Silvestre or Strnad??

April 6, 2005 at 07:05 AM · Hello!

I am currently trying two violins and finding it very hard to decide between them for various reasons and was hoping that some people out there may be able to enlighten me to any information or advice. The first is a HC Silvestre in mint condition which has a very vibrant sound. The other is a Caspar Strnad that has a very rich sound. I tried both out in the barbican hall and it seems that the strnad carried better. My teacher thinks that while this may be true that while the sound comes easily it is limited in its complexity. The other problem with the strnad is that the wood around the f holes has been thinned and the neck is a few millimetres short.

They are basically the same price and while I have assessed the market value of the HC silvestre to be about right I have no idea about Strnad market value and was hoping someone might be able to give me a bit of an idea. the other problem with the silvester is that it has no paper and the seller wants to go halves with me to get them, what is everyones opinion on this, is it reasonable?

ANd lastly would love some advice or a sort of checklist of what to do when trying out instruments to see if I have neglected to do anything in my assessment process.

Here ends my essay!


Replies (4)

April 8, 2005 at 12:58 AM · I'm a little concerned about the short neck on the Strnad. I also would not pay full market price for a name violin without papers. Let the seller pay for that first so the risk is not yours.

Unfortunately, I can't help you on the market value of those instruments.

April 8, 2005 at 01:54 AM · Interesting point there. If you share in the cost of the 'papers' and they turn out to be hooey do you have the same recourse you would if they'd been provided by the seller, unless it was explicitly stated somewhere that you did? Dunno... Another way to handle that problem might be to get the papers at the start from whatever firm has the last word on such things, whoever they are...

Regarding the short neck, if you find out exactly how short it is, maybe one of the Michaels here could tell you if it was significant.

April 15, 2005 at 02:29 PM · I have played exclusively on a mint condition H. C. Silvestre for the past 7 years--and it sounds similar to yours in terms of vibrancy. I have loved it. It is the violin with which I feel that I became a real musician. I only put it away a few months ago when I moved up to a JB Vuillaume. The vuillaume, I feel, is a more "adult" sounding silvestre, and they certainly occupy the same sound world. I really can't recommend silvestres enough.

But I have no idea about Strnad. The physical problems you mention with the instrument, as well as the lack of any with the silvestre, would make this choice a no-brainer for me. You don't want a great sounding instrument that will fall apart on you when on tour, or at any time for that matter. Condition is so important, especially if you are a student. You don't want to spend days and weeks and lots of $$ in a violin shop for repairs if you can avoid it.

So from my biased perspective, never having heard or played either violin, the choice is easy. Please take everything I say with a grain of salt--it's impossible to give any real advice on your situation without knowing you, the dealers, and the instruments involved.



April 15, 2005 at 05:20 PM · There's a lit of good advice in the previous posts. Let me see if I can add my $.02 on some small points:

Condition is a big factor in price. What Owen said about having a temperamental instrument is very good advice. It's not that a violin with some restoration should be shunned -- it just depends greatly on the type of restoration. A violin that's had some cracks repaired, or a well-done top post patch, is likely to be much more stable than a violin with belly patches on the plates, a thin back or other basic structural issues. I would get advice from a luthier you trust who could examine the instrument up close as far as condition is concerned.

I also agree with Owen about the Silvestre family in general. I've sold several Silvestre violins (Pierre, Hippolyte and H.C.), and I would happily recommend them to anyone as an excellent, affordable 19th century instrument. Regarding papers, it's only in the last few decades that Silvestres have started to get into the range where someone would be interested in writing a paper on them, so it's not necessarily surprising that there isn't an existing certificate. Who pays for the paper is a negotiating point, so it's up to you if you want to go 50-50 with the seller.

The neck length is really a question of comfort, as long as it's within reason. The "standard" length is 130 mm, but there's nothing wrong with a neck length of 128 or 131 as long as the player is comfortable with the overall string length. If you don't feel a problem with shifting or getting to the body of the violin earlier, then a slightly short neck shouldn't worry you.

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