London / Cremona

Edited: June 18, 2018, 1:02 AM · Hi All,

I've been reading this discussion board with interest and had some questions that I hoped someone might be able to assist with. I will be visiting London / Cremona end of this year and am looking to purchase a new violin.

Are there any particular luthiers I could visit while in London? I'll be visiting J&W Beare to try the Grenier and their other instruments, but I wondered if there are other places I could try. I had previously visited Bishop Strings, Regent Street.

Further, has anyone tried any instruments by Marcello Ive in Cremona? I tried his instruments the last time I was there and was most impressed, but I can't seem to find much information on this forum or elsewhere. I tried a number of instruments by other makers while in Cremona, including those under the Consorzio Liutai, but his stood out the most for me. It just seems curious to me that there is not much information about him available!

I also recall (from conversations with Milan/Cremona-based luthiers that they were busy preparing for strings exhibitions which showcase instruments made by many luthiers across the world. Apparently there was one in Cremona and another in China - does anyone know about this? I can't seem to find any information about it. Do you think attending one of these exhibitions would be helpful in my search of a violin? At least in terms of exposure.


Replies (3)

Edited: June 18, 2018, 1:55 AM · There are a lot of people in London selling violins, some of the under the radar (for example Colin Nicholls, one of the last makers to go through the Hills apprenticechip system, has no website, but I think does a bit of dealing as well as making). Phelps used to have a number of new instruments as well as old (they moved away from some of the new makers after a change of ownership a few years back). Bridgewood and Nietzert have a reputation for honesty and competency, and represent several fine modern makers and have some antiques too. Although based in Scotland, Martin Swan has London days, and Stringers have a London shop. Some shops, like Guivier, offer some more expensive instruments in the mix. The list is too long really, and could easily be extentended if you were to visit parts of the UK outside London.

If you are talking about Beares and Greinier violins, you are towards the top of the market where the prices for 'ordinary' instruments (if they have them at all) could be a lot higher, and where you are more likely to find valuable instruments, up to those likely to cost six or seven figures. It is not hard to find a list of the names working in that market segment. Names like Charles Beare (not the same as J & A Beare, and possibly worth talking to if you have a large budget even though he is mainly an authenticator), Hebbert, Leonhardt, Buddulph, and the major auction houses (who do some private sales as well as auctions: you need to talk to them). I don't know them myself because I cannot afford their price range, and when I did buy a violin in the UK I bought it new direct from the maker-again someone working 'under the radar' in the sense that there is no website. The moral being that it is worth making some calls or sending email and talking to people, once you are clear about your budget, and whether you are in the market for an antique (or possibly one of the biggest names like Greinier), or whether you take the view that you can potentially do equally well with some of the less well-known makers at lower prices.

For new instruments it is worth mentioning that many UK makers seem to offer extremely attractive prices compared with their colleagues in the US, and compared with most of their European colleagues at a similar level.

The book by Min Kym, the Korean-British violinist, called 'Gone' sheds some interesting, if prejudiced, light on the London market for Strads and the like.

June 18, 2018, 2:56 AM · John, thank you! Very helpful. I'm looking to spend around the range of 20,000 Euro. I'm very well aware that Beares/Greinier is in the top end and with my price range, I don't imagine I'll be purchasing from them but I was more interested in the exposure, i.e. to try them out and get a sense of what is considered a "great" instrument in the market.

I was also hoping to find out more about who these 'under the radar' makers are (I met William John previously thru a RCM grad) so I will look up the names you have mentioned above when back in London!

Edited: June 18, 2018, 4:18 AM · "...get a sense of what is considered a "great" instrument in the market." One of the nearly new UK-made violins I play can be heard in the first 20 seconds of
Although recordings don't tell you much, I would not swap it for a Greinier in a million years, which is not to disparage Mr Greinier's work: we each perfer our own :-)
(This is not an advert, the maker is retiring and I bought his last instrument.) Anyway, it is the player who makes the sound, not the fiddle, IMHO.

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