What strings did Henryk Szeryng use?

Edited: April 26, 2020, 1:33 PM · Hi. I’m really enjoying some recordings by Szeryng. I like the kind of sound he got. I wonder if anyone knows what kind of string did he use. Gut-strings? Dominant strings? Thank you.

Replies (20)

April 26, 2020, 1:39 PM · https://www.violin-strings.com/string_faq/famous-violinsts-string-brand-choices/
April 26, 2020, 1:41 PM · Thank you, Gordon. That's an efficient and fast answer!
April 26, 2020, 2:11 PM · I'm pretty sure the Kaplan A doesn't exist anymore... If you want to try his setup, then probably go for an Eudoxa A.
April 26, 2020, 3:13 PM · I recall seeing his instrument strung with Pirastro Eudoxa. Milstein also used Eudoxas with a plain unwound gut A.
Edited: April 26, 2020, 3:49 PM · A certainly appreciate Gordon's revelation but there are so many new strings developed during the past 2 decades that knowing what some of the past masters have used, while interesting, I think it may be hardly relevant to string choices for a "random" instrument.

I find just how many current masters use Dominants very interesting, but they are certainly "enticing" on a lot of instruments. It is also interesting to see how many of the great players used "mixed sets." It has me wondering how hard they searched and how they finally settled on these string mixtures.

I've gotten good advice from violin shop people who played my instruments and made recommendations on the basis of their experience and the strings I was using at the time. Alternatively, finding what seem like "super strings" on my own for other of my instruments has cost a small fortune for the 50 years I've been searching.

April 26, 2020, 3:58 PM · I suspect that Szeryng's wonderful sound was more a function of the violin he had and his talents as a violinist than the strings he used. I suspect he would have sounded as good with Dominants or any other good string on his violin.
April 26, 2020, 5:37 PM · I'm pretty sure the only strings to choose from for most (if not all) of Szeryng's performance career were wound gut and plain gut.
April 26, 2020, 6:04 PM · I have a theory that setups were made in Szeryng’s day to accommodate gut, as synthetics weren’t available. That could have meant different bridges, soundposts, etc. Just a few months ago I was able to get an older instrument singing better by using Eudoxa— in part, I think, because the bridge would have been made to complement those strings back in the 70s. EP or even Warchal Timbre were just a little too metallic-sounding. And the violins those sound best on might need some fussing around before they did their best with Eudoxa.
April 26, 2020, 7:19 PM · In what way would the bridge setup better suit gut strings? Thinner or thicker bridge?
April 26, 2020, 7:19 PM · Actually steel strings existed before the 20th century. Mischa Elman was using steel strings from at least WW2 to the end of his career. Synthetics were on the market already in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There’s a tremendous difference between the sound of gut and synthetic strings.
April 26, 2020, 7:21 PM · I was thinking of height, mostly. Could be totally wrong, but this particular setup is more forgiving of softer strings, that might sound less incisive on a more contemporary rig.
April 26, 2020, 7:45 PM · He had two instruments that he used for different works: a Strad and a Guarneri
Edited: April 27, 2020, 11:36 AM · Szeryng's "Leduc" GdG has been loaned to Augustin Hadelich earlier this year. https://youtu.be/vWbeFWfdXHw Looks like Hadelich prefers EP on the leduc.

BTW, if you ever get a chance to see Hadelich live, don't miss it!

April 27, 2020, 12:00 PM · I completely agree with what Tom Holzman said, but I asked out of pure curiosity. No doubt Szeryng was an exceptional player. I like how clear and clean his style was.

Aside from the particular violins Szeryng used... how do Stradivarius and Guarneri violins generally differ in sound? Is one style 'warmer' than another? Louder maybe?

I'd definitely love to see Hadelich live. I can't judge him 'technically', but I like his recordings.

Edited: April 27, 2020, 9:24 PM · Ysaye was a Guarneri man, and would take Jacques Thibaud into a hall or church to compare his own violin vs Thibaud's Strad. Ysaye always got a lot more sound out of his del Gesu. But then they'd switch spots, and Thibaud always got more sound out of the Strad.

Generally speaking, Strads are a little fussier, and prone to punish even small slips. Like handling a laser beam or steering a twitchy Italian sports car. Guarneris usually tolerate a bit more weight from the player, and are sometimes seen as easier to play by a certain school of violinists. More of a muscle car.

A handful of players use both, although i think people tend to gravitate toward one or the other.

April 29, 2020, 5:40 AM · James Dong is both right and wrong (rhyme unintentional). Kaplan A Strings do exist, being sold by d'Addario; but the core is now synthetic, so no way could they be what Szeryng used.
Sadly, in the latter days Kaplan strings were not made as well as they had been: The A-stings I had on my violin snapped shortly after mounting, but previously I had regularly used Golden Spiral quite happily (though the way my violin sound developed, sticking to Eudoxa would have been better - I never realized that my violin was no longer dark toned, which it had initially become through two or three years use as a viola. The performance that got me two years' weekly sherry with E.M.Forster, two movements of the Brahms D-minor, had employed Eudoxa. If I were ever going back to regular serious solo performance, I'd probably invest in Eudoxa, but might try Warchal).
Edited: April 29, 2020, 7:37 AM · Stephen Symchych, thank you for explaining the difference.

John Rokos: That's interesting. I was slightly disoriented when I searched for Kaplan strings and saw they're still in the market. But your explanation makes lots of sense. I'm curious about gut strings. But I own a cheap violin made by Yamaha, and I'm not completely sure if the investment would be worth the effort with such an instrument. I also must admit that the instrument holds a great sentimental value for me, so I'd like to make it sound the best it can, and I'm resisting the temptation to 'upgrade' to a better instrument. The fine tuners are removable, not tailpiece-integrated. And the price of Eudoxas is on pair with (and even cheaper than) many high-end synthetic strings (For instance, a full set of Obligatos is around €90 here, and Eudoxas around €80).

April 29, 2020, 3:41 PM · Szeryng is my favorite violinist, so I've listened to (just a) few hours of his playing in my lifetime. Hearing Hadelich play that violin is very interesting--I do hear a little bit of Szeryng's sound in there--the bass richness really apparent in that violin. However, there was clearly more to Szeryng's sound than the tool (obviously). Szeryng has a cleanliness to his sound that is really unmatched by anyone else (a cleanliness well matched to maximizing the richness that violin brought to the table), and I really enjoy hearing the same violin played by someone else so the technical/artistic differences between two great players stand out even more.
Edited: April 29, 2020, 6:36 PM · Miguel, my father said any violin will sound better with quality strings. But then the cheap gut strings and steel strings of the time were indeed dire. Whether you'd get a better performance from your instrument with top quality gut strings than with e.g., Dominant, I don't know - I certainly got more expression out of my violin with Eudoxa/Golden Spiral than with the best quality steel strings available at the time (and probably now), when there were no synthetics suitable for bowed instruments. Steel strings did have the advantage that you got away with more shortcomings in your playing, but I got to the level where I felt I was good enough to play with gut and needed the additional expressive capability (I don't think synthetics are anything like as restricting in this respect as steel is). At the moment I've settled for synthetic because of its longevity, compared with gut. My E-string is a Warchal Amber, which is an improvement on any other E-string I've played on.
May 1, 2020, 5:30 AM · Thank you again, John Rokos. I'll keep trying new strings, and will end up trying Eudoxas sooner or later.

Jason Broander: Szerying played very beautifully. I discovered him just by chance, when I listened on youtube one of his recordings of a Mozart sonata. I loved it and started listening to him more, and more... and now, I can safely say that he's also my favorite violinist. I'll also listen to Hadelich, which is also a great player, no doubt about that.

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