working class players, world-class fiddles

December 11, 2004 at 06:05 PM · Here's a new article on the state of the New Jersey Symphony Orch. since their acquisition of a collection of fine stringed instruments. If you have never been an before you may need to register the long run I think you'll find the registration worthwhile as there are a lot of good "arts" articles on the site.

Replies (16)

December 13, 2004 at 12:29 PM · Dear Mike,

I read the article. Although I have personal views on the matter, I was wondering where you wanted to go with this post, and what is really a very controversial situation... Cheers!

December 13, 2004 at 03:24 PM · Wow! With great instruments comes great responsibility.

I feel the same way as many of the musicians in that orchestra must feel now. I recently began playing on a very, very old instrument, but since there is no label, I have only a picture of a similarly-shaped violin from 17th century Brescia to give me even a hint at where and when my violin was made. I'm an adult student, so I know very well that I am, perhaps, not worthy of the instrument I'm playing, but it makes me practice more and smarter so that I can grow into it.

And it's very true that playing on an old instrument takes specialized adaptation. I still don't know what to do about the resonance that my violin displays when I play a fourth-finger D or A (E too, but not so much). Even when another violin is playing in the room, I can feel the open strings vibrate in sympathy.

Overall, the sound is amazing--well worth all of the extra care that such an instrument requires. The instrument not only increases my enjoyment of playing, but in itself it is so utterly lovable...I even bought lipstick to match the color.

December 13, 2004 at 06:07 PM · OK,

I will through out an idea just for controversy here... I think that part of the controversy with these instruments has nothing to do with price or authenticity, but with the idea of having second class musicians from a second class orchestra playing on first class concert instruments when so many deserving players who do need them, even concertmasters of great orchestras who do not have them, are desperately looking for them. That is I think one of the major hidden issues that everyone is trying to avoid touching and everyone is dancing around for some reason.

Now, I am not trying to discredit or disrespect anyone here, and I am not saying that it is not a great gift for this orchestra to have these fantastic instruments, and that it might not make a difference, but I think that the issue of responsibility is on a larger scale than just that orchestra, hence a big part of the controversy. Just an idea... Cheers!

December 13, 2004 at 07:00 PM · I'd have to say that if you think NJSO is a second class orchestra, you haven't heard them lately... but that's just my view.

I suppose it would be easier for people to understand the purpose of the collection if it was Vienna or New York or Concertgebouw that had the instruments. But the fact is that a New Jersey native wanted to give the orchestra of his home state something that would make it unique, and something that would help propel them to the visibility of the more famous American orchestras. In that respect, the purchase of the collection has been a huge success. It has raised the visibility of the orchestra, and helped to attract Jarvi. If he manages to do to New Jersey what he did to Detroit, you'll be hearing a lot more from the orchestra in the future.

December 13, 2004 at 07:18 PM · Dear Michael,

Point well taken. I have not heard the orchestra recently. Only a couple of seasons ago and it sounded fine. In terms of the thought, like I said, it was just a controversial that I wanted to through out based on some things that I had heard and wanted to present.

I personally think it is fantastic (I mean who wouldn't like to be able to get a first class instrument) and might be responsible for making the orchestra come to a higher level. As for the idea of NY, Vienna or Berlin getting the instruments, then that would have been a scandal as well with everyone saying that it would be unfair...

December 13, 2004 at 11:22 PM · This may be rather random, but I am a serious amature furniture maker. I have sold some peices, but never as a primary source of income, so I consider myself a serious amature. Once I was given the opportunity to work with a $3500 Carl Holtey hand plane (typical good quality hand planes cost between 50 and 200 dollars). The ease of use and quality of finish was unbelievable. It took perfect shavings on end grain and produced the finest finish in the long direction. I am usually thoughtful about what I do in general, but when using that plane, I was aware of some felt responsibility in using it. Maybe I should not be given the opportunity to use it and it is better served in more skilled hands who would use it to make their living, but I don't think so. If I was not mindful of using it, that would be "morally?" wrong. But otherwise no.

Peter Lynch

December 14, 2004 at 04:11 AM · Christian,

I didn't intend to take the post anywhere--I just thought some people who otherwise would not see the article might enjoy reading it. It's up to you and the other members of the forum to take it wherever it may go, if anywhere at all. I have no idea about the resolution of authenticity of some of the instruments (which I had seen something about, and which is hardly addressed in the particular article). And, having never heard the group, I have no opinion whatsoever about the orchestra or its merits. I did see a parallel between this and the thread about Strads, Guarneris, and Amatis that has been running here recently.

December 15, 2004 at 01:04 PM · Hi,

To throw in something... the old Heifetz joke which everyone knows now from the Art of Violin. When asked told by an old lady: "Mr. Heifetz, you violin sounded so beautiful" he responded "Funny, I don't hear anything."

Perhaps what concerns me and ties in to some comments made on the thread you refer to Mike is that the instrument makes the difference. Yes, a great instrument can teach you much, but the reason that great instruments sound as well as they do and are famous is because they are in the hand of great players.

Not a comment here on the NJS string players, but a thought to keep in mind...


December 15, 2004 at 01:11 PM · Looks like the whole thing might be for some ulterior purpose??


December 15, 2004 at 06:04 PM · Christian, when you say "Yes, a great instrument can teach you much, but the reason that great instruments sound as well as they do and are famous is because they are in the hand of great players." you are failing to give credit to the makers of great instruments. There is as much difference between a so-so instrument and a great instrument as there is between a so-so player and a great player. Personally, I'm happy for any good player who gets a great instrument in their hands.

December 17, 2004 at 05:34 PM · Dear Mike,

I agree, although not all great fiddles by famous makers are great instruments (there a lot of so-so Strads for example). My point is more in reference to the comment that the instruments will make the orchestra sound better. I just don't think that it is necessarily a guarantee. Great instruments are great instruments, but they need to be played by great players to realize their full potential. For different kind of example, you can't expect just anyone to get out of a Ferrari F-1 car what Michael Schumacher manages to do... Cheers!

December 17, 2004 at 07:12 PM · It's been my personal experience that an upgrade in the quality of the instrument in a player's hands allows and inspires the player to be better, and the article says as much.I don't expect such instruments to transform them into a world-class solosist.

Apparently you don't think these players don't deserve great then, who does?

I guess if this were, say, a middle school orchestra made up of fabulously wealthy kids who had been playing a couple of years I might agree witht the inappropriateness and unfairness of the situation.

BTW, I am well aware that the consensus is that not all strads are great instruments. When I read a player talking about how fantastic an instrument responds I tend to think, "sounds as if he got a good one."

December 17, 2004 at 07:45 PM · My first violin was so bad that my mother thought there was something wrong with me...

...and there is...LOL...but the point is it wasn't all me!

Now that I have a 'real' violin I am playing SO much better - even with what limited ability I have. And I'm also playing better because I'm inspired to practice that I know that my instrument isn't holding me back...

If those orchestral instruments are looked after, and being appreciated (which I suspect they are)...I think it's a good thing...

December 23, 2004 at 11:46 PM · Rebekah Johnson, assistant principal 2nd of the NJSO, is possibly the best violinist in the world today. I don't know anything about the rest of its players.

December 27, 2004 at 02:19 PM · Hi,

Sorry, I have been away for a while...

Jim, who is Rebekah Johnson? I have never heard of her, and what would qualify her to be the best violinist in the world today? Just curious... Thanks!

And Mike, it's not that I think that the people don't deserve the instruments. And I didn't assume that you weren't aware that all Strads are not great (sorry if I offended you). It could potentially open other doors for the orchestra, so... I don't know. However, the wealthy kids comment is good. I know a lot of rich kids playing great fiddles badly, and it breaks my heart. However, there are a lot of soloists who could use such instruments and struggling to find them, so are you sure that this is the best place for them? Just curious here as well... Thanks!

Cheers everyone!

December 31, 2004 at 01:17 AM · Christian, this is her at this link. I'm infatuated.

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