cheaper professional grade violins and bows in Europe

Edited: April 1, 2018, 10:26 AM · I'm going to Zurich and was hoping to visit some violin and bow shops to try to look for something good enough for concertmaster-solo/concerto playing. Does anyone have feedback on the following:

1. Are there violin and bow shops in Zurich that are worth looking into? I'll be there for a week and would like to look at as many shops as I can.

2. What other countries/cities would you recommend to find more affordable instruments? For example, I'm thinking of visiting the Spidlen and Pilar workshops in Prague-they probably have cheaper stuff than say France and Italy? Is that a correct assumption?

3. Bow shop recommendations in Zurich and other places in Europe?

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Replies (13)

Edited: April 1, 2018, 11:47 AM · I think it is safe to say Switzerland is the worst possible place in Europe for you to look for a cheaper instrument...
Edited: April 2, 2018, 12:12 AM · If you are looking for an "old" violin, Marcel Richters in Vienna is an absolute MUST to see. I don't think there will be a better address in central europe. He also has lots of decent bows.
Mr. Spidlen in Prague is said to make very decent violins, but I never tried one. But if you are going for a new violin, how much would you be willing to spend? There are dozens of talented and reputable makers who produce very constant quality around €20k. In southern Germany I would see Martin Schleske, in Austria Alexander Schütz. This is just my personal preference, there will be many others...
April 1, 2018, 12:29 PM · Belgium isn't far from Switzerland and has an established music tradition, including the Brussels Conservatoire. Where there is a Conservatoire the likelihood is that violin dealers and luthiers won't be far away, and someone at the Conservatoire should be able to direct you to a suitable dealer. Similar thoughts apply to other countries near Switzerland, such as Germany and the Netherlands.
Edited: April 1, 2018, 12:51 PM · Well, this may be a rule of thumb... Salzburg has the very famous Mozarteum, and there are two (or even three?) luthiers as far as I know. But there are greater places than Salzburg to buy an instrument. Although Peter Svatek is a very kind and trustworthy person and also has some good instruments in his shop. So if you should happen to be in the region, visit him.
April 1, 2018, 1:09 PM · I imagine that you might be best off with a commission, if you're looking for a contemporary violin for high-level professional playing.
April 1, 2018, 1:15 PM · Austria is a nice place to spend your musical holidays. You can start in Salzburg and travel via Linz to Vienna. Or do it the other way. Less than 3 hours by train for the whole trip, and plenty of opportunities. The density of conservatories and top level orchestras is exceptional high, and they all do need good instruments and high quality service.

But again, if you want to try as many great violins at once as possible, in all professional price ranges - go and see Marcel Richters ( and enjoy some time in one of the world's most beautiful cities and at least one top level classical music concert every evening before tasting the Tafelspitz at Plachutta (one serving will be enough for two, at least if you are willing to schedule some sweets which you definitey should...)
Have a nice week! (And feel free to drop me a line when nearby...)

Edited: April 1, 2018, 11:47 PM · Amelia, are you still based in Hong Kong? Given the climate there I'm pretty sure Lydia is right and you could need a young and healthy violin. And given your curriculum, you should use an absolutely top notch instrument, no doubt.

Two things I'd like to add here. First, I'm just one bloody late starting amateur violin torturer, so I'm incompetent in this field as one can be, at least compared to a lifelong fulltime "real musician" like you. Second, I don't believe it to be very helpful if someone like me made too aggressive advertising for a luthier who happened to be a personal and dear friend.
In general, if you ask this question here in the forum, you will expect unfiltered answers from unfiltered persons of unfiltered competence. But another suggestion...

What would be if you could get advice from the yearslong first concertmaster of an internationally renowned symphony orchestra, just to name one of his countless functions and activities, who commissioned a new violin recently and seems to be quite happy with it. Actually it was a copy of his old italian. I'm not telling secrets, if one knows where to look one can find the whole story on the internet. Someone who definitely isn't a nobody in the violin world, and as a frequent traveler could have chosen anyone from anywhere to get the job done. If someone like this would tell you how and why he made his decision on whom to trust in this sensible topic, and was willing to share his afterthoughts about that experience from colleague to colleague, would this eventually be more useful to you than a few dozens of posts from people who's competence you mostly cannot even verify...? I don't want to practice excessive name dropping here, but with a private message I'd provide you with more detailed information.

April 1, 2018, 2:29 PM · Stupid me. Easy to drop you an email via your homepage... As I'll do in the next minutes, if you don't mind...
April 2, 2018, 1:20 AM · For a contemporary bow I would consider Mr. Thomas Gerbeth, also located in Vienna.
Edited: April 2, 2018, 4:28 AM · For violins, Charles Coquet in Paris, Markus Klimke in Angers and Gonzalo Bayolo in Santiago (Spain). Three of the best of many makers I've tried for years in terms of sound and also construction (awarded in the Cremona triennale competition, VSA, Vatelot,Wieniavsky...), and with prices around €15000.Their instruments are in the hands of very good players.

And for bows I would just visit Paris, especially G.Coquoz shop in Rue de Rome (also including a big selection of violins to try) or S.Bishop in London (with probably the largest colection of bows by great modern makers).
April 2, 2018, 6:49 AM · If you're thinking of Spidlen in Prague, you're aiming at world-class talent that is not going to be inexpensive or quick. I'm sure he has a waiting list. Definitely worth a visit-- I've tried one of his violins at that shop and it was very good-- but at this price level and degree of inconvenience, there will be many other makers to consult. Some of the very top European makers, not to mention US makers, may be a bit more expensive, but you can broaden the search considerably and get some excellent results.
Edited: April 2, 2018, 7:17 PM · If you are looking for cheaper,Martin Schleske ( near Munich) is definitely not cheap.
You might try Michael Koeberling, also not far from Munich. His price is very reasonable. I own a viola of his which I love. It has an outstanding tone.
Ben Thacher -former acting concertmaster of the Lousiana Philharmonic Orchestra- plays a Koeberling violin here:

Elmar Oliviera bought a number of his violins and has performed on some.

Not too far from Zurich.

April 3, 2018, 8:04 AM · Philippe Girardin in Neuchatel.

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