Upgrading my violin- Question about Ernst Heinrich Roth and Oskar C Meinel violins

Edited: August 12, 2018, 4:38 AM · Hello, I am looking to upgrade my current violin. The violins that I am considering are a Roth 1954 copy of a 1714 Strad which is selling for around $6,000, as well as two Meinel violins- one is a 1937 copy of a 1725 Strad (around $8,000) and the other is a 1962 copy of a 1714 Strad (around $3,500). If what I researched is accurate, it sounds like the Meinel violins are actually a trade name used at Roth's shop and that the Roth violins made after World war two aren't nearly as good as the ones made around the 1920's. It also sounds like the 1714 Strad copies may not be the best model but I wanted to know what all of your opinions are. So my questions are:

1) Are these nice quality instruments or could I find better? (within the price range of $4,000-$8,000)

2) Are these fair prices for these violins?

3) Does anyone have any recommendations as to which would be the best out of these options or could anyone recommend any other violins I should consider looking at in the above price range?

I hope to find a professional sounding violin that can carry me through college (I will be auditioning for music conservatories in a few months so I would need to decide on a violin before then). If anyone has any recommendations, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks in advance.

Replies (19)

Edited: August 12, 2018, 10:09 AM · The Roth sounds a bit pricey to me, don't know about the Meinel.
Personally I prefer a good Jay Haide over even an older Roth as they are more responsive.
You might want to try Martin Swan's MSV Artist Strad model violins:
August 12, 2018, 12:23 PM · I have a 1956 Roth 1700 model for $2500 right now, those prices are full retail or in the case of the Roth slightly above full retail, IMHO
August 12, 2018, 3:21 PM · I agree with Lyndon. For 8k you can already find really excellent instruments from individual makers of the same period. Just tried two of those recently which both fulfill any needs of a professional orchestra musician. (And both served so for many years.) One 1920ies from Hungary, one gorgeous 1960ies Mittenwald even from a very reputable maker in good condition, but the varnish a bit sticky with especially heavy craquele, which might contribute to the relatively low price.

I'd never buy an 8k factory instrument, regardless name or brand. Maybe I'd change my mind if I ran into one which would blow me away completely, but in general for an "average" one I'd eventually even consider one of the better Chinese violins for around 3,5k. (Sorry Lyndon...)

August 12, 2018, 4:56 PM · I recently had a 1930 high end Roth violin in the shop, would high retail for about $12,000, very impressive instrument, there is no doubt Roth made some very good instruments, just not all of them, and after WWII they were not as good.

Plus I'd be surprised in Hendrik has actually tried a Martin Swan violin, even though he recommends them??

August 12, 2018, 5:10 PM · It's going to be hard to find a professional sounding violin at that price range. There's a workshop called Fevre that does some excellent instruments--I have a viola from there. I would also look at Jay Haide and Kono violins. But you really need to be trying these out, not ordering online.
Edited: August 12, 2018, 5:56 PM · The 1725 Strad is a high end model for Roth or Meinel, $8000 might not be such a high price for that. Depends on the condition and the sound quality
August 12, 2018, 5:58 PM · No Lyndon I haven't tried Martin Swan's violins although one of these days I may. He has a good reputation. You know as well that he knows his stuff, and he isn't shy about what he doesn't know. I have tried a number of violins made in the region his violins come from and have been impressed.
On line ordering has its' risks and generally I agree go visit a reputable shop. But Martin has built his reputation as an on-line business and wouldn't have lasted this long if he started sending people questionable instruments. Also he has a good return policy.
I was mentioning him as it looks like the OP has a limited number of choices considering the posting. For the money the OP can spend there could be better options.
August 12, 2018, 10:28 PM · I would never recommend a maker who's instruments I have never tried or seen, that's just completely ridiculous.

The 1725 Strad model is Roth's high end Classic line, model 10-R, it retails brand new for 7300EU, so $8000 for a 1937 is not so bad if its in great condition.

August 12, 2018, 11:24 PM · I don't know why recommending an MSV (apparently a workshop violin) is any more ridiculous than recommending any other workshop brand with a good reputation, sight unseen.
August 12, 2018, 11:30 PM · Lyndon, I'm sure Roth must have made some really good instruments since otherwise this workshop / factory wouldn't have built such a high reputation in the US. And I'm aware that the high end Roth instruments were not born from the assembly line, but usually well made by a single maker. But 12k? No kidding, Lyndon? I mean, in another thread (I don't remember exactly which it was) you advised me to find a more trustworthy shop before buying a €8k workshop Mittenwald... (Which means, in this special case, that one of the most reputable German luthiers of the 20th century had one single other master luthier - no apprentice - in his workshop who came there for a year or three to polish on his already advanced skills, who built this very instrument unter the workshop owners guidance.)

Please tell me if I'm wrong, I'm neither a dealer nor an expert. But obviously it's not only about provenance, names and quality but also about finding the right market for a certain instrument...

August 13, 2018, 12:05 AM · Thank you all for responding. Yes, I agree that I would not order online without trying out the violin. I currently have both the Meinels and the Roth out on trial and have been impressed with the sound of the 1937 Meinel. It is by far my favorite out of the violins I have tried so that's great to hear that it is a good model and that it seems to be reasonably priced. However, as much as I love the Meinel, it is still early on in my search for a violin so I am hesitant to buy it so soon as I haven't considered that many other options. I plan to look at the violins in a few more local shops and try out some of the violins you all recommended and then decide between those and the Meinel
Edited: August 13, 2018, 12:40 AM · Full retail value on a Roth model 10-R 1725 1937 in very good condition would be close to $10,000 so you're not getting a big discount but they are good instruments.

practically non of these Mittenwald and Markneukirchen violins were hand made by one person, but the Roth company is pretty much the highest quality German factory output. Close second could be the Heinrich Th. Heberlein outfit in the late 1800s

nuuska, you seem to have no idea how these violins were made.

August 13, 2018, 1:03 AM · Lyndon, with all respect and without any intention to offend someone, your picture of German violin making seems to lack some details.

Markneukirchen and later Bubenreuth had big workshops, including the Roth factory - one of the largest, with a main focus on overseas export strategy. Parallel to this there have always been enough master makers who worked as a family business or formed small workshops, some of them producing really high end instruments. And there are lots of (usually nameless or Strad / Guarneri labeled) "Markneukirchen" instruments from 19th century or early 20th century which were originally built (as a whole or as parts in the white) in the Czech Musikwinkel. Markneukirchen simply sold better... Unfortunately it's this low end or factory segment which shaped the picture of German violin making.

Mittenwald has been home for family business workshops ever since. There have never been factory-like workshops. Some families specialized on violin making, others carved scrolls and other parts in the cold season when done with agricultural work. One can imagine that this contributed to a large variety in quality and "provenance". But with the "names" one knows what one gets, and one should avoid the impression that Mittenwald instruments were mainly produced assembly line - since there has never been such a thing there.

August 13, 2018, 1:04 AM · Do you know the Bubenreuth story?
August 13, 2018, 1:47 AM · Not true about Mittenwald, they were built the same way as Markneukirchen, try researching "verleger" and the workshops were usually not that small.
Neuner and Hornsteiner, a Mittenwald factory among many others. J. A Baader, another Mittenwald factory, and not high end instruments.
August 13, 2018, 12:36 PM · Baader (1817-1933) and Neuner&Hornsteiner (c.1800- somewhen around WW I), yes - you got me. To put it short, Baader not glorious, N&H often good but inconsistent quality. Some other "bigger" workshops I'm not aware of? Still small compared to Roth, Schuster, and the other larger companies in Markneukirchen, Klingenthal etc., respectively later in Bubenreuth.
And in general they don't represent violin making in Mittenwald in general, but are rather the exception than the norm. In that period we're talking about (1937, 1954, 1956, 1962) the "Verleger"-system (Verleger = publisher) in Mittenwald simply did not exist anymore, and "Mittenwald workshop violin" doesn't mean 200 but rather 1-6 employees. It simply means that this instrument wasn't built by this very master luthier alone in all it's parts. Josef Kantuscher for example, as the most outstanding Mittenwald maker from 20th century imho, also had "workshop instruments" (usually 0-1 employees). The families Klotz and Leonhardt with still active family members and a family history of violin making since centuries. These are the names that carried the heritage of Matthias Klotz. At least from an european point of view.

Though, great 20th century Vogtland master luthiers too - A.Wunderlich, H.M.Mönning, F.A.Brückner... would evaluate any of their instruments I might be able to get my hands on. (And by far not every Mittenwald violin being great, for sure!)

August 13, 2018, 1:14 PM · After the Beneš-decretes 1945/1946 the german speaking minority in Czechoslovakia were expatriatet to germany, amongst them the biggest part of the instrument makers from the Schönbach region. The government first thought it might be a good idea to settle the violin makers in Mittenwald, but the Mittenwald makers feared the concurrence and the ruin of their reputation of quality. Be sure there´s also been a good shot of xenophobia in this reaction. After a few other attempts to settle these folks somewhere else in Bavaria, Bubenreuth offered do host them. In a small village of 415, more than 500 flats were built and more than 2000 members of instrument making families settled there. 1949 the population finally approached 4500. For decades the production of musical instruments (not only stringed instruments) remained the most important source of income in the region, the business spread out in the whole Erlangen region.

From ca. 1900 on, the german workshops couldn´t compeed anymore in a globalized market against cheaper workforce in Romania or China, especially in the "beginner" and "student" level market segments, and those companies who wished to survive had to put more efforts on quality production, if they hadn´t done it before.

Just a footnote of history...

August 13, 2018, 1:45 PM · what book are you copying this out of??
Edited: August 13, 2018, 5:18 PM · Lyndon. I could not find any significant publication be it printed or via the net that would deal with German violin making after 1850. There is research, but for a scientific workup only antique seems to be interesting enough, not the "younger ones". Maybe in a century, when information will be harder to get and more will be left to speculation, but obviously not now. Not even the Museum in Markneukirchen provides at least a list of makers and workshop, which is quite a shame in my eyes, and the Museum in Mittenwald provides a (very rudimentary) list of a few names and dates up to c.1850. And I would really wish to have such a book, if there was one. (And the Museum in Bubenreuth seems to be a neverending planning project, however...)

As you may have noticed I have a weakness for German instruments, especially from Mittenwald (although my big love is from Markneukirchen, and I'm not even German, but I live near so it's relatively accessible, so I've been there.). I believe there's a lot of great quality to find, and for a quite affordable amount of money.
There's general information available, if you access some older paper archives (part of them even being digitalized) and capable of a few words in German. And even on the Roth homepage you can learn at least a bit about it, concerning the company's history, which might also explain your observation about a change in quality after WW II.
It says that after expropriation by the communist regime, the Roth family moved their business from Markneukirchen to Bubenreuth as well in 1953. They started there from almost zero, but still with their brand name and good international contacts.

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