Which violinmakers visit in Cremona

November 20, 2018, 4:10 AM · Hello everyone,
I'm going to Cremona beginning of December for few days to search for a new modern violin, budget beetwen 10-25k(€)
I already contacted some makers for an appointment; Villa brothers, Ferron, Grisales, Nolli, Bergonzi, Schudtz...
I'll also make a visit to the consorzio Antonio Stradivari to try some instruments from different makers.
I'm actually looking for a good, warm sounding copy of Guarneri (or Strad, but prefer del Gesu). So I accept suggestions, if I'm forgetting some good maker I should visit. I don't wanna see the whole 150 makers ( don't think all of them are worth it) bc I wanna spend time trying the violins I find, and also practicing myself.
So please give me some suggestions and advice!
Best,
Dante

Replies (60)

November 20, 2018, 6:14 AM · Laura Vigato, heard many good things about her instrument.
But she’s in Brescia, about 45min drive from Cremona.
November 20, 2018, 9:09 AM · I've only played the current Cremona instruments that made the US (and world) tour in recent years - three times I did this. Of those instruments I played during all three visits to the tours it was those by Riccardo Bergonzi that most impressed me (violins, violas AND cellos) - so seeing him on your list is great - BE SURE to visit him!

I envy you your visits and hope you find what you are looking for.

Edited: November 28, 2018, 3:38 PM · You could look at the list of makers of The Consortium http://www.cremonaviolins.com/en/the-consortium/

P.s. I should have mentionned that the maker of my violin, Liuteria Dimitri Atanassov a couple hundred yards from Stradivarius' shop makes pretty decent Guarneris for half your budget, but their tone is on the darker side and you said you were looking for a bright guarneri... which isn't exactly Guarneri typical characteristic. Any how, if you check out Stradivarius' shop, you are very likely to walk by his shop too.

Addendum: Opps,as pointed out by our more knowledgeable Cremonese friends, my faux pas... Stradivarius house... maybe, not "shop", sorry about the confusion. Maybe I need to visit Cremona one day ;-)

November 20, 2018, 12:16 PM · Hey, if you have time you could check out Stefano Trabucchi. I have a 2015 strad model by him and it is powerful and has a deep tone. Shouldn't be far from the other luthiers, do give it a try ! Best of luck and have fun. Let us know which violin you choose@
Edited: November 21, 2018, 10:48 AM · @Roger: Stradivarius' shop? I guess you know something I don't... my understanding was that his discendant Paolo sold everything to Count Cozio di Salabue way back in 1775 and that was the end of it. But I may be wrong! :-)
Edited: November 21, 2018, 12:29 PM · Mr. Atanassov he says on his website "200m away from Stradivari's birthplace".
Wrong, this is the Stradivari wedding house where he lived in the early years with his first wife.
It is strange that on the website he does not indicate the address of the shop providing only this wrong indication.

@Roger : I hope your violin is not one of his workshop instruments, because they are made in Bulgaria and only "finished" in Cremona.
From his website :
"...Some of the parts for the violins are made in Bulgaria and finished and set up at the workshop of Dimitri Atanassov in Cremona, Italy."

Just to be clear.

November 21, 2018, 12:34 PM · I'd second the recommendation for Trabucchi. I didn't end up buying one of his, but it was a strong contender and his violins are among the best looking out there
Edited: November 21, 2018, 3:27 PM · @Kevin Chen: thx! I'll get in touch with her, I also read some good comments about her. Do you know her price range?

@Jeffrey H, @A W: didn't know about, but I'll contact him! @A W: which maker did you end up buying?

@Roger: Actually I meant I'm looking for a warm/dark sound, that I usually find in del Gesù model. I come from an early 20th century french violin that is really bright and loud, and I want something with more personality.

November 21, 2018, 4:30 PM · I ended up buying an old french violin rather than a modern maker. You can follow him on Instagram as well to see some of his work.
November 21, 2018, 5:01 PM · Daniele Tonarelli, very good maker in your price range.
November 21, 2018, 5:37 PM · Dante
Im pretty sure it’s within your price range.
Here’s a post from Smiley years ago, but I don’t expect the price to go up that drastically.
https://www.violinist.com/blog/smileyh1/20095/10115/
Edited: November 23, 2018, 12:01 AM · Davide, re: "I hope your violin is not one of his workshop instruments, because they are made in Bulgaria and only "finished" in Cremona"

Tx for pointing it out; mine isn't. I was aware of the Atanassov workshop instrument line, which I understand caters to the demand of his Asian market; I gather that this is a rather controversial practice amongst Cremona makers. Mine (pictured in my avatar) is one of the bench instruments made by Mr Atanassov himself out of 80yrs old European tone wood. Tx for the clarification on his statement on his shop location, I didn't know, not that that the nuance really matters to me.

P.s. his web site provides the following address:

Corso Garibaldi 133, Cremona 26100, Italy

Edited: November 23, 2018, 4:14 AM · Roger St Pierre wrote:
P.s. his web site provides the following address:
Corso Garibaldi 133, Cremona 26100, Italy

Oh, I have to apologize with Mr. Atanassov, I did not notice the address in the contacts, my bad.

However, I would hope that he will correct the incorrect information on the birthplace of Stradivarius (which is unknown).

Although I must admit that he does things with clarity about the workshop instruments, I am always annoyed by those who come to work in Cremona just to exploit the name in a commercial way on products that have nothing to do with the quality and tradition of Cremona.

While I'm here, I would also like to point out another thing, not directed in particular to Mr. Atanassov but to makers in general :
it is not possible to know the age of a piece of wood, the only way would be to have bought it just cut and have it seasoned in its own shop.
Say 80 years based on the wood seller is completely unreliable, it could be 5, 10, 30, 50 and you could never verify for sure. Impressing buyers with this unverifiable information has always annoyed me, it's better to just impress them with the sound and workmanship of our violins, it should be enough.

Edited: November 23, 2018, 4:49 AM · I have to agree with you, Davide, some people in Cremona actively try to uphold the traditional values of excellence, and others only to exploit them.

Those who suffer most are the customers of the latter.

November 23, 2018, 5:14 AM · I was also told from a well respected maker that a lot of the cremona makers will basically just churn out violins like an assembly line and sell them to foreign markets, particularly Japan. I'm not sure if it's true or not, but based on his reputation combined with the fact that I tried several from various makers and a lot sound exactly the same makes me believe him. Trabucchi as I recommended stood out from the other cremonese makers I tried and he is very well known.
November 23, 2018, 6:13 AM · I agree with Davide, and will add that most highly experienced makers agree that there is no advantage to using 80 year old, versus 15 year old wood. I don't even bother telling a client whether the wood is 15 or 40 years old, because there is nothing of value in that information. Sounds more like some sales hype aimed at impressing a gullible customer.
Edited: November 23, 2018, 9:07 AM · Still waiting for answer of Tonarelli and Trabucchi. Vigato told me she doesn't have instruments available in her workshop at the moment...
I was wondering if it's worth it a visit to Bologna, to the workshop of Roberto Regazzi? Does someone know his price range or tried his instruments?
Thx for your recommendations!
November 24, 2018, 10:05 AM · Visit Davide Sora. Not sure if his instruments are above your budget which wouldn't be a surprise.
Edited: November 24, 2018, 7:01 PM · Besides Davide, I think Silvio Lavaggi should also be on the list.
Spoke with a really good luthier in US, and he suggested him.

Also check this thread out by Laurie.
It had plenty of video of modern Cremona makers.
https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/201710/22465/

Edited: November 28, 2018, 3:43 PM · David wrote "I don't even bother telling a client whether the wood is 15 or 40 years old, because there is nothing of value in that information."

David that I understand and agree with you, but I am curious though, what about 3yrs vs 15yrs? If it makes no difference, and I trust and respect your expert experience, do any master instrument makers such as you use 3yr old wood or is there an expectation from your clients that influence your wood age selection even though it really doesn't matter? In other words would your clients feel "cheated" if they knew that you used (hypothetically that is) inexpensive 3yr old tone wood in the making of a $25K + instrument?

Addendum: I have found this thread that pretty much addresses that question. It has very useful information. In short age of wood matters to a point where the difference becomes insignificant. More an issue of stability than sound.
https://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/15651/

November 25, 2018, 2:44 AM · @Hendrik: yes! I already contacted him :)
@Kevin: I contacted him some weeks ago and he doesn't have violins to show at the moment. I found this problem with a lot of makers, even with Trabucchi, who is not sure he'll have a violin to show me during those days...

Now I find another issue; do you think it's a good idea, as I'm travelling alone, to take one good violin from my city ( I found some good violins in Brussels in the tone and color quality but I wouldn't purchase them for lack of other qualities) to have a minimum of reference of the color I'm looking for, or would it be smarter if I take my empty case so I can take directly the new violin if I find it ( if not I guess I would have to come back or get it by mail)

Edited: November 25, 2018, 3:44 AM · @Dante. You might have some trouble finding new violins to play at many of the more well-known makers'. It's simply because they usually have a waiting list, and when a violin is finished it's not kept in the showroom but sent off to the client.
November 27, 2018, 12:07 PM · @Dimitri: yes I thought so... Anyway I have quite some appointments already fixed so I hope I'll find something satisfying

Does someone know something about a hall ( I think in the museo del violino) that can be rented to try out instruments? I read it somewhere some time ago but I can't find it anymore

November 28, 2018, 10:15 AM · Dante, yes, you can rent the Arvedi Auditorium at the Museo del Violino exactly for this purpose. The acoustics are incredible, done by Toyota, the engineer who did Disney Hall in LA. Ask your luthier to set it up!
Edited: November 29, 2018, 4:17 PM · Raphael Klayman on this site has or had a Vittorio Villa violin that he raved about.

At last count, there are 42,387 violin makers within the Cremona metroplex.

November 29, 2018, 7:14 PM · The best thing about being a cremonese violin maker is that you can be a cremonese violin maker without being a Cremonese violin maker. Make of that what you will
November 29, 2018, 8:29 PM · There's that guy with the broken English on Youtube, Edgar Russ. Apparently, he makes very sought-after benchmade master violns, but he has two other lines of cheaper instruments made or set up in his workshop under his supervision.
November 29, 2018, 11:45 PM · Paul Deck "At last count, there are 42,387 violin makers within the Cremona metroplex."

Considering that Cremona population is 71000 (wiki), more than one every two persons is making violins there.

That's unsustainable. A solid society needs at least 50% of the working force in Starbucks.

November 30, 2018, 1:41 AM · Starbucks will make a luthier's hands shaky. You, sir, seek to destroy Cremona! Be gone!
Edited: November 30, 2018, 9:25 AM · Paul Deck "At last count, there are 42,387 violin makers within the Cremona metroplex."

Paul is clearly counting only the professional makers. If you add the students, the apprentices, and the wannabes, one easily surpasses the 100K mark within the city limits.

And Carlos, not only do we have 2 McDonalds and a KFC, last Sunday they inaugurated our first Roi des Bourgeois (Burger King for those that don't speak Français). But indeed Starbucks is still only on the horizon...

November 30, 2018, 9:40 AM · Does Burger King in Cremona serve beer, like the Burger Kings in France?

KFC is very very popular in China, or at least around Beijing.

November 30, 2018, 2:06 PM · @Dimitri: good to know, thank you!

I'll keep you updated on this thread of what I find, I'm gonna try to write every night what I tried that day. For the moment I'll visit Schudtz, Ferron, Grisales, Villa, Bergonzi, Davide Sora, Tonarelli, Trabucchi, Pasquale Sardone and Regazzi un Bologna.

Should I take a violin from here to have some reference?

November 30, 2018, 2:38 PM · Yes, it's best if you have a "reference violin" with you. Without that, it's hard to know what's up, with varying room acoustics etc.
November 30, 2018, 9:32 PM · David thats KFD.
November 30, 2018, 9:35 PM · Dimitri Starbucks would a step down from your corner cafe.
December 1, 2018, 3:33 AM · " David thats KFD."

LOL, uh oh, tasted like chicken. ;-)

December 1, 2018, 7:21 AM · Dante Caceres wrote :
Should I take a violin from here to have some reference?

Your violin may be a useful reference, surely bring at Least your bow if you can.

December 2, 2018, 3:00 PM · @Davide: thank you! I'll take my bow for sure

Does someone know the average price for shipping instruments by post mail? How do normally violin makers send their commissioned instruments to customers?

December 6, 2018, 3:53 PM · I visited 8 makers today, first and long tiring day in Cremona.
I'm gonna be fast; the best violins of the day were those made by Davide Sora and Valerio Ferron. Pity that the violin I tried from Mr.Sora it's already sold and there's a waiting list (thank you for the nice talk in your workshop Mr Sora!)
Ferrons violin was a del Gesu copy, very nice color, and fast response, in addition to a nice antiqued finishing. I'm doubting if it's worth it the price.
Also took violins from Mr Grisales and Mr Bergonzi to try, both sounding a bit more metallic and simple in the color when I compared them with Ferrons.
I had the chance to try couple of Vittorio Villa violins (already sold) and they were quite nice for the asking price, it could be an option for commission.
That was all for today, I'll keep you updated on how's going tomorrow!
December 6, 2018, 6:02 PM · Dante can you tell us what the various asking prices were? I'm sure I'm not the only one curious...
Edited: December 6, 2018, 9:57 PM · Make sure to visit Francesco Toto. His instruments are phenomenal
https://www.totoviolinmaker.com/?lang=en
December 6, 2018, 10:33 PM · Thank you for the report.

I’d love to hear more about Valerio Ferron‘s instruments. And yes, I too am curious about his asking price.

December 7, 2018, 1:27 AM · @Marc: thanks for the recommendation! Just wrote him, I hope he's available today or tomorrow.

About the asking prices, for Ferrons Guarneri copy he's asking 25k €, same if you place a commission. Grisales and V.Villa 12k € both of them. Bergonzi makes a price depending on the violin, his oldest violins are 15k €, the newer ones a bit cheaper.
About Valerio violin, the problem I found is the difference of price with the Grisales. In the close ear, while playing, Ferrons violin sounds sweet, warm, and nice playability. Grisales maybe could seem to the ear of the player a bit more metallic in some registers, maybe more "average" violin sound.
I recorded both of them (with a quite trustful recording system), and after hearing the from outside played by one friend, and listening to the recording, I could say that the difference it's not "that" big. Let's say that the average listener wouldn't feel a big difference; it's just a matter of affinity of the player with the instrument.

December 7, 2018, 6:40 AM · V.Villa at 12k, that's a reasonably priced violin! Maybe I should go to Cremona too.
December 7, 2018, 4:34 PM · Second day finished, I visited 5 makers more, and I'm only waiting for answer of F.Toto and Tadioli, the only 2 more makers I'm gonna see (if they answer me in time).
The best violin of today was Tonarelli's copy of Ole Bull, amazing warm, clear and ringing sound. Also Stradivari model of Elisabetta Giordano was nice, but I felt a lack of ringing harmonics of the violin and less projection when compared with Tonarelli's.
Trabucchi's Strad model was just not the color of sound I'm looking for.
I compared Tonarelli's with almost all violins I tried; Bergonzi, 2 from V. Villa, Grisales, Giordano, Trabucchi, Bastiani, etc. I couldn't compare it with Ferrons del Gesù copy as he unexpectedly send me he sold the instrument this morning (not nice from him that he didn't let me know someone else was coming, knowing that I was quite interested...)
Anyway, Tonarelli's violin it's by far the best I tried in these 2 days,I feel affinity with it, and for the asking price (15k) I'm quite decided to take it if I don't find anything else tomorrow.
December 7, 2018, 4:47 PM · I had the "once-in-a-lifetime" thrill of playing on one of the real ex-Olé Bull Strads about 55 years ago. OMG - to be able to have an instrument that came close to that would be amazing. The way the D and E on the A string responded to an increasingly fast and wide vibrato was unbelievable. (I only got to play on it for a couple of minutes so I did not get to do too much with it.) At the time that fiddle was insured for $150K.

If you could get a violin today close to that for $15K it would be really amazing.

December 7, 2018, 5:04 PM · How could a "Tonarelli" not have the best tone?

Did you try any Notonarelli violins to see how they compared? ;-)

December 7, 2018, 6:25 PM · Tonarelli and Sora make sick violins, man. Just take one and move on.

Grisales are mostly workshop violins, I believe. One sold for a mere 5k US on Tarisio a few months ago.

December 7, 2018, 7:24 PM · Tom, most any contemporary maker's violin could sell for 5k at auction, if the maker gets unlucky enough, or if the condition or setup is bad enough.

Some of it will have to do with who attends that particular auction. Are there many musician buyers, or mostly dealers who are looking for a good profit margin upon resale?

That said, I don't know anything about Grisales violins.

December 8, 2018, 8:08 AM · Just compared Tonarelli with Ferron. Ferron K.O
December 8, 2018, 9:26 AM · Check out Tarisio.com for any violin maker you choose and look down the list of auction sale prices back as far in time as they go. You will learn some things about auction vs. "retail" prices - very interesting.

As David wrote: "Some of it will have to do with who attends that particular auction." Boy, ain't that the truth! We just sold at auction an antique item we forgot we had boxed up for the past 25 years and it brought 50X the auction house estimate. (There must have been at least two such people attending that auction!)

December 8, 2018, 9:38 AM · I tried two Tonarelli violins, one I forgotten which year (probably 2013 or 14) and one that's 2012.

The 2012 is far better although the newer one is no slouch either.

Can't go wrong with this maker and for 15k it's very very reasonable.

There's only one thing I didn't liked about his violins, both had this rather stiff playing character that refused to respond well to very light bowing. So playing airy tone color is very difficult on them, it sounded rather weak.

I'm playing on a Massimo Negroni. There seems to be bad rumors spreading about his works, but a fine violin is a fine violin. Love it!

Edited: December 8, 2018, 11:05 AM · Just make sure you don't mistake Tonarelli for "Tonareli" (same pronunciation for anglophones, in reality cheap low-quality Chinese knock-offs)
December 8, 2018, 12:19 PM · Hey Dante, how about the Sora compared to the Ferron? I know its subjective but I'm still pretty curious.
December 8, 2018, 3:36 PM · @Jeffrey: I didn't have the chance to try Sora's out of his workshop, and in that moment I didn't compare it with any other violin. As I remember Sora's was very well balanced, with a really direct and bright sound, very resonating inside the viooin, and a nice tone in general. Ferron's shop has a completely different acoustic than Sora's, but his violin was sounding nicely warm and deep in the G string, but loosing a lot of the Guarneri darkness and power in the A and E, I'd say that was an average sound in those strings. Also I felt a lack of projection in some registers....
Anyway, I have recordings of Ferron, Grisales, and Tonarelli in the same acoustic, the room where I'm staying in Cremona. If someone is really interested I can send them by mail or Whatsapp.
December 8, 2018, 3:41 PM · Btw I forgot to tell that the Ole Bull copy of Tonarelli it's del Gesù 1744, not Strad.
December 9, 2018, 5:57 AM · @ Dante Caceres
Thanks for your kind words about my violin and for taking your time for the test.
I know you're busy and it's probably best if you focus on the violins that are available for sale, but in case you want to come back in my workshop to compare them with my violin, I'm always interested and available to the challenge :-)
I sincerely hope that you manage to find a violin that suits you here in Cremona.
Edited: December 9, 2018, 6:50 AM · Hi Dante,

I purchased a Laura Vigato a number of years ago and am still thrilled with it. I think it matches exactly what you are looking for; she makes her instruments based on Del Gesu design and they tend to be warm. It would be a fantastic choice for chamber music or just personal enjoyment, but you do give up some projection with the warm tone, so it might not be the best choice for playing solo with orchestra.

At any rate, I believe Laura Vigato sells all her instruments to Bill Weaver, in Bethesda Maryland. He doesn’t do anything with them, except maybe change the strings. Otherwise, he sells them exactly as he receives them. Laura does an amazing job on the setup by the way.

One comment I would make is that instruments will vary, even with the same maker. I have tried 5 Vigato violins and mine is by far the best I have tried. Unless you are in a rush, try as many instruments as you can and make sure to spend at least a couple of days with a violin before buying it. When the right instrument comes along, it will speak to you. Best of luck. Please keep us posted.

December 11, 2018, 3:52 AM · @Davide: thank you! Would have been a pleasure. Unfortunately I took the flight back yesterday... I'll come back in March or June (still not sure which month) and I'll contact you to try some of your works if you have or just to have a nice talk!

@Smiley: I contacted her, but she didn't have any instrument at her workshop and she addressed me to her dealer in the UK, but for me it's quite difficult to find time now to make another trip... Anyway thank you for the help!


Finally I purchased the Tonarelli's del Gesù copy. I fell in love every minute more and more during the 2 days I was trying in and I couldn't miss this chance. When arrived home I compared with one Thomas Meuwissen that I've been playing for the last 2 weeks before coming to cremona (30k) and one Bernardel 1864 (père), my teachers ex-instrument that she loaned to my girlfriend for a competition.
The color sound was really close to the Bernardel, but more complex and clear (without parasites in the sound), overall in G string, and the projection was better. No need to say about meuwissen, Tonarelli's was way better in all aspects.

December 11, 2018, 5:03 PM · Glad to hear you kept it. I have been following his work for a few years now and I think it's among the best in Cremona, and also he is a great guy. Enjoy it!


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