Are you polygamous?

May 6, 2018, 6:10 AM · Some violinists talk about a violin as their voice, or soulmate, and needing a lot of time to adapt to it. Among famous soloists, Joshua Bell with his Gibson ex-Huberman Strad would be an example. Another example is Min Kym, whose book about the theft of her Strad at a sandwich bar I reviewed on Maestronet. Some seem to be comforable using different violins in their collection, such as Szyering, though he described one Del Gesu as special. Others will--allegedly--have a famous instrument but often use a copy of it even for concerts.

Which are you? It could be a poll I suppose. Monogamous or polygamous. 'Bigamous' would be ambiguous because it could refer to those famous violinists who has both a Strad and a DG, though like Heifetz they surely used one mostly; or it could refer to those with a an antique and a copy of it; or just to those with two favourite instruments.

Replies (23)

May 6, 2018, 6:50 AM · Polygamy is more commom with viola players, I think. One of my players, a principal in the Deustche Kammerphillharmonie Bremen uses her old Cremonese viola in the orcestra and one of my violas for contemporary music and solos.
A violist may prefer a smaller viola for playing Wagner's Meistersinger, almost 6 hours of playing.
Having a second instrument for outdoor playing is a good idea too.
May 6, 2018, 7:54 AM · You haven't listed polyandry (practiced by the ancient Inuit) as an option: Many players all playing the same violin.

Don't ask me how you schedule something like that.

Edited: May 6, 2018, 7:57 AM · With my violin, I'm strictly monogamous. When travelling with my family we often only take my son's (cheaper) violin with us, and I use it then for practice, but it takes me some time to adapt. Same with most other violins.

With the viola switching doesn't feel that difficult. I'm still evaluating, and only own one of mediocre quality (70 years old Italian I got for a piece of cake, a little bit damaged but with a surprisingly decent warm sound) I leave at my work for nights on call etc. Then I have two others on loan (the nicer of them maybe will be purchased as "main instrument"), and had about a dozen others at home for testing the last two months. Unfortunately none of yours, Luis, I'm really looking forward to try them one day... But they came "in all sizes and colors" (literally everything I could get hands on in my small city with a very narrow viola market), and switching did not feel uncomfortable at all,but even felt like fun. Whatever the reason.

May 6, 2018, 8:33 AM · Hope to make a viola to you in the future Nuuska!
May 6, 2018, 8:44 AM · After 55 years of serial monogamy (with just three partners) I decided my musical life needed a shake-up and for the last 18 months have been thoroughly promiscuous with violins bought and sold at auction. It's been an exciting experience but I discovered it can take considerable time to get the best out of an unfamiliar instrument, and the practice hasn't done any good for my intonation.
May 6, 2018, 9:18 AM · Since you are taking risks having a lover, or some lovers, it is better having top ones!
May 6, 2018, 9:56 AM · "Since you are taking risks having a lover, or some lovers, it is better having top ones!"

Are all the top lovers around 300 years old? My guess is that the answer will favour the young!

Edited: May 6, 2018, 10:37 AM ·
No, I am monogamous, but not by choice...

I'm out off here, this is turning into a bowfest.

May 6, 2018, 11:26 AM · I love my violin. She is my most precious possession.

I am not sure that the term “monogamy” applies. I have just begun. I have only been playing for 3 months. But I am beginning to adapt to her, if by “adapt” you mean get to know her timbre, tone, and characteristics.

My violin is well suited for me. As I am growing in skill, she responds well to me when I reach beyond my comfort zone.

In time, there will be other violins for me. Violins that may extend my ability, eventually.

But this violin I have now will always be my first love. In that way, I feel a special kinship with her that will always be.

May 6, 2018, 11:46 AM · Unfortunately I can't afford glamorous Italians, young or old. Middle-aged British are more my league, and given the necessary TLC they can be pretty good.
Edited: May 7, 2018, 3:16 AM · So far I had one expensive violin that I performed all my solos with and a great modern one for the orchestra. A couple of months ago I bought a French 19th C. Jacquot violin from auction sight unseen which proved to be the equal of my good violin after a proper set-up. Now I'm considering using it in the orchestra if my colleagues let me, as they like to borrow it all the time.
Edited: May 6, 2018, 12:15 PM · A few years ago, a lovely old Viennese violin came into my life, and I just can't give her up. But... just the other night I was working on a few tracks I have to record that really need a bluegrass sorta-tubby viola-esque sound and I pulled out an old Saxon from the closet. It definitely has that sound, but it's hard to play--it seems to need extra oomph from the bow, while even the thought of a note seems to bring out a sweet little sound from my #1 instrument. I think it's the bridge on the Saxon that's the issue--it seems a little heavy and clunky--and so I am taking the old Saxon to the luthier this week to see if it can be a little more responsive with a new bridge. If it works, then I imagine I will keep that fiddle ready to go, because there are definitely gigs where that dark fiddle sound is just the thing. Hopefully these two will somehow get along.
Edited: May 6, 2018, 2:12 PM · Steve Jones wrote, " Unfortunately I can't afford glamorous Italians, young or old. Middle-aged British are more my league, and given the necessary TLC they can be pretty good."

It may not be unfortunate. There comes a time in life when one gains the maturity to see that a well-presented and possibly temperamental Italian is not necessarily the key to happiness, be it in a motorcycle, a fiddle, or whatever else. I think it was the novelist E M Forster who spotted that, at any rate among us Brits, being seduced by the glamour of Italy is a kind of disease. The glamour is undoubtedly tempting, and yet it does not tempt me, really, these days. As Oscar Wilde almost said, What is the point of temptation if you don't resist it? Anyway, in the UK we are spoiled for choice, and for reasons which are not clear, the prices for newly built fiddles, some of them absolutely stunning, tend to be competitive.

May 6, 2018, 7:10 PM · Wow. Talk about a first-world problem.
May 7, 2018, 3:25 AM · I tend to agree with John Birchall, but if the old Italians didn't sound well, then players would have passed them by for something cheaper and better. Given that old Italians are mostly repairs nowadays and the good ones are way beyond the reach of mortal musicians. If one is willing to forget the old Italians, there are a lot of great violins around, new or older that would fit the bill exceptionally well.
Old Italians come with a price and also investment potential and I think this escalated the prices beyond reach, but this says nothing about their playability or sound. When a bank buys a Strad for investment, the last thing they look for is sound and playability.
May 7, 2018, 5:15 AM · "When a bank buys a Strad for investment, the last thing they look for is sound and playability."

That's not entirely true. When the Virginia Tech Foundation bought its Carlo Bergonzi violin, obviously they wanted great investment potential. But the violin was intended for use by one specific violinist (David Ehrlich). He selected the instrument. I have heard him perform many times and, at least in his hands, it's a wonderful-sounding violin.

May 7, 2018, 7:53 AM · I have never heard this term when referring to musical instruments.

I believe the Mormons think it's ok.

May 7, 2018, 8:06 AM · I think it would be more interesting to hear from players who are polydactyl.
May 7, 2018, 8:32 AM · In a quartet concert, I might play my "mezzo' viola for Mozart, and my plummy "contralto" viola for Brahms. I love them both, so I suppose it is a kind of polygamy..
May 7, 2018, 11:47 AM · "I think it would be more interesting to hear from players who are polydactyl."
...that... would put the whole 'positions' thing into a new perspective! :)
May 8, 2018, 9:40 AM · I have a desire to be monogamous, but I have my children's mother that keeps getting between me and my beloved violin.
May 8, 2018, 1:53 PM · My "Wooden Partner" (a.k.a. the Mittenwald Strad) are life partners. I do admit to having had a fling with a Reinhold Schnabel a few decades or so back. The affair ended badly as we were not compatible at all (although it did get along quite well with my teacher).

Like life with my human spouse, we compliment each other and work well together as a team. Although, with any good fortune he's going to go on to more partners in the future making music long after I've stopped playing (and/or being).

May 9, 2018, 3:12 AM · Scott, biandry has been documented (See Hoffnung's Violon Double), but I don't know about polyandry.

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