Stradivarius, Guarnerius ,Vuillaume, Amati...

October 24, 2019, 4:38 PM · Hello,

I was just asking myself questions about rare instruments from well-known violin makers(Strad., Guarneri, Vuillaume,...)

How do you recognize them ?What are they changing in the violinst's playing?
What are their prices? Why are they so well-known? Why are they only use by Soloist and sometimes by Concert master?


Replies (23)

October 24, 2019, 5:02 PM · How do you recognize them ?
price tag, or in a museum

What are they changing in the violinst's playing?
not sure what you asking, do you mean playbility?

What are their prices?
too much. good strads 10m usd +, not good strads 1-2m, vuillaume quarter to half a million.

Why are they so well-known?
cause they old and in limited quantity, that and they lay out alot of fundamentals for how the modern violins are built and shaped.

Why are they only use by Soloist and sometimes by Concert master?
institutions like the nippon foundation and private collectors loan these instruments out to well known soloist and orchestras. unless you are david garrett or joshua bell who has made enough money to buy their own. there is a belief that they are the best sounding instrument and therefore very thought after. i myself am not on that train and believes alot of modern violins are just as good.

Edited: October 25, 2019, 7:08 PM · How do you recognize them? Experts can recognize distinctive characteristics of different makers. Each maker has characteristic designs, tool marks, varnishes, etc. (and these do change across the years of their output). A good specimen will have multiple authenticators that have issued certificates over the years, and if possible, a known chain of owners.

What are they changing in the violinst's playing? They don't change anything, per se. But a good player will adapt their own playing to bring the best out of the instrument. The instruments are more responsive and produce a broader spectrum of colors, allowing the player more refined control.

What are their prices? Tarisio publishes auction listings that are a reasonable rough guide to wholesale prices.

Why are they so well-known? They are historically significant makers, and in Vullaume's case, he was a particularly prominent businessman and inventor in the trade.

Why are they only use by Soloist and sometimes by Concert master? This isn't the case. There are instruments by these makers in the hands of all kinds of players. Vuillaumes are still in the semi-affordable range, for instance, so they'll show up in the hands of talented students, various professionals, and some dedicated amateurs, plus collectors.

I am a believer in the quality of modern violins, but I have yet to find a modern that is as good as my Vuillaume. (Some almost as good, though, and a heck of a lot less expensive.)

Edited: October 25, 2019, 6:21 PM · Vuillaume instruments turn up in lots of surprising places. I've shared a stand with someone playing a Vuillaume viola, in a semi-pro orchestra. The violist who had it was a regional orchestra pro from out of town who was subbing in our orchestra while here for family reasons. She inherited it from her grandfather who was also a professional violist; it was purchased when Vuillaume instruments were not quite as expensive as they are today (though still expensive at the time). It's by far the closest I've ever been to such a good instrument. I was sitting outside for that concert, so I was extra aware of where my frog went on down bows!
Edited: October 30, 2019, 3:09 PM · Although I have a Vuillaume and in love with its looks and sound, not all Vuillaumes are created equal, even when we only take into consideration his Strad and Guarneri copies, there is a vast difference ih how they sound among them. Some are to die for and some sound nazal and nasty. They do command high prices though. I guess this is true with all makers, modern or ancient.

October 30, 2019, 3:10 PM · Yup. I love my Vuillaume too, but I'd played several that were meh, at best.
October 30, 2019, 3:35 PM · Kypros,
I haven't had the opportunity to try any Vuillaumes. Is one model or the other (Strad vs Guarneri) of his considered to be superior?

The reason I ask is that if you ask many modern makers which pattern they prefer, they say Guarneri. Apparently easier to pull off than a Strad.

October 30, 2019, 4:03 PM · Guarneri-pattern Vuillaumes are considered superior and command a higher price. Hilary Hahn's first JBV is a Guarneri pattern.
October 30, 2019, 6:06 PM · I just look inside at the sticker. If it says something in Italian that I can't read, I assume it's a rare antique violin worth millions.
October 30, 2019, 9:57 PM · Paul, haha. I think I'd do the same
October 31, 2019, 3:39 AM · When I see a label written in Latin I assume it's a German factory fiddle. If the maker's name is French, I assume it's a French factory fiddle. If it's Italian I'm even more suspicious, having once been conned.
Edited: October 31, 2019, 5:59 AM · Scott,
Guarneri Vuillaumes are much rarer than Strads. out of 3000 or so instruments he made, the vast majority being Strad copies.
Since there was a fire in his workshop, there is no way of knowing how many Del-Gesu copies he made, since all his records have been destroyed. Someone claimed about 70 in all, but I doubt it since hed had one himself.

Experts I have asked said they cannot answer this question with any degree of accuracy and they know best.

Lydia is right when she says Guarneris sound better than the Strads, at least the ones I have tried.

HH bought a second Guarneri model Vuillaume recently.
Due to the relative scarcity of Guarneri Vuillaumes, they do cammand a much higher price than a comparable Strad copy. I do expect, however, since they are so much in demand, fakes will appear if they haven't done so already.

October 31, 2019, 8:30 AM · My strategy is to buy fiddles and resell them as violins, at the usual profit of $5000.
October 31, 2019, 9:09 AM · I don't know how many true fakes there are (i.e. a violin that's genuine designed to pass), but it's super common to see cheap student instruments with a JBV label.

Every time I hand my (Strad-pattern, one of the early Messiah copies) JBV to a luthier I haven't met before, I can always see them play the ID game -- looking it over and deliberately not looking at the label until they've done the rest of the examination. Then they generally ask, "This one is real, isn't it?"

Edited: October 31, 2019, 2:14 PM · Lydia,

what we can be sure about is that when Vuillaume died, he left a lot of unfinished instruments that were auctioned off in Paris. These instruments were bought presumably by luthiers at the time who finished them off. I know of a cello like this that was bought from Hill's in the white and varnished it. It wasn't sold as a genuine Vuillaume but the true story was related and the cello went at 50% discount of what it would have sold had it been finished by Vuillaume himself. Where are the other unfinished instruments?
BTW, mine is a Guarneri model made in 1857. Always a delight to the luthiers who see it. What year was yours made in?

October 31, 2019, 4:13 PM · Mine is close in time -- it's an 1856. I'm told it's an especially fine specimen of his work.
October 31, 2019, 4:40 PM · I'm sure it is, those were good years, just before he changed address.
Edited: October 31, 2019, 5:43 PM · And just after he'd acquired the Tarisio collection, and experimenting with personally making copies of those violins.

By the way, I switched to using Rondo strings on mine, and have found them to be the best strings thus far. They let the violin just be its best self, it seems.

Edited: November 1, 2019, 4:32 AM · Lydia,

I've been told about them and will try them. I just had my violin set-up in Vienna by a great luthier, famous for set-ups. She so liked the violin, she used a 100-year-old bridge
plank which she had a few reserved for exceptional violins. It came out like never before. She strung the violin with Larsen virtuoso which after a while I found a bit dark so I changed to the Il Cannone which to my mind improved the sound by giving it more punch and directness. Now I aim at a bit more growl on the G string which the Rondo might give or not. Anyway, I'll try them before going back to Vienna for a final session. The problem with my violin is every time I have a new set-up, all the string experimentation up to that point goes out the window and have to start all over again. Before the set-up I was using Perpetual, now they don't suit it. Before that Kaplan vivo which were very good.

Edited: November 1, 2019, 11:27 AM · Lydia, what were you using before the Rondos? And is the feel of Rondos tension-wise similar to Dominants?
November 1, 2019, 1:30 PM · Somewhere on a previous post I have a big list, both strings I used for months as well as tester sets that I went through at a shop. It's a sizeable percent of the possible choices on the market. But ironically never Dominants. I would consider Rondo to feel like medium to low tension strings.

My most common choice has been Passione D and G, Avantgarde A, Amber E. (The E is constant across all my choices, and often the A as well.)

Other top likes: Brilliant Vintage, Timbre,EP Gold (requires different set up for high tension).

November 1, 2019, 2:53 PM · Don't wanna hijack this post to make it about strings, but I've liked Timbre and EP and am currently rediscovering the joys(?) of Dominant. So it follows I will try the Rondos next...

In regards to the topic, my violin is Vuillaume inspired, a Bailly - warm, rich, even and strong in all registers (I feel lucky to have found it). I would say if you can find a top example from one of the Vuillaume shop makers (Silvestre, Derazey, et al.) you could sometimes approach the quality of their more expensive master. Sometimes...;)

Edited: November 1, 2019, 5:36 PM · Julian Altman must presumably have been a great player to have been able to play a genuine strad for nearly 50 years, but was he actually either of the two functionaries (soloist or concertmaster) mentioned?
November 1, 2019, 8:12 PM · No, but Altman was a violinist in the NSO, so certainly a player of relative skill and note.


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