments.

August 19, 2016 at 07:05 PM · Kevin- sounds great! I've taken one trip so far to Cremona. I wrote a blog about it on my website called "My Pilgrimage to Cremona" If anyone would like to read it, go to my website, http://rkviolin. com Click on "Blog" and you can find that and others.

Mark - if that's a Teka, then it's not for me: plastic and too high for me. I've sometimes seen that shape on chinrests on old violins the grain of which suggested maple.

August 19, 2016 at 07:53 PM · Double post. Please delete.

August 19, 2016 at 07:55 PM · Rafael, Plastic? My Tekka's are certainly not plastic. And they're not very high either. But they need to have some elevation to reach over the tailpiece. Personally, I think they're great. How do I post photos here?

August 19, 2016 at 08:15 PM · Maybe I'm thinking of another brand. I'll Google Tekka.

August 19, 2016 at 08:36 PM · Tekka's not a brand. It's a chinrest design, like Kaufman, Flesch or Guarneri.

August 19, 2016 at 11:15 PM · The subject of chinrest types and adjustments is so specific and ought to have its own thread - and sorry to hijack things a bit here! But to clarify my memory: the plastic one I was thinking of was actually a Wittner. The type I've tried that came closest to my ideal placement but was too high for me was a Zitmann.

(Of course I know that some height is necessary for tp clearance but within that constraint I need the relatively flattest one I can find. I'll check out the tekka.)

August 21, 2016 at 08:24 AM · Raphael: perhaps you can check out Alexander accessories website, they have many varieties of teka design available.

I recently ordered their Alexander model, teka bowl design but goes over the tail piece. Another one that might be of your interest is the raquel model, similar to teka but flatter and goes over the tailpiece with different height.

August 24, 2016 at 01:29 AM · I would say in addition , if a luthier who is lucky owe some old tone wood (maple and spruce), for sure he will make a very awesome violin . I am also very interested in some Chinese violin made these days ,they are very awesome ??????their prices are reasonable and have great sound quality .

August 24, 2016 at 05:57 AM · Actually, the general consensus from makers is that use of really old wood doesn't seem to offer any advantage in the quality of the instrument. Much more important is what the maker does with the wood.

I personally wouldn't use wood that was only three years old (my average is more like 20), but apparently Guarneri thought it was OK to do so. ;-)

August 24, 2016 at 12:24 PM · I agree with David that the maker is the most important factor in the acoustic outcome of the instrument. Wood is important... but there are quite wide natural variations in wood properties (even in the same log) that can mask whatever improvements that might come from age.

That said, I too wouldn't use 3-year-old wood. Guarneri may have used it, but how long did it take before anyone thought his stuff was any good?

August 24, 2016 at 06:02 PM · Apparently, Guarneri sold more violins during his lifetime, than Van Gogh did paintings. :-)

August 24, 2016 at 07:03 PM · Guarneri had a good ear for sound, as well!!

August 25, 2016 at 04:05 AM · Van Gogh had a good ear as well....but Guarneri's were apparently twice as good..... :-)

August 25, 2016 at 07:18 AM · Van Gogh certainly had an unusual way of doing a "sound adjustment". ;-)

August 25, 2016 at 12:49 PM · "I personally wouldn't use wood that was only three years old".

There are lots of alleged "secrets" relating to successful violin making. Folk seem to imagine that the insertion of just ONE "secret" ingredient will do the trick, whereas a successful violin relies on the coming together of many right decisions and choices by the maker.

Vuillaume was reputed to use "baked" wood. Today steam or heat-treated timber is available and I understand Yamaha use it on some of their productions; and such wood is sold to makers by firms as Ciresa in Italy, I think. One explanation for the success of the great Cremona makers seems to have been that the wood was floated in sea-water or that it was grown during a mini ice-age. Then, some attribute success to a silicate grounding under the varnish. The list goes on and on.

Some consider that close attention to thicknessing the plates guarantees success, yet the Strad poster I have of the 1716 Stradivari "Messiah" violin reveals truly wayward graduation of the table; "all over the place"; or "tutti sopra il loco" as the Italians might possibly say.

Rather than subjecting the maker of your next new fiddle to questioning in minute detail on these matters, easiest to simply TRY the fiddle he/she offers you. Violins should be approached on a case by case basis - sorry for the feeble pun.

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