Modern Violins

July 26, 2004 at 11:08 PM · What modern violins have you found to be quite impressive? Let's say in the price range of about 20,000 and up?

This is not the BEST OF... series, just would love to hear the name of the maker, where it is, what kind of sound, and how much. Thanks!

Replies (99)

July 27, 2004 at 03:45 AM · I spent the past 3 years investigating the best makers around the world. A list is available at The Amati Foundation website at http://www.amatifoundation.org/pages/4/index.htm

In the $20,000 +/- range, Joseph Curtin, Gregg Alf, Peter Beare, Jan Spidlen, Raymond Schryer, David Burgess, and Christopher Germain are all fantastic makers who can pretty much build an instrument to fit the needs of most players.

Bill

July 27, 2004 at 01:57 PM · I would definitely add Roger Hargrave to that list. I've seen two of Roger's instruments, and they sound and look amazing.

July 28, 2004 at 02:12 AM · Roger is excellent. Unfortunately he has a waiting list that is a few years long. Same with Mario Miralles and Sam Zygmuntowicz.

Personally, if I were to try to buy an instrument in this range, I'd go after Gregg Alf's #169 which is a Guarneri model he made last year. I played it in January and fell in love with it. Unfortunately for me, my wife, in her infinite wisdom, believes our son's college fund is more important than my adding another violin to the collection. :)

Bill

www.amatifoundation.org

July 28, 2004 at 02:31 AM · This is kind of off topic but has any one heard of a violin maker in New York named Gagonsky (I'm not sure how to spell the name but I'm pretty sure that's how it sounds). It's probably because I don't have his name right, but I can't find anything about him but I've heard good comments. Anyone hear of him?

July 28, 2004 at 02:39 AM · Try Kelvin Scott. His violins are noticeably cheaper, but they're of comparable quality to Alf's.

When you buy a Scott violin, perhaps you can buy a set of good bows from Wehling with the amount you've saved.

July 28, 2004 at 09:09 AM · Has anyone tried violins made by Peter Grainger?

July 28, 2004 at 12:45 PM · For a violin in the $10,000 to $15, 000 price range I highly recommend the beautifully crafted and powerful violins of Frank Ravatin. This violin maker has won many international medals for design, workmanship, and sound. He is currently making violins in France, and has a waiting list, but some good examples may be gotten from an American dealer in Illinois called Eric Chapman.

Ted Kruzich

www.chapmanviolins.com

July 28, 2004 at 01:24 PM · Also try Peter and Wendy Moes violin. There website is

www.moesandmoes.com

Their prices start at $22,500 for violins made by them, and have an assortment of old antique violins. Their is a waiting time of 10 to 12 months to acquire an instrument from them.

July 28, 2004 at 05:29 PM · I have one of Ravatin's violins which I did purchase from Chapman when I was in the Chicago area for school. I have been very, very happy with it!

July 29, 2004 at 05:02 AM · Peresson

July 29, 2004 at 06:33 AM · At the risk of sounding a bit monomaniacal, I can't say enough good things about the violins of Howard Needham. For those v.com members in the MD area, he lives and works in Annapolis and his newest instruments are truly marvelous. Igor, if you want we can drive up there on Friday and you can test drive his newest fiddle...

The tone is big, resonant, rich. It's three-dimensional, in the sense that it's not just empty resonance but full of timbre possibilities. They are beautiful to look at, of course, but ultimately I always judge on tone. As for price, I believe he is currently slightly below 20,000.

August 18, 2004 at 11:32 PM · Matsuda & Peresson

August 18, 2004 at 11:57 PM · I agree with Emil, I played on a Howard Needham several weeks ago, lovely violin.

Unfortunately, he's a bit out of my price range.

August 19, 2004 at 12:15 AM · NO MODERN VIOLINS ARE GOOD!!!

GO WITH THE OLD ONES!!!!

August 19, 2004 at 01:12 AM · "No modern violins are good..."

That's quite a blanket statement, one that many here may take umbrage with (myself included). Antique instruments are a mixed bag, as are their modern counterparts. You'll always find good with the bad. I am one of many violinists, however, who have and are now recognizing the benefits of new, healthy, and contemporarirly conceived instruments.

I feel that a notable mention is due to the numerous excellent artisans of modern luthiere, whose labor is not simply one of acoustics and sound but one of art and conception as well. They truly are artists well-deserving of respect.

Eric

August 19, 2004 at 04:18 AM · I found out the name of the maker that I asked about earlier. His name is Valery Kagansky and he lives in Brooklyn. His violins (and violas) look and sound incredible.

August 19, 2004 at 07:15 PM · Actually, most modern violins are much better than a lot of the older ones.

Luckily, nowadays, we have the technology to create the best types of sound, balance, and design of the instrument. That way, you can get more playability out of a violin, provided the maker is good.

Were the Strads lousy when they first were made? Are you telling me if Bartolemeo Guarneri were to return, you would not take a fresh violin from him?

What about those absolutely lously (some are OK, not all, but some) "Markie" violins, which constitute something of 50 percent of all violins in existence nowadays? They're old. And trust me, a Gregg Alf or Michael Darnton is a better fit than one that readys "Antonius Stradivarius Cremonisus Fecit Anno 17__".

A blanket statement as such that was made about all new violins being garbage is quite an ignorant one, and I would suggest anyone interested take a look at Fritz Reuter's site.

August 19, 2004 at 09:31 PM · i assume flores is being facetious

August 20, 2004 at 04:26 AM · re facetious posts: Think and post, don't drink and post...;) Oh never mind, then probably we'd have no posts at all, eh?

August 20, 2004 at 06:22 PM · not from me anyway

August 20, 2004 at 06:28 PM · Samuel Zygmuntowicz has some really good violins!! Players in the Emerson String Quartet use them and they sound really good!!

August 22, 2004 at 11:22 AM · Sam's violins are difficult to acquire, I have tried his email address and didn't even get through

August 23, 2004 at 04:43 AM · Actually, It's not contacting Sam that's the problem. It's his waiting list which is now about 3 & 1/2 years long.

His phone # is listed at afvbm.com and he or his secretary will usually answer the phone during business hours.

I made do with an OK violin for a couple of years while waiting for Sam to make mine and am very pleased that I did.

September 6, 2004 at 08:31 PM · .

September 6, 2004 at 08:36 PM ·

September 7, 2004 at 04:02 AM · "All modern violins sound the same and have no soul."

Wow.

My fiddle and I disagree with that generalization. If you need solid proof otherwise all you need to do is read the countless blind curtain experiments involving contemporary and antique instruments. The listener, even with the most refined ear, is unable to accurately distinguish new from old. Most of these even show a preference for the new.

I've played on antiques for most of my musical life, and am fairly well-versed in the history of luthiere. However, my new instrument is richer in its palette and character than all the works of yesteryear that I've owned.

Eric

September 6, 2004 at 09:49 PM · Yes, I have to disagree very strongly that "all modern violins sounds the same" and lack character, etc.

Elmar Oliveira came and played the Brahms concerto a few years ago here in Pasadena, and everyone thought he was playing on his Strad; it was just so rich and gorgeous sounding and yes, full of character. As it turned out, he was playing on a $12,000 instrument that was only a few months old, made by a Salt Lake City luthier. All the violinists were gathering around him afterwards to look at the fiddle.

I play on a modern violin and I absolutely love its voice.

September 6, 2004 at 11:04 PM · Carl Becker is a great maker as well. I'm wondering if anybody knows if he is still doing commisions? I believe he is quite old now!

September 7, 2004 at 04:11 AM · Marco Nolli ;-)

E

September 7, 2004 at 06:59 AM · Try Master violinmaker (from milan and cremona, Italy) Barbara Piccinotti.

September 8, 2004 at 05:27 AM ·

September 8, 2004 at 04:42 PM · I recently bought a violin by William Stapp of Gaithersburg, MD, and it has completely revolutionized my playing. I originally started playing it to "break it in" as a favor, but I fell completely in love with it. I didn't truly love Mozart until I played it on this violin. It was very bright at first, but it has gained considerable depth and warmth over a year's time. It's really exciting to feel that I am helping to "mold" this violin with my sound!

This is one of his first instruments, and I'm convinced that he is going to be the next big thing in the modern violin world. Keep an eye (or ear) out for William Stapp!

September 15, 2004 at 01:42 AM · I've been studying modern violins quite intently for the past year. In all of the discussions & writings I've been a part of no one has discussed Gio Batta Morassi. Is he REALLY considered one of THE modern masters? Apparently his violins are more expensive than some of the makers I've been referenced: Terry Borman, Greg Alf, etc. who's violins cost less (in the US$20,000) range.

I currently am testing a Morassi violin from 1972, apparently from his prime years. The amber-toned varnish is not what I would prefer and the violin has not been well taken care of, but it is tempting. The sound is attractive, but the price is high. I live in Asia and haven't had a chance to try many other modern makers. Is this Morassi worth keeping? What should I watch out for? It comes with a certificate that states that it was made entirely be Morassi and bears his "brand" on the wood.

Thanks,

Kevin

September 15, 2004 at 03:29 AM · Greetings,

Morassi is a really big name here in Japan and yoiu will pay the earth. the probelm is that you may be getitgn a second rate violin at an enormous cost. A real Morassi is generally a beautiful viuolin but since the family, relatives, favorite aunt, next door neighbours dog began contributing or participating in the construction process there have emerged some real clunkers with that distinve bright orange varnish and a crummy sound. I have come across three such instruments in a smany years and I have always been too embarassed to shatter the obvious pride of the new owner.

Whetehr you should give it up as bad job and move on I don`t know. Try and see the problem more in terms of the isntrument itslef thasn the lable. Does it emet your needs? Wilkl it meet your needs in a year or so and so on?

I don`t know if now is a good time to unload it. In Asia I suspect it might be as the bubble is beginning to look rather tarnished although some dealers have strong links with Morassi and often bring himover to give seminrs and presumably wsell his instruments.

Don@T get me wrong thoiugh, a pure Morassi should be a damn good instrument. he is a great maker,

Cheers,

Buri

September 16, 2004 at 07:10 AM · Sascha Tulchinsky in New York. Mike Darnton in Chicago.I highly recommend both. Of Course,if you can get your hands on a fine JR Carlisle from Cincinnati( circa 1920-1950's), you'll spend less and be overjoyed with your possesion.I surely am!!

September 16, 2004 at 07:22 AM · Joseph Curtin violins are heavenly :)

ive played on my teacher's and another one...they are just amazing.

Ive played on a strad too, and the biggest difference ive noticed is that when you play really softly with a really slow bow while still keeping some weight on, the sound quality of the strad is still as beautiful as when it sings at its fullest intensity. Most modern instruments i tried cant do that. Curtin does an amazing job in replicating this quality of old instruments...along with every other good one in old instruments :)

September 16, 2004 at 07:25 AM · oh and Matsuda's rock :)

September 16, 2004 at 02:39 PM · Interestingly, I've always found Alf's instruments to be a little darker than Curtin's, whose instruments generally tend toward a brighter edge.

Eric

September 16, 2004 at 05:00 PM · Don't forget Luiz Bellini...very nice violins. Ruggiero Ricci and Menuhin both used them. He resides in New York by the way.

September 21, 2004 at 11:43 PM · Hey Guys,

You are forgetting a whole list of the best early to middle 20th century makers:

Ornati, Sgarabotto (Gaetano & Pietro), Iginius Sderci, G.Lucci, O. Bignami, S. Rocchi, F. Garimberti. These are makers that I own in my collection, and I can vouch for their fantastic sound and ability to project in the concert hall.

I have recently played with Jimmy Lin, and he used a S. Zygmuntovitch fiddle made in 2000, it sounded great!

I also have tried P. Greiner's fiddle which was very nice but was not as big sounding. He does have a 3 year waiting list and charges around 16k-17k (US Dollars). Feel free to contact me for further info.

September 22, 2004 at 01:54 AM · Check me on this, but isn't anything with the longer arched neck, which is basically everything made after 1800 considered modern?

March 5, 2011 at 10:06 PM ·

wat about Luca Sbernini violins?

March 5, 2011 at 10:35 PM ·

 Let the dead rest in peace....

March 6, 2011 at 02:31 PM ·

Advantages to buying a good modern fiddle: Price, condition, access to the maker (if still alive). There are quite a few living makers, and possibly one relatively close by. We have several right here in the States. And it's true that not all modern fiddles sound the same. Heck, no two fiddles sound the same, period. They are all different, as is the case with anything handmade from organic materials. The fun part is trying as many as you can.

So, do you buy from a living maker, an instrument that is brand new, or one that has existed for a few years? This may be up for debate, but I've been told that age and playing have the greatest effect on an instrument during the first few years of its 'life.' The best of the modern masters don't enjoy the same prestige as the old masters. Perhaps they will someday, but their history is still being written. You can be a part of that history.

March 6, 2011 at 09:31 PM ·

 Igor,

What do you currently play on?  Is it an older instrument or a newer instrument?  I heard you play last year at Peabody and whatever it is, it sounded great!

Nobody has mentioned Philip Perret in New York.  We own one of his instruments and it is truly lovely both in appearance and sound.  My older son loves his Matsuda, but I really love the Perret my younger son plays.

 

March 7, 2011 at 02:12 PM ·

Hello. In the main discussion section somone had posted a question re Marcallo villa. I responded as follows:

Marcello Villa is an excellent maker, who recently won a prize in a violin making contest. He is the brother of Vittorio Villa, who is perhaps better known now in some circles. You can't go wrong with either of these two very gifted makers. But as it happens, I am serving at this time as a secondary sales rep for Vittorio Villa in the US. I own 2 Vittorio Villas, myself. One is really good. The other is just super! Vittorio's customers, I understand, include the famous soloist, Maxim Vengerov, and Amy Oshiro - formerly assistant CM of St. Louis, and now plays in the Philadelphia Orchestra.

If anyone has an interest in a Vittorio Villa violin, I can get you a better deal than you would get if you found one in a shop - and they rarely stay in a shop very long! Plus it would be custom-made for you, you would give it a name that would be part of its record, and I could get you a little higher on the queue than if you would approach him with a cold call.

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March 7, 2011 at 02:16 PM ·

Sorry I couldn't avoid pasting the other stuff above. And you needn't pay $20,000 or more. For $13,500 you can have a Vittorio Villa plus shipping duty, etc. If you're in the NY area, i recommend Edward Maday, whose prices are currently $16,500. I personally own 2 violins by Ed and 2 by Vittorio - and i'm eventually going to get a 3rd one from each of them!

Oh, another NY-based maker I can recommend from personal experience is Peter Lam. I have one that with a lot of mixed feelings, I'm offering for sale. It has a lovely tone, but I just have, and am committed to too many violins and bows right now. His asking price for it was $10,500. I don't want to undercut him too much, but if anyone is interested, we'll talk!

March 7, 2011 at 07:14 PM ·

I've played some of Peter Lam's instruments (all the ones he currently has in his shop, along with the ones that is son made), they're pretty good for the price. He does fantastic rehairs for a relatively low price.

March 7, 2011 at 07:30 PM ·

Has anyone information about equivalent luthiers in the UK and other parts of Europe (I know Italy's been mentioned)?

March 8, 2011 at 10:18 AM ·

I play a violin of Martin Schleske, Munich, Germany - www.schleske.de - and I have a lot of fun with it. I compared it with several famous old italian violins; it's the same level.

March 8, 2011 at 04:38 PM ·

Trevor, here's a link for starters. www.bvma.org.uk/members_page.html

There are terrific makers in Montpellier, for example. Generally, and worldwide, there's a good standard of making nowadays, I think. No problem getting a GOOD new instrument. What drives folk nuts is the search for excellence, the precise nature of which is hard to define. Personally, though I as a UK resident almost hate to admit it, I play on Lucci, Guido Trotta and Tonarelli violins - all Italian. (Old Vuillaume went in divorce).

March 8, 2011 at 10:01 PM ·

Howard  Needham.

March 8, 2011 at 10:33 PM ·

 Here's one of the Montpellier makers: Friedrich Alber 

March 8, 2011 at 10:51 PM ·

Terry Borman

March 9, 2011 at 11:54 PM ·

Kenneth Goldstein might still have a Gregg Alf violin which he played in the Baltimore Symphony before he got his Storioni.  He was considering selling it about five years ago.  If he still has it I am sure he would let you check it out.

March 10, 2011 at 12:37 PM ·

 I plan to buy another Trotta violin. Not over-hyped, good value.

March 12, 2011 at 09:06 PM ·

For that price, I have personally tried the violins made by Sichun Master Luthier, He Xirui and finds that his violins are comparable or even better than some of the modern Italian masterpieces for only a fraction of the price (although I haven't had that opportunity to compare it to the old master instruments personally). If anyone interested, more information are available at my blog (http://joeysviolincollection.blogspot.com/).

March 13, 2011 at 12:42 PM ·

Re Neil Ertz: a fine craftsman and very nice guy, who has been kind enough recently to let me play on a few of his instruments before he delivered them to their new owners, including Peter of Mantua, Strad and Bergonzi models.  I found them fantastic. I'm not in a position, or of a standard, to compare them to the 'top end' of the market, but would be very very happy to own one.

March 13, 2011 at 05:21 PM ·

 Hi Mungo, you are indeed fortunate. Neil Ertz is a very fine maker indeed. One of the best out there in my opinion.

May 9, 2011 at 01:57 AM ·

I recently received my Gregg Alf violin (del Gesu copy) and am delighted with it. After ordering on-line, we were able to give a lot of input on the design (e.g., one piece back), degree of antique finishing, and colour (dark honey, no reds). The violin is gorgeous to look at, especially the back with the broad and complex flames. The sound is powerful and impressively complex for a new violin. Because Hong Kong is very humid and hot much of the year, and Michigan is the opposite, we expect it will take some months for the violin to settle in. Yesterday I had a chance to look at an Alf cello from the 1990's that is used in the local philharmonic, and it is beautiful and sonorous. Overall, a very happy owner.

May 9, 2011 at 02:14 AM ·

As I write this, Ed Maday is making his 3rd violin for me. I have 2 Vitorio Villa violins, and have ordered a 3rd for next year. I have about a dozen violins altogether, and with one exception, they are all modern. Something has to give, so I have decided to sell one of my Villa violins as well as my Peter Lam, both made in 2009, if anybody is interested.

May 10, 2011 at 04:08 PM ·

And as I write this, Guido Trotta is making his 3rd violin for me. I get to see and to try it at the end of June. After nearly 20 years of exchanging ideas and information with this maker it's very unlikely I shall not like it. 

May 10, 2011 at 04:28 PM ·

Deleted!

May 10, 2011 at 05:09 PM ·

Love my Joseph Grubaugh and Sigrun Seifert violin.  Makes me sound better than I really am (which can be easy to do at times)! 

May 11, 2011 at 05:08 AM ·

I have been unable to find the webpage Bill Townsend recommends (see above), but this page from the Amati Foundation website gives a world-wide list of makers of whom he would seem to approve.

I have a violin by Daniele Tonarelli, who is on his list. Very good, the "brother" of the one on his website, and irresistable at the 2003 price when I bought it !

May 12, 2011 at 01:14 PM ·

Hi everyone, I posted this first in a discussion about makers Needham and Janzen.  But it's relevant here too, so thought you might be interested in hearing about my instrument:

My violin was made for me by another of Baese's students: Martin McClean, in Northern Ireland.  It was finished in August last year.  It is amazing.  The clarity, quality and depth of sound are out of this world.  Projection is fantastic.  It really talks!

I can't speak highly enough of it.  If you are in the market for a new fiddle, these really are worth checking out.

Best wishes,

Rhoda

May 25, 2011 at 02:41 PM ·

 a very rare and unique LUCA SBERNINI 1995  sound is incredible

 workmanship near perfect        and the varnish  ...  one of the best modern  ever seen

May 26, 2011 at 12:51 AM ·

Deleted my post.

May 26, 2011 at 03:25 AM ·

Sven, if you have a chance visiting Ottawa see if Guy Harrison has one of his violins available for playing. May be difficult as he has a waiting list. He is an award winning luthier making exceptional violins. This is what a few knowledgable people had to say about one of his  1742 DelGesu models:

"Exceptionally beautiful sound" , "Reminds me of a Guadagnini I once knew very well",  " One of the very best new instruments I have encoutered in the last 20 years" , "a violin that was of similar quality was priced at $40,000 and the maker has a several year waitlist ".

You can commission an instrument for $17,000 Canadian + 5% tax.

May 29, 2011 at 07:16 AM ·

 NO MODERN VIOLINS ARE GOOD!!!

GO WITH THE OLD ONES!!!!

Even Stradivari made NEW violins. He must have been very ignorant !

New violins don't just stay new. Think about it.

 

October 22, 2011 at 08:53 AM ·

I've just come back from a trip to Cremona, and saw only a tiny fraction of the 150 luthiers there, but it seems that the prices for all the American makers people have mentioned are very high in comparison to the ones of the makers in Italy. In Cremona, I tried about 25 different instruments in 3 days. I know the first post says "over $20,000", but everything I encountered in Cremona was under 12,000€. While I haven't compared a $20,000 American instrument to a 10,000€ Italian instrument, it seems like it might be worth it for some of you in the US to fly to Europe (which probably costs around $1000 return) and investigate the new Italian instruments there. Also, isn't the idea of buying a modern italian violin from the Cremonese school of violin making, in the historic town of Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri quite amazing?

October 22, 2011 at 01:11 PM ·

Hi Christabel. Please see my recent blog on the same subject. Maybe we almost touched elbows at the Mondo Musica and didn't know it! Wasn't it great fun? I picked up an exquisite violin made for me by Vittorio Villa in Cremona.

One thing though: keep in mind the exchange rate. 12,000 Euros is about $20,000 USD. But you can get - and I can help - a Vittorio Villa for far less than $20K USD, and this is also true in the USA of Edward Maday.

There are many great makers today, and I am certainly not saying that the makers I deal with are the only top-notch ones. But here I can speak from personal experience

October 22, 2011 at 02:31 PM ·

 The violin sellers (not luthiers) generally take a significant margin for the hiked up price, IE: a $20,000 violin from a luthier would sell for about $40,000 at a regular seller. 

I bought mine directly from a luthier in Canada, named Masa Inokuchi. He is a Japanese immigrant living in Toronto, and he makes very European-sounding violins (which is nice for me, because a lot of violins sold over in the US are very peaky). I bought mine for ten grand, but when I took it to the shop the other day and asked about the price out of pure curiosity, it was tagged in the ball park of $50,000. I was shocked. Who gets the extra $40,000?!

Although Italy is famous for their luthiers, Germany also makes excellent violins. I bought my scaled violins from Mittenwald where they have the Gewa factory (I believe my violins were actually made there), and for such small instruments they were excellent. Also, I got their cases for free :P

October 22, 2011 at 05:43 PM ·

On a side note, I'm happy to report that the OP of this thread, V.com member Igor Yuzefovich has recently been appointed concertmaster of the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra.

http://www.hkpo.com/eng/press/press_releases/2011/20110902.jsp

Congratulations Igor!

October 22, 2011 at 06:50 PM ·

 Raphael,  todays exchange rate  ( XE.com)

12,000.00 EUR = 16,672.80 USD

October 22, 2011 at 07:40 PM ·

WOW!  Congrats to my old friend Igor!  Way to go!

Cheers! 

October 22, 2011 at 08:05 PM ·

Thanks, Hendrik, I see that now. That's a much better rate than what I got on the ground very recently. But in any case, when purchasing something from another currency, we need to keep fluctuating rates in mind.

October 22, 2011 at 09:35 PM ·

"Although Italy is famous for their luthiers, Germany also makes excellent violins."

This is an old thread, and I've stayed out of it so far, but I'll use the above comment as a jumping off point.

Today, no particular nation can rightfully claim to be the source of the best modern violins. Italy had its "Camelot" period. That was a unique and special time, and it ended. When a modern connection to that period is purveyed, it's basically "Harlequin Romance" novel stuff. It has almost nothing to do with what is going on today.

Today's situation is basically a melting pot. Makers from many nations get some of their post-graduate training in some of the same places, like a regular summer workshop in Ohio. How bizarre is that, a hotbed of violinmaker training in Ohio? LOL   One of the most respected Italian makers is a regular there, and also one of the most respected Chinese makers.

Regarding prices, the three most expensive I know of are in the US and Germany. Putting those exceptions aside: Amongst highly validated makers, including those who have high respect from their peers, I don't see huge price differences based on nationality.

The most comprehensive international search for modern violins that I know of largely ended up with US  made violins in their top tier. That's not a plug for nationality or ethnicity, because how many US residents don't descend from immigrants from other countries? It was just the way it turned out.

October 23, 2011 at 11:16 AM ·

I agree with David Burgess about 99% ! Fiddle making is pretty much in a global village now.

The remaining 1% concerns my experience that, for some scientifically unaccountable reason, the Italians, if actually making in italy, seem to find it so easy to obtain sounds that remind me (not necessarily anyone else!) forcibly of that of good Italian fiddles (many highly valuable !) of old. Makers elsewhere find this "sound' so difficult to obtain. For the Italian guys, a characteristic sweetness and "ring" arrives almost by chance. I refer to a kind of "flavour" in the sound. Once you are hooked on it, nothing else will do. By cabinet-making standards these guys don't always excel, but to attain this characteristic noise seems like falling off a log to them !

You might say that I have simply been lucky with my purchases, ot that I am driven by some kind of blind prejudice. 

An interesting piece of history :- a Cremona-trained maker, István Konya (now known as Stefano Conia) returned to his native Hungary and couldn't sell his fiddles. Then he returned to Cremona and sells them like hot cakes. Make of that what you will.

It seem to me that the fiddles I own that are made in Italy sound like Italian fiddles, though newish. I went recently to a big-time exhibition in the RNCM in Manchester, UK and found the excellently-made local produce didn't sound Italian - the one real Italian on display, by Luca Primon, did (IMHO !!).

Can of worms here, for which I apologise somewhat. But I did play professionally for yonks, and have a right to my conclusions, however misguided they might appear to some..

As observed, the Italian's claim to have inherited the "old traditions" is flawed:- however there IS a thin and tenuous line, from the Storioni School to the present day, via the Cerutis. 

Anyone prepared to pitch in with this "spooks and fairies" subject ?? 

October 23, 2011 at 12:34 PM ·

I'd like to see the double-blind test.  You get to try 20 violins from different sources without knowing who made each or where it was from and then pick out the magical italian ones.... ;) 

October 23, 2011 at 12:56 PM ·

Shame on you, Mr. Beck! LOL  There are some really good makers right there in the UK. :-)

One way to test whether a national preference is real or psychological is to attend one of the large international violin-making competitions, where the public is allowed to play the instruments (maybe 400 of them present) and where the ID of the maker is covered up.

Edit: I see that Elise beat me to it.

 

October 23, 2011 at 12:59 PM ·

 it is very difficult to really get a great idea of this landscape because we try to arrive at some objective findings when sources of info can be quite subjective.  

what we see here quite often is a player indicates that he/she has this xyz maker and likes it.  then another one announces another.  if by the end of the thread 2 good players concur with the same xyz maker, then the inexperienced can sense a trend.  if 3 good players all give thumbs up on a maker, it looks like to many it is overwhelming evidence.

but that is a thin slice of reality out there.

 

October 23, 2011 at 01:53 PM ·

 Shame on you, Mr. Beck! LOL  There are some really good makers right there in the UK. :-)

I know, I know, only too well !! I auditioned, successfully, on a new violin by Wilf Saunders, a "protagonist" of the great UK revival in fiddle making. The problem, for ME was that try as I might. I couldn't get the sounds that the concertmaster got from his Girolamo Amati II. Different bow grip, whatever, I was flummoxed.
Then I bought a Guastalla. That annoyed colleagues. "You sound just like Martin Milner. How do you do that ??"
The Guastalla was junk - someone had "retoned" it and it was of limited usefuleness. I was as much an idiot to have bought it as was the dealer a crook to have sold it to a professional ! (Last sold at Bonhams for £8000, I think). But it had that "Mystery" quality, that will turn heads, and compel a listener to pay attention ...
Another observation - for nearly 20 years I performed upon a very good J.B. Vuillaume. It was greatly admired, not only by colleagues, but by our Principal Conductor. Meeting him at a party after I left his orchestra, he expressed a hope that I would re-join his band, along with my "wonderful violin". Yet, when I asked a top concertmaster to play this violin for me in a large hall, it was very disappointing to listen to, way back. Many Italians make tiny sounds under the ear, but the sound goes for miles. I have a Lucci that doesn't seem to do much when I play it,  but I got my wife to play it - I listened down the garden, all windows shut, magic !!
These threads are all about the exchange of experiences - these, though well-intentioned, are admittedly subjective. I'm ready now for you all to call me an idiot, or whatever !! Plenty of worms left in the can !
 
PS I never wrote that the Italians are infallible, but I think you have a good chance, and at a reasonable price, of picking up a nice violin if you go over there.

October 23, 2011 at 03:43 PM ·

 I find it curious when people claim that violins have an "italian" sound. I have played a great number of Italian violins--Strad, Del Gesu, Pressenda, Rogeria, Guadanini, etc., and they all had different types of sounds.

October 23, 2011 at 04:45 PM ·

Hi, Scott,

Years ago, Hills wrote in their book about Stradivari that all Vuillaumes sounded the same, whather copies of Strad, Guarneri or Amati. That's not been confirmed by Posterity. Time seems to have intervened !

Thsre isn't really an "Italian" sound - it's merely that there's some icing on the already existing cake. A tiny bit more sweetness, brilliancy, depends on the model. Something to turn a mumbling adequacy into ear-catching beauty ! 

I recall you posting once that you didn't mind a "dark" sound so long as there was some brightness "on top" (or some such).

Anyway, glad to get an expert such as you are going !!

October 23, 2011 at 05:49 PM ·

 David,

Thanks, but I'm not expert!

Scott

October 23, 2011 at 06:46 PM ·

 Scott,

Thanks, but I'm not expert!

You are too modest ! So often in the past you have been 100% on the ball. Discussions such as violinist.com help us get our thoughts together. There can be no absolute answers, as by now you will know, but it's always a help to know the reactions of others who look for those great truths in the violin world.

Even if buying fiddles is like that casino banking that nearly brought down the economy of the civilised world, I'd still bet on getting new Italian as a playing investment. 

C'mon, folks, shoot me down !! Look at the auction sites. Once again, I am provoking intelligent replies. Sorry, David Burgess. I cannot afford one of your fiddles. I buy my Italian-made squeakboxes because I like the noise they make. 

October 23, 2011 at 09:11 PM ·

"C'mon, folks, shoot me down !!"

LOL, I'm feeling too mellow right now for that. I'll ask a few questions though: Would you expect to find this "Italian sound" in the work of a Korean, or German, or an Australian who had trained at the Cremona violinmaking school? Or is this genetic? Or something about the local water?

What kind of sound would you expect from a Cremonese who had trained at the Salt Lake City instrument making school, and then returned to Cremona?

What kind of sound is produced by all the makers living in Cremona, who were not born in Italy, and didn't train there?

If there was a genetic component to "the glory days" of Cremona, wouldn't that have been messed up by subsequent occupation by both Austria and France? ;-)

October 24, 2011 at 12:47 AM ·

There is certainly no single Italian sound. Strads and del Gesus have been held up for ages as prototypes of different sound. Then there is the Brescian school, etc. And so many Strads sound very different from one another, and del Gesus, too. But nevertheless, there still are certain confluences of sound that I associate with Italy as oposed to Germany, as opposed to France. But this does not mean that a non-Italian cannot come up with something in this sound family or spectrum.

I also agree with David (Burgess) earlier that now-a-days there is an international high standard. To enjoy the extra-musical idea that one's contemporary violin comes from Italy, and even from Cremona is OK as a kind of cherry on the sundae. But in terms of sound and workmanship, the best contemporary violin out there for a particular player may indeed come from Cremona Italy, or it may come from Corona, Queens (NY). But if we shouldn't be prejudiced for an Italian violin, we should also not be prejudiced against a Chinese violin - especially if the maker is independent and works carefully to the highest standards.

October 24, 2011 at 12:49 AM ·

 i always thought "italian sound" was invented to sell non italian violins, no?

October 24, 2011 at 01:08 AM ·

I'm reminded of the old saw of dealer saying "When I buy a Panormo, I say it's English (to get a better deal). When I sell it, I say it's Italian."

October 24, 2011 at 01:35 AM ·

I would love to do that one day except I'll have to take a ship instead of a plane. Airplanes and I no longer get along. Must have my feet firmly on terra firma or safely on the deck of a large ship.

Taking a cruise across the Atlantic to Italy sounds a lot more appealing and romantic than a flight. Doubt I'd be groped like an inflatable sex doll either. Something along the nature of the Queen Mary 2 would suit me. I'm sure they have an orchestra or ensemble on board as well as some cultured entertainment.

And it would be a once in a lifetime experience to purchase a violin direct from the maker as Raphael did and so eloquently shared with us in an article just last week.

October 24, 2011 at 03:09 AM ·

I've only had to do the groping twice since they instituted it and I've flown a dozen times since then.

Fly Etihad instead of all the dreadful Euro/American lines and you will feel almost like you are in a ship--and if you fly business or higher you will think you really are in first class.

But a transatlantic sea voyage is certainly fun, though romance was far from my mind when I did it:-)
 

October 24, 2011 at 03:33 AM ·

The secret of that Italian violin sound must surely be the Italian language as spoken by the "Liutaio". Doesn't "mio bambino caro" and "violino" just flow off the tongue? Italian violins hearing this musical language spoken while being crafted gain those special vibrations. "Geige" or "Skrypka" just doesn't have the same effect.

October 24, 2011 at 03:44 AM ·

This has nothing to do with anything, but I was just perusing the photos of the Hong Kong Philharmonic musicians, and I found one of my violin teachers from college--though I only had her for a semester and had almost forgotten her completely, I knew her face immediately.  (You could probably figure out which one she is.)

Anyway, Congratulations Igor, that's quite an accomplishment!

October 24, 2011 at 08:21 AM ·

 Another thing to consider is the size. I know, I know, there's a standard for sizes, but my current violin was originally offered to a 5' girl with hands the size of mini hamburgers. My violin is slightly on the larger side, and there was no way she was going to pull off comfortable octaves with mine. I'm 5'9" and my hands are larger than most dudes' I've met, so it came to me.

It really is a hit or miss with luthiers, in the end. To be honest, I really can't tell the difference between Guarneri, Strad, and mine when played properly; sure, there are fingerboard quirks and such, but they all make lovely sounds. I did notice that American violins are a bit peakier, but that can be adjusted to a certain extent with the sound post. Kind of like how Pleyel is better suited for chamber than Steinway. They both have their merits.

I've always found finding the right instrument is sort of like finding the right boyfriend/girlfriend. Sure, that fashion model on the magazine looks beautiful, but (s)he may not be your dream boat, after all. In the meanwhile, the guy you worked with at the bank might be the loveliest person you've ever met. 

I do prefer German bows, however, because they're stiff and heavy compared to the French ones. I can never get the right response time with springy bows. 

October 24, 2011 at 01:18 PM ·

If you work in Cremona, no matter how good your violins are, you will have a lot of time and money to improve your craftmanship, because you don't have to fight for survival with repairing and restauration and you will sell your violins anyways ;-) That makes a part of the italian sound! :D

October 25, 2011 at 04:54 AM ·

Those of us who hear (or THINK we hear) an extra bit of flavor in the sound of fiddles made in Italy have tried looking for an explanation. The puzzle has gone on ever since makers elsewhere redoubled their efforts to reproduce not only the appearance but the distinctive timbre of those Italians (and folk like Gofriller or Tecchler who were foreigners who worked there). It was suggested once that some mystery virus got into the wood ! If we are deluded than we might need be cured on the Psychiatrists couch. 

What interested me is whether any other fiddlers out there have had the same sonic experience as I (who, though an enthusiast, have tried and bought only a limited number of fiddles over the years), or am I simply nuts ?? I have tested new fiddles, straight from the workshop, both here in the UK and in Italy, and I THOUGHT I could detect an additional and distinctive sweetness in the Italian-made violins - already there from new. But always to be taken into account the capacity for self-delusion and age-related hearing loss !!! Maybe someone will begin a new thread.

September 3, 2015 at 05:01 AM · Just wondering if anyone has bought a Barbara Piccinotti modern Italian violin? If so, how are you finding it? And how does the sound compare to when you first purchased it? Thanks!

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