Riccardo Bergonzi violins compared to top US violin makers

May 29, 2016 at 02:55 AM · Im currently trying out a Riccardo Bergonzi violin 2009 and it is a fantastic instrument. I'm seriously considering buying it. However, I wanted to see if I should consider trying out some top US makers such as David Burgess, Gregg Alf, or Joseph curtin. I hear that their instruments are amazing and worth considering as well. If anyone has compared a Bergonzi violin to these current makers, do you think they are on the same level in terms of quality and sound?

Replies (109)

May 29, 2016 at 09:22 AM · Hi Charles,

I'm happy to tell you my experiences, I've met and/or have performed on instruments from all of the makers you mention and more, plus Riccardo Bergonzi, but in fairness to the makers and their craft, it is best that my comparisons and opinions remain private, in fairness to the makers devotion and craft. Others to add to your list is Laura Vigato and Frank Ravatin. You can email me if you like, bayfinestrings@gmail.com

All the best,


May 29, 2016 at 10:03 AM · I would think among really good makers it would depend on the individual instrument, as even among top makers not all their violins are equal, or at least equally attractive to a given client.

May 29, 2016 at 02:04 PM · Thanks, Lyndon, for that wise post.

I know that quite a few professional fiddlers have found satisfaction with Riccardo's violins. Myself I tried only 2, liked one and was "neutral" about the other, though it DID work "if you like that sort of thing". One thing that seems fairly clear though is that a Riccardo Bergonzi violin can often be purchased at a very reasonable price as compared with the top USA makers. So much depends on how far a given (NOT GIVENS !!) dealership is prepared to mark up the retail price.

Last quotation I got direct from R.B. was way back in 2010. €15,000 retail but to a dealer, €10,000. I didn't know how to pose as a dealer so I bought from someone else !!

Always a good idea to look at Smiley Hsu's blog about buying a violin. He didn't buy the most expensive one.


Another violinist.commie Kevin Zhang (see:-http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=22454) has just been to Italy and made at least one purchase. On his previous visit I think he bought from Marcello Villa and Laura Vigato. Since Kevin lives in the USA, where lots of fine makers work, I presume his purchases have been at advantageous prices.

May 29, 2016 at 02:13 PM · Alf moved to Italy, by the way.

May 29, 2016 at 04:32 PM · Don, thanks for the update

LOL Phillip, I'm referring to the contemporary maker Riccardo Bergonzi. Don't know if he has any relations to the great Carlo Bergonzi.

David, I have read Smiley's blog and Kevin Zhang's thread but they didn't mention trying out a Riccardo Bergonzi violin. I have also read a few other threads on v.com praising the quality of Riccardo Bergonzi violins. I understand that violins from the same maker may not be equal, but I would assume that these top makers have been able to achieve some sort of consistency with their violins. I have to agree that " Riccardo Bergonzi violin can often be purchased at a very reasonable price as compared with the top USA makers." Smiley's blog pointed out that a higher price does not necessarily mean a better violin ( although dealers want you to think that). I would just like more data on a direct comparison of Riccardo Bergonzi's violins against violins from other top contemporary makers. I am willing to pay more (or less) if the case is that in general a specific contemporary maker's violin is superior in craftsmanship and tone to Riccardo Bergonzi's violins.

May 29, 2016 at 07:18 PM · Charles, I think it will be pretty difficult for someone else to determine what YOU like. Example: A violin of mine that Smiley Hsu tried when he was here is now owned by the concertmaster of the Carolina Symphony. They just didn't happen to be looking for the same thing.

Instead, hop on a plane with your Bergonzi, and you can probably try it side-by-side with a Joseph Curtin, a Gregg Alf (he still has an outlet here), a Feng Jiang, and a sample of mine. I also have a Roger Hargrave and Frank Ravatin here, if you'd like to get an idea of what those are like. Jeffrey Holmes may also have a violin or two from contemporary makers whose work he sometimes carries.

And once you're here, Chicago is only a 4 hour drive or train ride away, and they have lots of dealers as well as a number of makers.

A little more on personal preference, from Laurie's recent blog:


May 29, 2016 at 10:56 PM · And if you take the trip to Ann Arbor as David suggested, there's also one of mine over at Shar.

May 30, 2016 at 03:01 AM · There's personal taste and there's also the character of individual instruments. I find Smiley's Vigato to be too dark for my tastes, for instance, but I've tried another one that was more brilliant and that I liked more. You'll generally find certain similarities from instruments by the same maker, but also quite a bit of variation.

Also worth noting: Contemporary instruments by in-demand makers are not necessarily easy to get ahold of. Many makers have a backlog of commissions, without many of their older instruments for sale because the players who have them are hanging onto them. And there are huge price deltas between contemporary makers -- Curtin, for instance, charges almost $45k for commissions, whereas I think you can still get a Vigato for under $20k.

May 30, 2016 at 06:27 AM · "I would just like more data on a direct comparison of Riccardo Bergonzi's violins against violins from other top contemporary makers."

Yes, but the only person who can make a comparison that would make sense to YOU is YOU YOURSELF. David Burgess suggested you "... hop on a plane with your Bergonzi.."

I live in the UK and have no experience of the work of those famous American makers but clearly their reputation is well deserved. My "input" has been to suggest that though it might be thought that all Italian fiddles have to be ruinously expensive that's not necessarily so if you purchase a new or nearly new example, and avoid too large a dealer mark-up. The 2 Riccardo Bergonzi violins I have tried would both have been perfectly OK for playing in a professional Symphony Orchestra; however I have never bought from him but have made good "Bang for the Buck" purchases from other Cremona makers, Guido Trotta and Daniele Tonarelli.

May 30, 2016 at 10:42 AM · That is a lot of examples from great makers in Ann Arbor at the moment from David's scouting report, I wish there were that many examples in the area when I was there! Sage advice to hop on a plane, but unfortunately that time and monetary expense can be too much for some. But if you are driven and passionate about finding a violin, you kind of have to make it a personal quest.

It was like that for me and other posters, I was trying to find the best instrument fit I could at a certain pricepoint to aid in my performing career. Choosing a budget range and trying as many examples is a great way to go and evaluating individual instruments forvwhat they are. I think all makers strive to be consistent, but examples will vary,and it can be impossible to evaluate many examples of the same maker in a short time period, simply because they won't be concentrated in one location.

Some if us in our minds can have a tendency to be set on a particular maker for whatever reasons, quality of making, varnish, style, award winning, general patterns they like to work on. Uf that's the case, commission an instrument from the maker, or seek out a shop that may carry that maker's work, or contact a maker to see if a previous client has one for sale. Start a search in your local area, then branch out if needed. Inventory is always changing amongst all shops. Goodluck!

May 30, 2016 at 08:50 PM · Thomas wrote:

"Sage advice to hop on a plane, but unfortunately that time and monetary expense can be too much for some."

Possibly, but traveling to a place with lots of instruments to try, side-by-side, might also be more economical in the long run, than multiple future searches, or buying and selling a succession of instruments that one isn't quite happy with.

And even if you could arrange for all these makers and dealers to send you instruments at the same time, to try them side-by-side, your return shipping costs (that's the typical arrangement) would likely exceed the cost of travel to try them.

No pressure (and I don't have anything to sell), just trying to help the OP find answers to his question about how the Bergonzi compares with the work of some other specified makers, the most objective and efficient way I can think of.

May 31, 2016 at 01:05 AM · Hi David,

I've done both traveling to and sending for instruments countless times in the past, and after thinking it over, I need to rephrase my statement and have found both occasions of flying to a destination or sending for instruments via mail approval to be both successful and unsuccessful, more or less expensive. In this case, Ann Arbor/Chicago currently seems to be a good value for a search expense than to send for many instruments from all over the place, especially if one is trying to develop what they actually like. The San Francisco bay area is also good place to look; many of the shops here have American instruments as well as instruments imported from Europe in addition to many nice makers. Makers Joe Grubaugh, Tom Croen, Anthony Lane come to mind, and shops Roland Feller, Ifshin Violins, and a newcomer in town, Jesse Maschmeyer, as well as what I may have too. You can't go wrong choosing a major metropolitan and its surrounding areas usually.

May 31, 2016 at 01:35 AM · If you don't sell antique violins, surely you're neglecting an important part of the market?? Do you repair violins??

May 31, 2016 at 02:00 AM · Hi Lyndon, if you look on my website www.bayfinestrings.com it lists the inventory with pictures, there are antique violins listed, and so no, I don't neglect antiques, and I happen to really like them of course. One can represent whatever they want in their shop and serve their clients they best know how. That is a personal choice for the owner, such as the inventory you choose to carry in your own shop. I would like to partner up with someone in the near future that can do repairs. For now, its a referral service to other shops in the area.

May 31, 2016 at 02:35 AM · I find a lot of bargains in un named or anonymous antiques, at my prices its hard to find new violins with similar sound quality for the same price, however I do sell instruments with sometimes visible but well repaired cracks, a lot of the really big shops won't touch stuff unless the cracks have been made to disappear, which doesn't necessarily make them any stronger a repair, disappearing cracks is really a cosmetic issue, not a structural issue.

May 31, 2016 at 02:49 AM · I find the secret to making antique's compete is a professional set up, properly fit and carved soundpost and bridge, properly fit fingerboard and pegs, make quite a difference, for instance, almost every time I purchase an antique the soundpost and bridge are poorly to very poorly fit, professional set up can really make a difference.

May 31, 2016 at 08:25 AM · This thread's gotten sidetracked into a blind alley of competing dealership interests.

The OP wrote " Im currently trying out a Riccardo Bergonzi violin 2009 and it is a fantastic instrument...."

The number of fiddles I tried in my life that gave me that impression after a short acquaintance is small. I'm wondering if he might be "looking a gift horse in the mouth".

"If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck ...."

Surely you wouldn't want to spoil a fine romance by comparing your beloved with every other girl on the planet ?? "Strike while the iron is hot" !!

"A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush" !!!

June 1, 2016 at 09:23 PM · I have a 1995 Ricardo Bergonzi violin which i bought about 5 years ago. And yes, he is a relative of Carlo Bergonzi.

My instrument was played in by a previous professional player. However, it took me some while to get used to the fiddle, and it seemed to improve even more as I got more familiar with the instrument.

The thing that influenced me was that although i had tried many violins over a 2 year period, and even though I liked one or two of them, nothing had such a huge sound as the Bergonzi. I've also played on a Carlo Bergonzi in noisy surroundings (worth about £3 million) and it was very mellow, but I'm not sure I liked it as much as my Ricardo, and it was easier to play. This was a rather poor comparison as the conditions were not good. The Ricardo Bergonzi has to be nurtured as it is quite unforgiving, but it has something I quite love.

June 1, 2016 at 09:30 PM · I could send you a sound file of the fiddle if you would like that, but I would need your email. It would only give you a vague idea of the sound, as it is recorded and it's me playing, so it would be only an approximation.

June 2, 2016 at 06:29 AM · I would also agree with David Beck - if you have found a violin that you love (as the OP has hinted) - then buy it. If in ten years time you find an even better fiddle (like a Guadanini!!) you can trade it in against that, as it will no doubt have appreciated.

A lot of this is in the mind anyway. A famous violinist once bought a del Jesu and loved it. After a couple of years it was found not to be a del Jesu. The player then sold it as it obviously did not sound as good to him/her now the maker's name had changed ...

June 2, 2016 at 07:00 AM · Actually the market is not as kind appreciation wise to modern violins as it is to bona fide antiques, some few modern violins will appreciate, but most go down when the maker dies, and the marketing machine behind the product is no longer with us.

June 2, 2016 at 08:04 AM · I can't agree Lyndon. Modern violins will more likely go up in value once the maker is no longer producing instruments.

And don't forget the old instruments are running out of time, and are already passed their sell by dates, and only carry on due to very expensive and continuous rebuilding leaving only some of the original instrument visible. Many of these antique instruments already sound tired, and their value will go down with only collectors wanting them for show in glass cases. More top players are looking at either more modern "antiques" around 100 years old, or very modern instruments built in the last 50 years, and even brand new.

I think as a dealer you are biassed towards the more recent antiques as there may be a bigger mark up there. In other words, buy cheap and sell high.

June 2, 2016 at 09:22 AM · Complete rubbish, I can buy a fine hand made, not production antique violin that sells for $2-5,000, the same quality new violin would be $10,000 or more, until the maker dies and it reverts back to about what its worth, maybe $3000. Just as big name labeled antiques seem and often are overpriced, modern new violins are similarly overpriced.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, the real bargains in the violin world are unlabeled or obscure maker genuine antique violins. Right now I have a genuine 200 year old Italian violin for $10,000, you couldn't find a modern violin that sounds anything like it at any price, its not the loudest violin, but sweeter in sound by far than any modern I've ever heard.

Don't let these bozos convince you that 200 year old antique don't sound different from brand new ones, its a deliberate lie promulgated by whom, the same modern violin makers that charge the highest prices. All they can succeed at is making loud, bright in your face violins, they can never reproduce the richness and complexity, and yes sweetness of tone of really good antiques.

June 2, 2016 at 09:30 AM · Maybe I write rubbish Lyndon, but if you think that, then your ears must be pretty poor. I don't see any players on here or luthiers coming to your aid and supporting you. But believe what you want to, most of us like modern instruments, without dismissing all the old ones, even though they cost an arm and a leg and huge costs in insurance and maintenance. You may be reasonable in what you charge to "fix" a fiddle, but here in London and most places worldwide the costs of repairing and shoring up old instruments is pretty high, even if the work is pretty good, at least sometimes.

And many modern instruments have great depth and can't be distinguished from a Strad as many blind tests have proved. In fact sometimes they have been chosen as the Strad, and the Strad dismissed as second rate. There are many very old Italian instruments out there that sound pretty insignificant, but of course some modern instruments are equally as duff.

If you keep on generalising people are only going to laugh at you!

June 2, 2016 at 10:05 AM · Complete rubbish, never in any "scientific" study comparing old to new has someone said they can't hear a difference between a Strad and a good modern. Everyone hears differences, its just not all people have equal tastes in music preferences, So on average 50% think the Strad sounds better, 50% thinks the good modern sounds better, couple that with my formula 90% of people are tone deaf, you can extrapolate that maybe not everyone considers the Strad's superior.

Couple that with psychological tests that show people will usually pick the louder violin over the better sounding one, and you see why so many makers are obsessed with volume and succeed in making loud if not wonderful sounding instruments.

Then there's the question of why do 95% of the world's top soloists prefer to play old Italian masterpieces, are they just stupid, or does there Strad do something their "fill in the blank" expensive modern maker's violin doesn't do.

June 2, 2016 at 10:40 AM · Lyndon does have a point. In fact, 2 points.

There are great bargains to be had in the realm of roughly 100-year-old German fiddle merchandise. Many a Markneukirchen instrument can sound really well if decently maintained. Don't forget, too, that top Hill bow-maker W.C.Retford bought a Weichold bow for his own use.

Yes, just like those automobiles whose value drops as soon as you drive away from the dealership, many a new fiddle will depreciate if and when the publicity machinery declines after the maker dies. A particular case was the Alfred Vincent violins, promoted thanks to the playing of Albert Sammons; these became very expensive during Vincent's lifetime but dropped afterwards.

However, I have auction catalogues going back to the 1970s and can confirm that the recent Italian instruments have appreciated steadily during this time. If our OP buys his Riccardo Bergonzi violin he might not get his money back the day afterwards but in a few decades he stands a good chance of making a slight profit - if he looks after it.

My oldest fiddle bought from new was Cremona-made in 1993. It has steadily improved with regular playing (I used it once in the Vienna Musikverein, BBC Philharmonic !) and though it's not yet like a 100-year-old violin it's definitely getting there. Let's hope our OP can live to be a centenarian.

June 2, 2016 at 11:02 AM · The question is does their appreciation keep up with inflation.

PS when I'm looking for bargains 100 years old I usually try to stay clear of Markneukirchen, although companies like EH Roth, H Th Heberlein, can be quite exceptional. Good grade Louis Lowendall are also quite good, although he claimed to operate out of Berlin.

June 2, 2016 at 12:49 PM · Lyndon wrote:

" Complete rubbish, never in any "scientific" study comparing old to new has someone said they can't hear a difference between a Strad and a good modern."


Actually, in the study referenced below, the finding was that the players (who were soloists in this case) showed a higher overall preference for the new instruments, and also that they were unable to tell which instruments were old and which were new, with a reliability better than random (or flipping a coin). The players were asked to guess the age of the violin, to test the widely held belief that "any good musician can tell you immediately, by playing, whether an instrument is an antique instrument or a modern one."

I think they did no better when it came to picking which of the instruments were Strads, but it's been a while since I reviewed the studies, so it would be best if those interested read the studies for themselves. One of the series can be found here:


One thing which has been confirmed by many of the various double-blind type studies, whether of violins or wine, is that opinions can be heavily influenced by prior belief or "placebo effect", if the identity of the violin or the wine is known to the person doing the evaluation. So the double-blind studies are an effort to produce data separated from the influence of prejudice and placebo effect. It's all interesting stuff, I think, not only for what it reveals about violins, but also for what it reveals about human nature, and decision making.

June 2, 2016 at 01:31 PM · "The question is does their appreciation keep up with inflation."

No question about it - folk with inflated egos can affect our appreciation ! I appreciated my violin the longer I played it & its output inflated my taxable income.

All this must be confusing to the OP who hoped for clear-cut answers. If he can establish a good working relationship with this Riccardo violin at an affordable price then any question as to whether there might possibly be a better bargain out there becomes academic. IMHO !!

June 2, 2016 at 03:13 PM · I played on a well known 19th century instrument for almost a decade; it served me well, but I decided to let it go to help with other aspects of my life. What I discovered for myself was that as I played more and more instruments to replace that 19th century one, older and newer, I happened to gradually gravitate towards modern. In a span of 5 years I went from a 1924 Fagnola, to an 1896 Bisiach, then to a 21st century instrument. I learned much about what I was looking for, and found high quality performance at nearly every era of making, price, and condition. This is not an endorsement, it's just my own personal experience which is unique to me and where my unbiased search of instruments took me. In fact, I'm quite content with what I use as my main concert tools, but I'm always on the lookout as my playing and tastes evolve. We're at the whim of what's available at the time of our search however extensive you make it. Make sure to give yourself a rough timeline and budget, and I've found that the longer the search is can make it that much more difficult in making decisions! :)

June 2, 2016 at 03:31 PM · "I've found that the longer the search is can make it that much more difficult in making decisions! :)"

Yes, the more fiddles you try in your price-range, the more confused you are likely to get. I understand that some dealerships are aware of this problem and will show you only a very few in your stated price-bracket. I gravitated towards "modern" after losing my ancient violin in divorce. I have found it interesting to discover whether or not new violins "improve". I think they do mature but I am aware that self-deception can occur - also, my ability to ADAPT to any instrument is subject to change. But when all's said and done, I'd be happy to find a Strad in my attic.

June 2, 2016 at 06:21 PM · "Right now I have a genuine 200 year old Italian violin for $10,000, you couldn't find a modern violin that sounds anything like it at any price, its not the loudest violin, but sweeter in sound by far than any modern I've ever heard." (Lyndon)

Lyndon - so let us just look at your statement, and nail this thing you have about loudness, and sweetness. I've had some loud girlfriends who were also very sweet, but that's beside the point!

A violin can be both very loud and sweet. Of course a player will have a huge effect on a loud violin, and some may make it sound very sweet, and seductive too.

I have to say I do not really think you know much about violin sound! I have a very loud modern fiddle that you would hate, and yet it can be very sweet in sound as well. I've played on wonderfully sweet old French fiddles, BUT they cannot produce the sound you need in a concerto situation, or in fact as a first violin in a quartet. Or against a Steinway grand in a Brahms (for example) sonata duo. Have you ever played Brahms with a Steinway (model D) as a violin and piano duo? The fiddles you have on your website look nice, but do they have a great big sound? Have you played first violin in a string quartet? My Bergonzi when pushed, will cut through in a Haydn quartet when the others are playing fffffff. And when it comes to Brahms it can hold up. I bet your "Italian" fiddle may have a contest. And if it's so good, why has it not been snapped up by someone? I had a no name Italian viola (possibly Storioni) and it had a great sound but no projection to speak of. Maybe it was French - but certain people (of this parish) thought it could be very old Italian.

I've played on many old Italians which have been pretty poor, no sound, even if "mellow" and although worth a bob or two (old English slang), they can't cut the ice as far as serious players are concerned.

So I would respectfully suggest you get some really good players to assess your fiddles, and then you might get quite a shock ...

June 2, 2016 at 11:39 PM · I have played a few Riccardo Bergonzi violins - and his violas and cellos as well at the roving Cremona show when it was at Ifshin Violins in El Cerrito, CA in 3 different years. To my mind his instruments were "best in class" in that collection, but in general they did not compete at the very highest level of instrument sound (except maybe one of the violas). Every maker has his best instruments, and not every instrument is made for every player's ears.

It's probably been 10 years since I played a number of impressive American-made violins for sale at a shop in San Francisco that in general were, I thought, at a higher standard. Of course - it could have been the room acoustics, too. One of those I especially remember was by Francis Kuttner, who has phone numbers in both San Francisco and Cremona.


June 3, 2016 at 02:20 AM · So Peter, you can make judgments about me, my opinion on sound and the sound of my violins by looking at pictures? WOW what an amazing talent.

June 3, 2016 at 06:00 AM · The living Italian makers will often fail to shine at international fiddle-making contests. There are other violinist.com threads that deal with this.

But I did inspect the violins at a 2003 Cremona "Triennale" exhibition. It appeared to me that high marks might be given for physical details that would have little bearing on the instrument's playability. Neat black edging to the scroll - WOW. Cremona maker Luca Salvadori DID did once win a medal in the USA, at a VSA event, but only a silver one. Quite a few English makers have trounced the Italians at contests, too. Don't forget Raymond Schryer from Canada !

However, the physical "look" of the fiddle is only part of the equation. I once tried a few new English violins at at an exhibition and found them to both look and sound NICE but the only Italian fiddle on display sounded more, er, ITALIAN. It had a better "ring" to the sound.

Oh, and my wife and I attended a recital given by one of the judges for "sound" at the Cremona Triennale contests, who sounded so evil we had to walk out ! Who can we trust for an opinion ? I'm reminded of the joke that if you ask the same question to a room full of economists you will get a different answer from each one. Whatever violin you own will cause someone out there to pull a face and make a derogatory remark !

So, we are back to "if it works for you, buy it".

June 3, 2016 at 08:01 AM · Buy it if it works - yes I would agree.

An intersting point I would like to make though, is (as David has just said), that we all carry our own mental audio image of what is the best sound. I think Lyndon and I would also agree on this point. (My own preferred sounds are the ones coming out of whatever instruments the old players of 1900 to about 1970 made on recordings and occasionally when I heard them live.

But have you ever experienced this scenario? You are backstage after a fine player has just given a recital or performed a concerto. In comes an audience member who says how wonderful his/her Strad/del Jesu/old Italian sounds - only to be told "oh, I was playing on my 2012 ********* modern violin which I own, as my Strad is in for repair.

This was because in the programme it said "he/she plays on a Strad/del Jesu/Guanarius/Guadanini of circa 17** Well even if the player does not own a valuable old Italian, his/her friend may own one which he/she sometimes gets a go on for 10 minutes ... So the statement "plays on" is not a lie, only a half truth. But in the audiences mind it is an old Italian.

Even players suffer from "old Italian" influences - remember the performer who sold her del Jesu because it was proved to be something else? Sounded great, but not so good when it was no longer a dJ.

June 3, 2016 at 08:16 AM · Just a small quote from the study that david B linked to further up the thread.


The nominal premise of this study was that soloists choose, from among six new and six Old Italian violins, one that might plausibly replace their own violin for an upcoming tour. After evaluating the instruments first in a rehearsal room and then in a concert hall, six soloists chose new violins and four chose Stradivaris. A single new violin was chosen four times, a single Stradivari three times, and two new violins and a Stradivari once each."

I think that this just says that old and new instruments are all excellent and equally good, but of course it comes down to player preferences and their ability to make whatever instrument sound good. So we should not generalise - there are great instruments from 1700 and later, and great instruments from 1960 and up to the present.

June 3, 2016 at 09:04 AM · As I've pointed out time and time again the study was not very well carried out from a scientific stand point not the least reason being a lack of a control group of anything other than modern and Strad violins, the Strads were anonymous so no one knows anything about their condition or state of preservation, the moderns were anonymous also, all of this is very unscientific, not to mention the obvious inbuilt bias of the studies authors, one being a top modern builder, the other on a long term agenda to tear down "myths" about antiques, in all the studies results say more about what the authors set out to prove than what the actual reality is.

June 3, 2016 at 10:56 AM · WELL LYNDON, YOU HAVE YOUR AXE TO GRIND and you can make all these generalisations - whereas I was being fair to modern and antique instruments by saying they were good and excellent, as well as the poor examples we see in both camps.

And to be honest, playing the violin a bit, as you do, does not qualify you as a player capable of getting a lot out of any instrument, new or old. You should step back a bit and get a wider perspective. If you tell me you play at a highish professional level then I will accept that, but would be surprised if you do. If you do then I will look forward to some solo recordings you have made ...

And the highly respected modern makers some of whom we read posts from on this forum will not take kindly to your baseless accusations.

June 3, 2016 at 11:10 AM · Lyndon wrote:

" ..in all the studies results say more about what the authors set out to prove than what the actual reality is, aqnd of course Mr Burgess, also having an agenda to sell high priced modern fiddles, etc."

Lyndon, I was not involved in the study, and I already have much more business than I can handle (knock on wood). I lose much more business due to lack of availability and long wait times.

When the OP asked how certain instruments compare, I suggested a method for actually comparing them, and even enlarging the comparison to include more makers and dealers (which would include old instruments). So what's my agenda again?

The "controls" in the studies were the Strads and Guarneris, the reason being that these have been widely considered to be the reference standards for many generations. And to a lesser extent, the soloists personal instruments were used as controls or references, instruments which the soloists likely thought at least adequate for high-level performance needs.

I've already provided a link to the study, so people here (including scientists) can form their own opinions about the validity and methods, without needing to rely on yours or mine (we are not scientists or statistical analysts). Fair enough? Or have my posts here been fraught with agenda, bias, and skullduggery? ;-)

June 3, 2016 at 11:44 AM · I am not a violin player, and have never claimed to be. However I do have access to top professionals to demo my instruments. The instrument I play and have built many of is the German baroque clavichord (Stringed keyboard), as you can see on my website. (With some brief recordings of my playing, and a top professional on my instruments)

David the reason you need a control, is to sort out how much of the preferences are random, and not related to the respective quality of the instrument, I suggested adding a top quality EH Roth from the 20s or a fine Colin Mezin. then if you can see a significant % of people picking one of those, you can probably assume that there is a random element to the study, that or the EH Roth is just as good as the top modern.

David said; "Or have my posts here been fraught with agenda, bias, and skullduggery? ;-)"

You said it!!

June 3, 2016 at 11:45 AM · Yes, David, that needed to be said. He's on a one man crusade to promote and sell his antiques. He needs a wider and fairer perspective. I suppose I shouldn't waste time having a discussion with him, but I needed to somewhat dispel his ridiculous ideas, as they may influence some inexperienced readers to his way of thinking, by saying that only antiques are any good, and modern instruments are rubbish. That's as daft as me saying all old Italian fiddles are rubbish!

June 3, 2016 at 11:54 AM · As usual you're royally full of it Peter, I never said everyone should buy antiques, I just said there are at least as many reasons to consider an antique as a modern, and that antiques tend to sound different from moderns, there is an antique sound and a modern sound, and as studies have shown people are about 50/50 split between which one they prefer.

My experience is that over 50 % of customers are looking for an antique violin and definitely don't want to "buy Chinese". That's what keeps me in business. Obviously there are a sizable % of customers that buy into the newer is better, new instruments require less maintenance (not necessarily true), China (or Ann Arbor)is the new Cremona, line of thinking, I can't reason with those people. My business is catering to the people that want an antique, and appreciate owning a small piece of history instead of a modern factory production.

June 3, 2016 at 12:10 PM · I've no intention of keeping up this discussion Lyndon. It's all pointless, as we both have diametrically opposed opinions. I hope you manage to sell all of your old Italian masters and get top players to recommend them and top dealers to authenticate them. If I lived nearby i would love to come and try them, but even then I expect you would set the dog on me ... (wink)

June 3, 2016 at 12:25 PM · I already work closely with a top expert dealer for my authentications, Peter. And I have two cats, and they're ferocious!!

June 3, 2016 at 12:55 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"David the reason you need a control, is to sort out how much of the preferences are random, and not related to the respective quality of the instrument, I suggested adding a top quality EH Roth from the 20s or a fine Colin Mezin."


As I already mentioned, the very expensive old instruments served as the controls in this particular study, because these have long been considered to set the bar for quality. Perhaps the researchers will want to include Roths or Colin Mezins in some future study, even though we seem to be seriously short of high-level players who consider them to be any kind of reference standard for superior sound quality. If you do, or your customers do, that's fine by me.

The present line of research started out of a desire or curiosity regarding how to make better instruments, or to understand how that was done, and to get a better understand why musicians consider them to be better. Frankly, there just hasn't been much interested in reproducing the sound and playing characteristics of Roths and Colin-Mezins.

If you would like to be more involved in future study protocols, I'd suggest putting together a resume of your research, scientific, and violin experience credentials, contacting the researchers, and volunteering your services.

June 3, 2016 at 01:10 PM · One would not expect the Roth's to score as highly, but if they did, it would throw the whole process into question. You need to have some agreed upon not world class instruments in the mix to see how much of the preferences are random, and how much are real, that's why I would consider them a control group and not the Strads. Everyone knows not all Strads are equal, how could randomly picked anonymous Strads possibly be considered a control group??The study is not scientific unless you consider multiple options of instruments, not just modern and Strads, how do you know the results aren't random, like flipping a coin. For one thing you need to consider antiques in a similar price range to the moderns, with similar contest to pick the best candidate. The Strads are not specified as to condition, there was no contest to pick the best Strad like there was for the moderns.

As you should well know most Strads are severely compromised by layer upon layer of shellac French polish on top of what little original varnish is left, as Strad would never use French polish on his violins, how is it fair to use a Strad that has been compromised in that way. One of many flaws in the way the study you refer to was done.

Just for interest sakes, Martin Swan on his website has tried out many violins old and new, and I think the highest one he ranked was an EH Roth, and I think it was from the 50s not the 20s.

June 3, 2016 at 01:36 PM · Lyndon, it sounds like you lack enough familiarity with Strads and such to realize that virtually EVERY Strad which is considered to be a great concert instrument, has been french polished, along with other various forms of non-original varnish manipulation. Do you think it would be productive to eliminate these instruments which are considered to be the best, from consideration? If you see value in that, again, take it up with the researchers, and if nothing else, they can have a good chuckle.

While I don't care for readers here being mislead, I really don't have time to argue with you about every little thing, so it's probably best that I just stay off Violinist.com.

June 3, 2016 at 02:07 PM · That's fine by me!!

David quoted; "virtually EVERY Strad which is considered to be a great concert instrument, has been french polished"

Isn't that what I just said, I said most Strads have many coats of of shellac, and some have just a little, I would even guess some pristine examples have escaped this terrible process. How about we take a fine David Burgess violin, coat it with ten coats of shellac and then see how it compares to a Strad, for scientific purposes its the only honest way to compare them!!

Oh, and just to make this a fair comparison we should add multiple cracks to David's violin, professionally repaired and perhaps a soundpost patch or two. Why?? Because some makers are not only claiming to be as good a maker as Stradivari, they're claiming to be better, so lets even the playing field and have a fair comparison.

June 3, 2016 at 03:03 PM · "Martin Swan on his website has tried out many violins old and new.." http://www.martinswanviolins.com/content/tone.html

Many surprises here. One violin I owned and discarded as lacking stamina (table far too thin at the edges !) got a high grade.

That those Stradivaris are no longer in the state the maker left them is beside the point. They were examples in modern set-up & accepted as still being "first class concert violins". You wouldn't expect to buy a Stradivari with the original neck setting; and many of those instruments had thicknesses adjusted in Milan circa 1800. And, yes, repaired cracks, sound-post patches, and shellac too..Old fiddles worth megabucks were pitted against new ones. Nothing wrong in that - but then evaluation is subject to human intervention - as soon as an experienced player begins to play he/she begins at once to adapt to the instrument. Whilst there are scientific means of tracing frequency response (with often alarming peaks and troughs even in the most "valuable" fiddles) there's no automatic machine for a USB - Universal Standard Bowstroke - as far as I know.

Extract from "The Artist and his Instrument" by Ruggiero Ricci - sleeve notes from an old LP "THE GLORY OF CREMONA" :-

"It is impossible to find one instrument which is at the same time dark, brilliant, open, nasal, sweet, etc..." and "Ultimately it is the player who must adapt himself to his violin .."

June 3, 2016 at 03:04 PM · PS That original Brunswick Ruggiero Ricci CD, AXA 4521, was reissued as a CD with a few extras by The Strad magazine.

June 3, 2016 at 03:32 PM · David, I thought the regraduations occurred in Paris and to a lesser extent London, certainly a lot of the French polishing occured there.

The problem is the so called scientific comparisons of Strads and top modern makers have been used to give the impression that modern makers are inherently superior to any antique not just Strads, since it is assumed than any other antique couldn't possibly be as good as the Strads used in the comparison (another false assumption IMHO). I was always taught that Strads were very good(Strad being the most famous, perfectionist maker) but that other violins by less famous makers could sound just as good or better.

That's why I bring up the Roth comparison, Roth's are trade violins, mass produced, but perhaps near the top level of trade violin through history, are our top modern makers demonstrably better, I'm surprised no one wants to know badly enough to do a blind comparison test. The modern makers are claiming the best violins IN HISTORY are being made today. I say prove it, sounds like a bunch of hooey to me.

June 3, 2016 at 03:44 PM · "The modern makers are claiming the best violins IN HISTORY are being made today."

?? Really ?? What those so-called blind tests do seem to prove, though, is that top players can and do make some of the new fiddles sound as well to listeners as the ancient relics can do. It seems to me as a mere retired orchestral hack is that older, well "played in" violins are more forgiving of careless or inexpert playing.

I do own a violin that looks like a Roth (silly fake label in it !) and it does sound very well. Cheap as chips.

June 3, 2016 at 04:05 PM · Except they not only picked the best modern makers, they picked the best of best modern makers output in a bigger competition before they went up against the Strads, they had no similar competition to pick the best Strad, because honestly they didn't have that many Strads to choose from and basically took what ever they could get, I think if they had used those same criteria for modern makers violins as they did for the Strads the Strads could have done much better, on average I don't think even the top modern makers sound better than the best Strads, but if you choose the best a given top maker can come up with, it becomes an even competition.

The tragedy is that the studies are being used as propaganda to promote makers that were no where near good enough to make it into the competition, The idea that modern makers, as a group are superior to Cremonese antiques in general, is laughable to me at best.

June 3, 2016 at 04:19 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"Don't let these bozos convince you that 200 year old antique don't sound different from brand new ones, its a deliberate lie promulgated by whom, the same modern violin makers that charge the highest prices. All they can succeed at is making loud, bright in your face violins, they can never reproduce the richness and complexity, and yes sweetness of tone of really good antiques."


Oh me oh my!! Are you absolutely sure about that? I've run across modern violins that have just about every kind of sound imaginable, among the 1000-plus I have played. How many have you played, again?

June 3, 2016 at 04:25 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"How about we take a fine David Burgess violin, coat it with ten coats of shellac and then see how it compares to a Strad, for scientific purposes its the only honest way to compare them!!"


Lyndon, many contemporary violins (some of them quite good sounding) were originally varnished with shellac, and many contemporary makers use french polishing in the finishing of their own instruments, so we're sorely lacking in INFORMED evidence that either is detrimental to violin sound. And some makers put "soundpost patches" in their new instruments as well. So your premise basically comes down being "a red herring".

The main reason french polishing is frowned upon in the restoration community is that it alters the visual appearance (particularly the surface texture) from what was original to the maker. The degree of originality of the varnish is considered very important to market value, especially when it comes to irreplaceable "collector" instruments of major historical importance.

But that's it for me. Unfortunately, I simply cannot afford the time to address a seemingly relentless barrage of spin and highly questionable assertions, nor am I one who enjoys conflict for the sake of conflict. So from this point, you can continue on with your various claims in various threads, without balance or counterpoint from me. This absence of counterpoint to Lyndon's claims is in no way indicative of approval or agreement, either from me, or by the better-trained and informed violin technical community at large.

My apologies to everyone else.

David Burgess

June 3, 2016 at 04:30 PM · Well maybe you're not aware of it David, but I'm an instrument maker, a maker of instruments that have been varnished with shellac by most modern makers, there was even an expert who claimed Ruckers was using shellac on soundboards in the 1500s because they detected varnish and it must be shellac!! Shellac is terrible for keyboard soundboards, it makes the sound bright and tinny, because its hard and relatively inflexible, my experiments with violins showed me that shellac has the same detrimental effect on violins, the same detrimental effect it has on Stradivari violins, it gives a hard edge to the sound, and reduces the sweetness and strength in the midrange that a good Oil varnish has, now I know some people like bright and tinny sound, but you never going to convince me that shellac is a preferable treatment for anything other than furniture.

June 3, 2016 at 05:54 PM · Give it a rest, Lyndon, we are all getting fed up with your obsessive BS.

June 3, 2016 at 06:31 PM · The Riccardo Bergonzi violins I've tried were good instruments,but in my opinion not at the same level of the American makers I compared them to such as Alf Curtin and especially Howard Needham in terms of balance, power and depth. I can't speak for other American makers, but to me the same applies to many other modern Italians (and not so modern). Maybe the difference in price makes sense in this case.

June 3, 2016 at 06:39 PM · Peter, do you have the arrogance to assume you speak for everyone on violinst.com. I suggest you read some of my posts, you might learn something, you seem like you are getting your information from the violin equivalent of Fox news!!

June 3, 2016 at 07:07 PM · The last Fox I saw was being chased by my wonderful Lurcher who is also a good judge of violin sound. But that is not news.

The only arrogance i've witnessed on this excellent violin site has been continually expressed by a certain person who hates modern fiddles. Can't think who that might be, but if you have any knowledge please tell us all so we can avoid this person's posts! We could all do with a rest from this obsessively bent individual who keeps ranting about some old antiques and who has no idea about how violins should sound.

I'm sure you must know who this is, so please give us all a break, and then we can safely ignore his/her posts. Best wishes from all those who really appreciate good old fiddles and good new ones too.


Jasha Heifetz (He sent this via the dark web as he's sold all his Strads/del Gesus gear and bough Hi Tech American stuff instead)

PS I knew a very well known cellist who sold his Strad because it was rather unreliable and the sound would change from day to day ... I got that from the horse's mouth. Even though the horse's teeth were rather foul. But this cellist was a great player and I think an outstanding musician.

June 3, 2016 at 07:22 PM · Peter try to narrow down your comments to your own personal opinions, and stop trying to speak for everyone, who obviously don't see things exactly the way you do, I don't know who you are, or if you even play professionally but you've crossed the line between commenting on your own opinions, and started a whole venue of attacking me for no apparent reason. I run my own violin shop, I sell mostly antique (Over 100 year old) violins. I think modern musicians are being bombarded with buy Chinese, buy American modern, when antiques are equally if not more able to fill the needs and pocket books of modern performers, I also don't like the sound of Carbon Fibre bows.

Now what is so controversial about that, you don't seem to have any respect for luthiers at all unless they only make fiddles, who's going to repair your violin, fit your soundpost, replace your bridge, level you fingerboard, repair the crack that opens up in your new violin after you have convinced everyone not to support luthiers that restore violins for a living. You are attacking every luthier that deals in antique violins, pretty soon, there won't be any left, and your fiddle will sit with broken strings and no bridge to show up at some yard sale in 100 years.

June 3, 2016 at 07:59 PM · Just to set the record straight from some of the slander directed at me. I have nothing but respect for builders of musical instruments IF they hand make them, and is not produced in a factory. I am a musical instrument maker at one time considered one of the top clavichord makers in the country, I have made almost 20 clavichords, each one being the labour equivalent of maybe three violins, at least.

The expert I work with for authentications is one of the top makers in the country, he sells his violins for $30,000, but mostly sells antiques, and restores antiques, even works on genuine Stradivari violins, occasionally. So I have the utmost respect for him as a builder, but I'm much more impressed by his amazing abilities to restore violins, and repair cracks so well, that you can't even see them. I actually payed him in cash or trade to touch up varnish on two of my fiddles, he does amazing work, and without truly talented luthiers, no one is going to be able to professionally repair your violin, whether its old or new.

Arguing about which is better antique or modern, Is like arguing over who make better cars, Volvo or Mercedes. There is no right or wrong answer, its just a preference, like your favourite food, everyone has different tastes, why can't you just accept that, Peter, instead of trying to force your tastes in violins on everyone else.

June 3, 2016 at 08:42 PM · Lyndon. enough is enough. Have a great day.

June 3, 2016 at 08:53 PM · Same to you, I wish I had a better idea what your argument was instead of just being everything the opposite of what I say, you being a player and me a luthier gives us radically different perspectives, you're concerned with finding one great violin, I'm principally concerned with finding multiple affordable violins to appeal to beginner to intermediate customers. I don't have enough higher quality violins to appeal to I assume professional players like yourself.

My instruments are mainly in direct competition with Factory Chinese, as opposed to modern hand made American or Cremonese.

June 4, 2016 at 05:41 AM · @ Charles Wang :- I hope you will let us all know whether you eventually go ahead and buy the fantastic Riccardo Bergonzi or plump for an American one.

OK, a certain paranoid poster is going to take it as a personal insult if you do so rather than buying an ancient German violin, but don't let that put you off !

The only big drawbacks as far as the USA makers are concerned is that the prices might be higher and you'd have to wait years to get one - that's if I have understood previous posts on this site correctly. I suppose you could buy the Bergonzi to use until your fine new American violin arrives ???

June 4, 2016 at 06:40 AM · I would recommend the 100 year old Italian ( I believe) violin I have for $6,000, it may not be as good for you as your $15,000?? Bergonzi, but if it is you're saving about $9,000 dollars. Is that what you call paranoia David, wanting to save customers money??

June 4, 2016 at 08:00 AM · Wow! Just read through all the comments people left here. It was a bit overwhelming but I would like to say thank you to each and every one of you that took the time out to help answer my question. Special thanks to David Burgess for appearing on this thread. It is quite a honor to have a world renown violin maker respond directly to your questions. Choosing a violin has been both fun and tiring at the same time. I have probably tried over 100 violins in the past 6 months. The Bergonzi is a very good instrument and just today I was lucky enough to get my hands on a Gregg Alf 1991 violin. I was given only four days to try it since there is already a list of people waiting to try the Alf violin. I also have just one more week with the Bergonzi. I wish that I had more time to live with the violin and get to know it more before I have to make a decision and put out $20-40k. If I say yes now and I find a better violin soon afterwards, I will end up regretting my choice. I don't want to rush into anything but also don't want to miss out on a good opportunity.

@Peter Charles: Thank you for sharing your experience with your R. Bergonzi . I agree that the R.Bergonzi I have also has a big sound compared to many violins I tried. I would love to hear a sample of your Bergonzi violin if possible: charleswang1105@gmail.com

@David Beck: Thank you for all the encouragement and advice. It is true that the top violin makers have a long wait list. I would need to wait 3 years to get a violin from David Burgess. I think it is a similar wait time for the other makers as well. Luckily I got a hold of a Gregg Alf today so I don't have to wait 3 years to get it if I decide to buy it.

@David Burgess: I wish I can get a violin from you. Can you just skip everyone and put me next on your list? hehehe =p (J/K) That will prob piss off all your other clients. Perhaps I will commission a violin from you if I end up not going with any of these violins I'm trying.

@Lyndon Taylor: Thank you for your advice. I will give equal attention to ancient violins as well as new ones before I make a decision.

@Thomas: Thank you. We shall be in contact.

June 4, 2016 at 08:16 AM · Thank you Charles, I am relieved and very glad that you actually have the violins you are considering in your own hands on trial. A lot of people on this forum seem to be recommending buying this violin or that without actually having time to trial it if even hear it at all. That to me seems like very bad policy. Even top makers have their duds, and sometimes lesser makers have rarer exceptional fiddles, you don't know which is which until you actually try them out. Thank God you are in a position to do that.

June 4, 2016 at 08:34 AM · "I would love to hear a sample of your Bergonzi violin if possible: charleswang1105@gmail.com"

Sorry for butting in, but if you wish to hear another sample of an earlier R. Bergonzi, you might want to visit the corilon website, who currently have a 1992 Riccardo Bergonzi in their catalogue: http://www.corilon.com/shop/en/item1445_1.html

Good luck with your quest!

June 4, 2016 at 11:45 AM · That Bergonzi at Corilon sounds marvellous, Johanna - so thanks for the link.

Charles - I've sent you a short example of my Bergonzi - hope it does not sound too rough! It's not the easiest fiddle to play, but I understand some del Jesu's are extremely hard to play. (It's a Guarnarius del G copy). It sounds best with Peter Infeld Thomastik strings. The ones on there are in the sample I sent are quite old and are Pirastro Synoxa (A,D,G) and Warchel Amber E.

June 4, 2016 at 05:43 PM · What a post, and people are passionate in their views. My advice to the player is to research all the advice and all the arguments that you can. Play many violins and do everything possible to go down the path of exploring what you like. Ask violin makers, ask teachers, ask your colleagues, even talk about it with people who know nothing about the violin, to sort out your reactions.

But in the end, this is my big piece of advice: be prepared to take full personal responsibility for your decision. Justify it YOURSELF, based on everything you know.

I had many people vouching for the sound, authenticity and value of my violin; others saying that a "composite" (it has a later scroll and a lid that had been injured and repaired, which somewhat devalues it) was less worth the investment and might need more repairs one day. Ultimately I bought it because I loved the sound so much that I knew I would be searching my entire life for exactly the thing I had in my hands. As predicted, it came with the problems and benefits of an old composite violin: a wonderful sweet voice at a high but not impossible price, and the occasional need for repairs, big and small. I have not regretted it for a minute, I love it. New violins have their problems and benefits: much lower price and less wear, tear and old repairs; but the need to break it in and chance of the voice changing. But another benefit is it's easier to consult the living maker, or to buy another if it doesn't work out.

I do not recommend antique over modern or vice-versa. I recommend a thorough search that enables you to take on that decision yourself, because ultimately it is all on you, the buyer.

June 4, 2016 at 08:57 PM · Passionate views! I think that's a polite way of putting it, when both Lyndon and I were guilty of both going over the top. I'm not really in disagreement with anyone, old instruments and new are equally valid. We mostly can't really afford the old Italian masters - well most of us - and whereas £12,000 or $17,000 will buy a pretty good modern instrument, or $40,000 a top US maker - you need £200,000 to buy a decent old Italian and £500,000 to buy a wonderful old Italian - and 2-3 million to buy a famous old Italian (Strad etc). Even established top soloists can't afford the top old masters anymore, as the prices have gone through the roof. Gone are the days when famous players could afford a Strad and a Guanarius and a Guadanini, and a few top modern fiddles as well. Some are now lucky that a wealthy sponsor or institution will lend out a Strad on a long term basis.

So many of us go for a decent modern fiddle which will often compete very well with many old instruments in sound and volume, and even equal and occasionally surpass the famous ones.

I wonder what those Montreal winners were playing on? They all looked like quite old instruments, but it was impossible to judge the sound as the TV broadcast did no favours for the violin sound. Maybe a modern violin *may* have projected better, who knows? (There were no mic's in sight for the soloists, but plenty for timpany, brass and woodwinds!)

June 4, 2016 at 09:37 PM · For commentary on what instruments were being played, see THIS LINK. Extracted from their list:

Ayana Tsuji (1st prize) - 1850 JB Vuillaume

Mai Suzuki -1683 Niccolo Amati

Diana Pasko - 1922 Hannibal Fagnola

Xiao Wang - 1740 Guarneri del Gesu (ex-Sandor Vegh)

Anna Lee - 1706 Antonio Stradivarius

They also noted that Pasko's Fagnola was the only violin in the competition built after 1900.

June 5, 2016 at 12:26 AM ·

June 5, 2016 at 07:11 AM · When I was looking here in London in 2010 and 2011 I tried many violins which were from late 1700's to mid 20C

Nothing grabbed me even though some were very well known makers (Eg Betts).

On the day I found the Bergonzi I had first tried some instruments and found one French fiddle from about 1930 from a well known Italian maker living in the South of France. It had a very sweet sound, in fact too sweet and I knew I would soon tire of it. Another French violin made late 19C or early 20C had a very mellow sound and reasonable volume. I then tried the slightly more expensive (by a couple of thousand) violin by R Bergonzi. I was knocked out by the huge sound and things in the room vibrating in sympathy. The sound was very pure as well, and after a couple of weeks at home with it on trial, I just knew it was the one.

A great thing about this fiddle is that you do not have to push it to get a sound bigger and more expansive than a lot of other violins, but if needed you can push it an awful lot.

That's my experience anyway. So yes there are very nice violins from the 1880's to the 1930's if you can find them, as well as a lot of lesser sounding violins, but newer fiddles are excellent value too, and I don't believe it takes that long to play in a brand new instrument - maybe a few months if you play it a lot - and it will reach maturity in two or three years. Of course some can get worse and lose their sound, and that's why I would recommend getting a new instrument that is just a few years old - maybe 10-15 years old. (David may well correct me on this, as the getting worse may not in fact be the reality).

There are great instruments out there from all periods, but to buy old Italian big named violins is certainly not cheap, and I think Guadanini's and JB Vuillaume are probably in the region of £500,000 to £1 million (if I've got that right?)

I also have an antique fiddle of 1841 - it's German - and is OK - but not great in sound. But it was dirt cheap and good enough to learn things on if needed.

June 5, 2016 at 07:24 AM · "Riccardo Bergonzi violins compared to top US violin makers" is the heading to this thread.

Impossible to generalise, IMHO. You cannot argue from the particular to the general. But if I learned anything from this thread it's that I should buy an axe and learn to grind it !

BTW the concertmaster in my first job played a Girolamo Amati II, which had cost him roughly twice the basic annual salary for a rank'n'file fiddler. What can you buy for that amount of cash now ? When asked this question a London dealer showed me a Garimberti violin, £60k. As Peter Charles has remarked, very few players can afford the ancient Italians, let alone those Cremonese masterpieces, so we needed to develop a less sneering attitude to new and nearly new instruments. I seem to remember that the viola players spearheaded a revival in fine making. Up until then, with very few exceptions, "new" was largely for kids and impecunious amateurs.

I'd like to add that those blind (deaf ?) tests between Strads and "new" fiddles are NOT some wickedness invented by David Burgess but have been going on for some time. People are interested to know "what all the fuss is about". Folk tried Gemunder violins and declared of one that "it is a real Guarnerius" (in French, if you read his book - we are not allowed to post in that language !)). In the days of Albert Sammons his Vincent violins trounced Stradivaris. Peter Charles cites other examples. As I wrote, so much depends on the individual performer.

If you can make a "modern" work for you you have saved yourself a lot of cash; unless of course you actually prefer the tone of a Roth, Heberlein or such.

J.B. Vuillaume violins have been retailing in London for around £150k and recently are approaching that figure at auctions - which suggests the prices are still rising. A quartet Of J.B.V.'s was nearly a million British quids at a recent auction. I don't know about Guads.

June 5, 2016 at 07:38 AM · I have a friend who bought a JB Vuillaume in the late 1960's or maybe early 1970's. She sold it and now has great regrets. She now has a Panormo and loves it. But I guess the JB Vuillaume had a bigger sound, maybe.

If we had realised we should all have bought famous violins and bows in the 1950's and 60's - as well as houses. We would all be multi-millionaires now, (and I do know some colleagues who probably are) but then you can't spend it/enjoy it once you have kicked the bucket, so don't have too many regrets.

June 5, 2016 at 07:50 AM · I think MY J.B.V. violin cost me £5,500, 1976. Too much repair work to be really valuable, but the present owner is grateful that the insurance costs are lessened as a result !

An observation that might interest the OP :- in the late 60's a local dealership had a nice Ettore Soffritti violin for sale, £485. A colleague who had worked at HILLS in London told me the price was too high - "Only Hill fiddles of that date are worth that" . So I didn't get it. The price now would exceed that of a Hill violin by a considerable margin, I think. Goes to show - who CAN you trust ? You really do have to take any advice with a pinch of salt and MAKE UP YOUR OWN MIND !!!

Incidentally the Brobst Violin Shop lists a Riccardo Bergonzi 1992 violin. It was called "Monica" by the maker. Pity abou Lewinsky. It has had professional use, I gather as had M.L. Can the OP travel and try this as a comparison ?

June 5, 2016 at 08:45 AM · Yes, an Ettore Soffritti violin might go for £25,000 to £36,000 at todays prices. That's an increase in value of about 62 times at the £30,000 price. So your JBV might be worth about £350K now ...

I think bows may have gone up by a factor of about 80 times since the 1960's.

I would like to come back with prior knowledge, except that there is no coming back. And if there were I might get lumbered with having to be a conductor and have nothing to do with music at all ...

June 5, 2016 at 08:46 AM · Just so long as we keep in mind that personal opinions are just that, personal, and don't apply to everyone else.

June 5, 2016 at 08:56 AM · Lyndon said "Just so long as we keep in mind that personal opinions are just that, personal, and don't apply to everyone else. "

What's that got to do with the price of eggs? I've just looked at auction prices for the Ettore Soffritti violin, so how can that be a personal opinion? I do try and remain a person of the REAL world, even if some people do not ... And Chinese fiddles are part of the real world and some are pretty damned good, especially at a price level, whatever you say.

June 5, 2016 at 09:54 AM · Yes, that's your opinion.

June 5, 2016 at 10:16 AM · "Yes, that's your opinion."

That's what Dr. Sheldon Cooper's mother says to him in "The Big Bang Theory"; she believes in creationism as opposed to evolution.

June 5, 2016 at 12:26 PM · Yes, well I find evolution without the influence of a higher power to be impossible too. You are free to your opinions though, but its rather presumptuous when you start attacking people for having a different taste in music than you do. The world is big enough for pro modern and pro antique violin customers to live in peace, one would hope.

June 5, 2016 at 12:46 PM · The gospel according to Lyndon - "The world is big enough for pro modern and pro antique violin customers to live in peace, one would hope."

That's what we have been telling you for years, Lyndon, but you seem deaf to our suggestions, and you only hear your own repeated mantras. I haven't yet declared war on you, so go in peace! (wink)

June 5, 2016 at 12:51 PM · Maybe's its because of the sheer volume of pro modern opinions on this forum, that I have to shout a bit to be heard; that some people prefer antiques, and they are not all overpriced.

June 5, 2016 at 01:24 PM · Do you think you could have accomplished this with fewer than 32 posts (in this thread alone so far), and without being untruthful?

June 5, 2016 at 01:24 PM · So you of all people are accusing me of being a liar, David??

PS I'm counting 26 posts from Peter Charles.

June 5, 2016 at 01:24 PM · Lyndon wrote;

"The modern makers are claiming the best violins IN HISTORY are being made today."


Really? Which makers are claiming that?

June 5, 2016 at 02:45 PM · OK Lyndon - people will not take you seriously if you join in on a thread that was asking for opinions about a certain MODERN violin by Bergonzi as against high quality US violins, and you hi-jack it and go on about antique violins and how awful modern violins are.

This is just your extremely biassed opinion and you wanting to promote the sort of merchandise you sell as a dealer. Why don't you get a few modern fiddles of the best quality and sell those as well? Then we might start to think you are a balanced person, but I for one find you extremely obsessive and very rude about very highly respected contemporary violin makers.

This will not do, and if you persist, one or other of us (probably me) may well make a complaint.

I would advise you in all sincerity to keep out of discussions about modern violins, and stick to threads discussing antique instruments where you obviously have some knowledge.

June 5, 2016 at 02:54 PM · You're the one that has been excessively rude, Peter, and blatantly broken the rules against personal attacks several times.

This is a thread about someone looking for a new violin, being strongly influenced by people on this forum perhaps, that modern is the way to go. To point out to him that quality sounding unlabeled antique handmade, not production violins are out there at similar prices to top modern makers, or significantly cheaper, is not a crime but rather a service to all prospective buyers that read this thread. This forum does not have specific rules about staying directly on topic, but it does have very clear rules against attacks on person, and you IMHO have crossed that line.

June 5, 2016 at 04:19 PM · Laurie, according to the expert I work with, not having the original scroll only knocks roughly 25% off the value, composite violin usually refers to a violin where either the top or back are not by the same maker, or sometimes the ribs, but again even several replaced ribs does not knock that much off the value.

I believe there are actually some composite Stradivari violins that are entirely made by Stradivari, just not from the same violin!!

Condition of the top does effect value, but there are professional restorers that can make all the cracks virtually invisible, and in that state the devaluation is not that much. Bassbar and soundpost cracks and patches devalue far more than other cracks in less critical areas.

June 5, 2016 at 06:09 PM · Guadagninis are still considerably more expensive than Vuillaumes. You can get a Vuillaume in the low 6 figures still.

June 5, 2016 at 06:10 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"So you of all people are accusing me of being a liar, David??"


Deleted. :-)

But since you've brought up the forum rules, did you notice this part?

"1) Post accurate information

No one should pass along information that he or she knows to be wrong, or even suspects to be wrong."

June 5, 2016 at 06:45 PM · Personally, I think I may be a fair minded person, but others may disagree.

This has been, on this thread, a discussion about modern violins, and all the participants (excluding Lyndon) have sensibly discussed the merits of various fiddles from Italy, the US and even maybe elsewhere. From the original request by the OP about R Bergonzi, we have been privileged by comments not only from a fine US maker, whose name I need not mention, but by others including David Beck, from the UK, and others, as to the various merits of such instruments.

Along comes a troll, with intentions of furthering his own instruments for sale, and insults just about everyone else.

The OP had requested a discussion about a certain fiddle maker (namely Ricardo Bergonzi) in comparison to some very respected US makers.

An intelligent discussion was underway, with personal experiences and valuable information about the state of modern, and even some older instruments. (But the consensus was about very modern violins)

So, a certain Mr Lyndon Taylor - joins in and proceeds to blur the whole issue and discussion with his stupid (yes, I repeat, STUPID) comments about how awful and rubbish modern violins are.

This is the vandalism of a troll, and as such, I personally think he should be banned from this forum, unless he is willing to comment ONLY on antique instruments. (I think his understanding and knowledge of even these instruments is extremely limited on my own personal judgement).

So Lyndon, I personally think you are totally discredited and you should look elsewhere to make your daft comments.

June 5, 2016 at 06:46 PM · Yeah, David, and I'll bet none of your crowd can put an old Markneukirchen in top shape, new bridge, soundpost, level fingerboard, treat pegs, new European strings for $200, can they. I am not at the top of my field, never have claimed to be, but I am at the top of my field for affordable work on beginner and intermediate violins, I have close friends at the top of their field for advice, and I strive to do the best work I possibly can for my customers. As a clavichord maker I was at the top of my field, and a lot of that experience carries over into violins.

If I had to make a list of all your negative qualities, David, it wouldn't take long to come up with some doozies, but I don't, why are you so quick to come up with insults for your fellow luthiers, David. Does it make you feel more professional, do you think it makes people more likely to listen to you. maybe you should think about it.

June 5, 2016 at 06:54 PM · Peter, perhaps you need to go back and read the OPs original posts. This is a customer that presumably has $20,000 to spend to buy him self the best violin he can find, People like you have convinced him to consider Bergonzi, and other American modern makers. I don't see anywhere in his comments where he states he only wants to consider modern makers, in fact when he replies to everyone he actually thanks me for mentioning the possibility of antique alternatives and says that he will consider antiques as well as moderns in his search. So who here is being the troll. the person intelligently mentioning all his options, or the person trying to tell him he has no choice but to buy a modern violin.

This is what the OP said to me, notice he DID NOT say he is only considering modern violins;

@Lyndon Taylor: Thank you for your advice. I will give equal attention to ancient violins as well as new ones before I make a decision.

June 5, 2016 at 06:58 PM · Lyndon wrote:

"If I had to make a list of all your negative qualities, David, it wouldn't take long to come up with some doozies, but I don't, why are you so quick to come up with insults for your fellow luthiers, David."


"Fellow luthiers", meaning you?

I'm quite willing to put lots of people into the "fellow luthier" category. Others, I would be embarrassed to be associated with.

June 5, 2016 at 07:02 PM · Lyndon, you should re-read the original post. He already has a R Bergonzi on trial and wanted comments about trying other US makers as well. he then also had another violin from a US maker as a possibility.


CAN"T you read? You must be needing new glasses and maybe a hearing aid as well!

June 5, 2016 at 07:03 PM · Actually if you go back near the top of this thread, Peter, the OP mention how he had read several people on this forum recommending Bergonzi, presumably influencing him to try out the one he is trialing.

Yes, and do you remember my response to the OP's reply. This is an example of what you are calling trolling??

Lyndon replied; · Thank you Charles, I am relieved and very glad that you actually have the violins you are considering in your own hands on trial. A lot of people on this forum seem to be recommending buying this violin or that without actually having time to trial it if even hear it at all. That to me seems like very bad policy. Even top makers have their duds, and sometimes lesser makers have rarer exceptional fiddles, you don't know which is which until you actually try them out. Thank God you are in a position to do that. [EDIT] [Flag?]

June 5, 2016 at 07:05 PM · Peter and David, You both don't seem to understand that expressing opinions and speaking from one's own experience is not a crime, personal attacks are a crime, at least on internet forums.

June 5, 2016 at 07:05 PM · Who are you referring to? Come on, get your brain into gear!

June 5, 2016 at 07:10 PM · Ask the moderator, she's the one now considering your comments

June 5, 2016 at 07:13 PM · The main problem on this very interesting thread about modern violins is the intrusion of a troll. What a pain, and so many wasted posts by the same troll.

Actually, I beat you to it and complained about you , LYNDON, several posts ago. I think we could all take a welcome holiday from your amateur and silly brainless comments.

June 5, 2016 at 07:32 PM · You don't seem to understand the forum rules, Peter, you're the one that has repeatedly broken them.

June 5, 2016 at 07:35 PM · Not good English Lyndon, can you re-phrase?

OK, so now you have edited - much better English.

But you just do not understand etiquette do you? It's so rude to butt in with your prejudices. Have you no idea about that sort of thing?

June 5, 2016 at 07:44 PM · Peter said; "Actually, I beat you to it and complained about you , LYNDON, several posts ago. I think we could all take a welcome holiday from your amateur and silly brainless comments."

Are you even aware of what a personal attack is, Peter, this is the very definition of a blatant personal attack on me. You're calling me amateur, silly and brainless.And you think that is permissible on this forum.

Lydia since I can't post below you, the thread is closed, I'll comment above your post. I'm sorry, but this has nothing to do with me trying to sell one of my rare budget professional violins for $6,000 and everything about encouraging anyone reading this thread, including the OP to consider antiques in their price range and not just automatically assume that modern violins are going to sound better for the money, no matter what, as some people like Peter and David seem to be implying.

For many people it is perhaps true that they will find a modern violin to their preference pocketbookwise, but not everyone, everyone's taste in sound is different, and IMHO antiques tend to sound different, there is no reason not to consider them, although as we well know, if they have a good authentic label they tend to be priced high.

I highly resent posters implication that I am doing this to promote my own business, quite the contrary, If I was principally concerned with promoting myself, I would keep my mouth shut and act like I know more than I do.

To me its about honesty, I'm more concerned with being honest to readers and honest about my business, than putting myself in the best light in order to promote sales. I seriously doubt I've done much to actually promote my business in this thread, I certainly haven't got any phone calls wanting to see antiques!!

June 5, 2016 at 07:48 PM · I think part of the point that others are trying to make is that the original poster is looking at a particular category of instruments. He's got $20k+ to spend, and based on the other makers he's looking at, quite likely $40k+.

My guess is that kind of player is not interested in, say, Lyndon's $6,000 "not as good but you could save $9k" antique for the intermediate-level player. The OP might very well be interested in looking at antique instruments in his price range, too, but my guess is that they won't be no-name violins. (When you're spending that kind of money, you have an interest in protecting your investment in terms of resale value and appreciation, too.) Contemporary violins from well-established makers tend to offer good bang for the buck, so to speak.

Yes, we all know that some players luck into very fine-sounding instruments at bargain prices, but there's an enormous amount of serendipity involved in such discoveries -- and what might be a satisfying instrument to a student might not be such for a performer. The OP appears to have found a violin that he likes a great deal; he's just wondering if there might be other violins and makers that would be worth checking out. Blathering on about intermediate-level instruments isn't really helpful in this thread.

EDIT: (replying to Lyndon) I'm not accusing you of doing this to self-promote. I'm just saying that whether you're self-promoting or simply offering a different perspective, the intermediate-violin perspective is tangential to this thread, which is part of why you're getting the reactions that you are.

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