Any advice in purchasing a new violin in Europe?

April 24, 2020, 8:31 PM · Hello everyone,

I saw a few posts here and I’m curious of your opinion. For my next violin I would love to have something made by a Luthier, this is a consensus between my teacher and the Luthier who made small fixes in my instrument, sadly he dosen’t make violins and only fix’s them. By now I have a cheap violin (500 usd), made in China.

In the future (hopefully in 3 or 4 years or when Corona situation comes to an end), I would like to travel through Germany, Austria and maybe Czech Republic and/or Poland, and spend a time experimenting and visiting violinmakers. Although I think shopping in a foreign country can be tricky too, I also believe that could be a wonderful remember of great place I visited and the people I’ve met.

Also also I’m in love with Capela Violins (I’ve tried one), particularly I Think their design are quite beautiful and unique, but I don’t have any idea about his price.

I’ll never commit to anything without trying it out in person and listening to someone else playing it. So any advice about nice places to visit and trying violins in these countries? Talking about Capela Violins anyone knows how much a new one is worth it? My budget will be something close to 7k to 8K euro.

I never found a community so active and like this in my country (I live in Brazil). I hope everyone stays well and healthy in this hard time we are living now.

Thank you very much for your attention, I love to lost myself reading the discussions here.

Replies (14)

Edited: April 24, 2020, 8:53 PM · Capella: Domingo, Antonio and Joaquim a top violin making family in Portugal, a century of making probably coming to an end with the last of them.

When I bought a Solar (Spanish maker) violin from an English dealer 46 years ago, he wanted to sell me a Capela, but it was a bit to pricy for me at the time.

Most recent auction prices for Antonio Capela violins have gotten close to $20,000. Check the auction price histories at Tarisio.

Edited: April 24, 2020, 9:47 PM · US$7000 is on the very bottom end of the range of prices for new, fully handmade violins crafted by living violin-makers outside the third world.

Your alternatives in your price range are:
(1) A really very good Chinese violin,
(2) An antique violin excluding French or Italian violins because that origin usually drives the price up over $15k,
(3) A European workshop instrument where violins are crafted by artisans and apprentices in the care of a master.

One place where there seem to be a few "workshop" type operations is southern Poland. My violin comes from Zakopane which is close to the Slovak border, but it's not a workshop instrument. It's a bench-made violin by Wojciech Topa.

I agree with Jeewon that you can probably find a maker or a workshop there in Brazil that produces good violins, and you definitely should meet Mr. Manfio because will be able to direct you to good people in the business. Manfio makes violas mostly, fewer violins.

April 25, 2020, 12:11 AM · are you looking for a lutheir custom making a violin just for you? or a general bench violin (made by 1 luthier) already crafted. cause you don't have to go to europe for that, there are plenty of dealers and shops carrying instruments from european luthiers here in the states. i know of 2 violin shop that carries cremona violin between 8-10k, and a nyc luthier that will make you a violin for 6k.
April 25, 2020, 4:37 AM · There are 3 or 4 weekends a year in London where at least 4 major auction houses have previews. That would be in excess of 500 instruments to choose from! I also quite like Cardiff violins, I got a good deal there and it's a lovely place to visit.
April 25, 2020, 6:17 AM · Unless you know what you're doing or have a lot of cash to splash auctions aren't the best way to go. I don't really come into either category but with the onset of senile dementia, plenty of reference sources and no needy dependents I find them a lot of fun
Edited: April 25, 2020, 7:20 AM · I live in Germany and spent about a year looking for my last violin all around the country, as well as in the Czech Republic before finding one that I loved. For the 7-8k range, Germany might be a bit difficult, as it's a lot easier to find something a bit more expensive, but Corilon usually carries some nice instruments without charging too much of a "finder's fee", and apart from that you can usually just go into any luthier's workshop (which there are many of), preferably after emailing or calling them and look at what they've got. If your budget is tight it might, however, be a very good idea to look to the Czech Republic and Poland, since you usually get a good chance of getting more bang for the buck. My last violin that I've played for ten years was a lovely instrument by a late Czech luthier, who's sadly since passed away, but it was new when I got it and the price was very low. My current one is an antique but would've cost more in Germany, too. There are a couple of very good shops in Prague and the near surroundings, with a wide selection and fair prices. No idea how things are in Poland, but probably comparable (even though I'm not aware of a big history of violinmaking in Poland, unlike Prague). But if you don't necessarily need an old instrument I'd listen to the other people here, as I have no idea of what the market looks like on your side of the pond. A new violin in Germany will probably be closer to the 15-25k range, that I am sure of.
Edited: April 25, 2020, 11:39 AM · Benjamin is right on German price tags. Even good contemporary Czech instruments should exceed the budget you named. For €7-8k, you can find either an excellent German / Austrian / Hungarian antique, an very good German workshop violin set up by a top luthier, or an instrument which was also made by a single luthier but involving the use of power tools four the more rougher steps. You could also use your budget for a top Romanian or Chinese instrument plus an outstanding Brazilian bow. And while we're at it, you should look out for regional business first. Violin making is not a secret science anymore, and talented makers are to find worldwide. As proved by the example of Luis Manfio, who triples your budget and is specialized on something even nicer than violins, namely violas.
An instrument made in the same environment as it will be played will behave better in your climate.

If you'd still pursue your travel plans, I'd be happy to drop a few names and eventually open some doors. (I'm living in Austria)

April 25, 2020, 11:40 AM · BTW there is a fairly good luthier who works out of retirement and sells his instruments for 6k or even less. And they're very good for the money. PM me if you like...
April 25, 2020, 12:45 PM · If you have time before you make your purchase I recommend searching out "amateur violin makers." You might find a good instrument and get it for a very good price - and at the very least you might have lots of fun and meet some nice people with a common interet.

I personal friend of mine (a professional mechanical engineer) took up violin making as a hobby in his 40s (about 40 years ago). In fact I was on local (community) TV at a lecture he gave demonstrating some of his earliest instruments, I was not that impressed. But a year or so later he came to one of our community orchestra rehearsals with his violin #11.** I was in the back of the hall during break when some of our young (former Suzuki girls) tried it out and the sound to the back of the hall blew me away. To make a long story short I managed to purchase violin #11 (in that year, 1990) from him for $1,400 (the most he had charged for an instrument). Ten years later when I offered my granddaughter a choice of any of my violins, she chose #11. Although I had moved hundreds of miles away I asked him to bring me a new one next time he was near where I lived and I became the owner of his #54, made in the year 2000, which he sold me for $1,600. In between these two purchases I also bought his viola #6, for $1,200 (he did not consider it one of his best (by then he had one a prize for tone for one of his violas at a Violin Society competition).

***(By the way, Lydia said she liked #1 when she tried it in the late 1990s.)

So I have three instruments made by this "amateur" who late last year completed his 101st instrument (including 3 cellos and 12 violas) - we have kept in touch. He keeps saying he has made his "last instrument" and then finds an excuse to make another. He had sold all the instruments he has made except for his 1st and last (at the last time we communicated). In addition, he has been that small city's luthier, repairing instruments and rehairing bows for all who want, including the local schools, for at least 25 years.

Right now both his violin and viola are in my "place of honor" (the double case I take with me when I play away from home) which holds the "chin" instruments I play daily. I have 3 other violins and one other viola.

April 25, 2020, 2:50 PM · Thank you everyone for your advice and wisdom. I’ll definitely try do a visit to Mr.Manfio when this crisis ends, Jeewon do you know name of this violinmaker? Perhaps it’s Carlos Joseph? He’s quite famous here and lives in a small city called Porto Feliz.

Wow. I never thought a Capella violin would be in this range of price.

I’m looking for a better violin that fits the budget, I’m not a professional and I’m far away to become one. About the instrument it could be a new or a antique one.

I still wanna travel to these countries and I’ll PM you Nuuska if I can’t Buy my instrument here.

Again, thank you very much for your attention ;)

Edited: April 25, 2020, 3:35 PM · If you travel to Europe you might consider Martin Swan. He has some wonderful violins, is very knowledgeable and provides helpful, personal assistance.
April 25, 2020, 6:27 PM · @Willian: feel free to message me, too, if you want me to send you the names of the Czech shops that I'd recommend in your price range! But my main tip would be this: take your time, especially with your budget you'll be looking at many very decent instruments (if you go to the right shops). But if you're lucky you might find something that speaks to you more than everything else you've tried, and if you do, you'll realise it. This won't be about polar opposites of quality, but some little nuance that makes all the difference to you, and the more instruments you try, the easier it will be to spot this one instrument. I was fortunate enough to have people around me that told me to keep looking when I brought them instruments I thought were good enough. Be demanding and critical, it should be very well worth it in the long run :)
April 25, 2020, 8:04 PM · That's really good to listen @Benjamin, I'm eager to start this journey.
April 25, 2020, 9:42 PM · If you want to make the trip to Europe, there are some excellent makers to choose from. If you’re interested in Brazilian violins, I would recommend Joannes Crucis Finnanzza. I’ve seen several of his violins. They’re quite nice and would fit your price range pretty well.

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