Purchasing an Italian violin with the budget of $15,000
Hello, I am new here but already found many insightful discussion here. I am currently looking for a violin for my daughter and found this Mario Gadda violin from Corilon’s catalogue. Would like to consult opinion from the forum whether this appears to be a good choice and well worth the money?
I would assume that your daughter has tried several instruments in this price range. If not, I strongly recommend shopping around before purchasing an instrument like that (hopefully not online). I've written an article about shopping for an instrument that may help. Check it out here: https://adbowsllc.com/2017/02/19/shopping-for-an-instrument-part-1-of-2/
$15,000 is a very low budget for an Italian violin. Those instruments tend to be priced much higher than instruments of comparable quality from other places. I’d be looking at a modern American violin in that price range. Actually, I bought a 2018 Cison a year and a half ago for just over that price, and I’m very happy with it.
Thanks Anthony for the useful advice, appreciated
It is very nice to be able to have a relationship with the luthier who made your instrument, or the local shop you purchased from. Of course it isn't always practical, or you fall in love with something else. But pro musicians are not buying much right now, and famous makers who normally have a wait list have instruments to try, and pricing will be better than it was last year. Shop locally, shop regionally - you may be pleasantly impressed with what is available in that price range.
Isn't Mario Gadda notorious for using other people to make "his" violins??
Does Raphael Klayman still have an Italian violin or two for sale? I think if they were good enough for him they'd probably be good instruments. Made by Vittorio Villa I believe. Not sure whether $15000 will get the job done though.
I don’t think price always goes hand in hand with quality especially for instruments under $50,000. You’ll find this out quite quickly if you try instruments out at various auction houses and dealers. Sometimes the $50,000 French violin can sound a lot better than a $100,000 Italian violin. There are some excellent instruments by Honore Derazey (who worked with Vuillaume) that are priced in the $10,000-$20,000 range, which sound better to my ear, compared with some $50,000 instrument, by a modern maker like Joseph Curtin.
I think a good Honore Derazey usually retails for quite a bit more than $20K nowadays?
Andrew, I’ve seen some excellent Derazey violins, at Tarisio, sell for less than $20,000 in the last few years. At some dealers, you will probably pay a lot more for a Derazey.
Vowels cost money in violin land. A Fettuccini or Testosteroni gets a premium out of the gate before anyone knows how good it is.
Sending an inexperienced buyer to an auction house for "bargains" is totally irresponsible.
It’s actually very good advice. Tarisio is an excellent auction house and you get to try many top instruments side by side and educate yourself during the process!
The time to go for an auction house bargain is after wasting a lot of dealers' time. Then you have to take the risk of coming to a decision about a particular violin on the basis of very short experience. On occasions that I've seen young players try out auction house violins with their mothers in attendance I wonder how they can possibly be confident in their own expertise.
Thanks all for the valuable advices. Now I am hesitating among the 3 choices below and would appreciate opinion which one would be more worth of the cost?
Comparing all of the violins you posted, Gracie, the Gadda looks very interesting and is at a good dealer price. Tarisio just sold a Mario Gadda in February for $10,000. I used to play on a Gaetano Gadda (father of Mario). Really great, powerful violin. If this violin is anything like that one, your daughter is in for a treat. The dimensions of the Mario Gadda also look comfortable to play on (355mm back). I would of course recommend that your daughter try it in a hall or large room and perhaps have a couple of other instruments to test it against before you make a final decision. The Derazey you posted from Corilon is rather large in size (363mm back). Larger instruments like that are harder to play on for people with petite builds (I’m not sure how your daughter is built). I play on an instrument from time to time that’s 370mm which is roughly 14 1/2 inches. I don’t have any issues with it because I’m over 6 foot tall and have long arms (someone told me I should be a violist because I’m big) but some of my friends who are smaller have issues with larger instruments like this. So do take into account instrument dimensions when shopping around because they do vary in size.
Hi Nate, thanks for the comments. I do agree that size matters. My daughter is 5”4, a smaller one should fit better. I checked with the dealer, who told me that the Mario Gadda is a workshop instrument rather than handmade by MG himself. So I am hesitating whether it still worths the price.
You're beginning to discover some of the complexities of the violin business!
Gadda workshop might even be finished German violin, not worth $15,000!!
Hello Gracie, are you located in Asia by any chance? Just guessing from your name. I can understand why you might not want to buy locally (especially since travelling is out of the question during this crazy year). Prices are often very high in this range in Asia.
Hi John, you are right spot on. I am currently in Asia and due to the Covid situation, it is not easy to travel abroad.Otherwise I really love to try it out in the shop. And local dealers here appear to be very tricky, price high and without any certificate, so it's bit of challenge to get something authentic at relatively fair price.
Corilon and Martin Swan are good reputable dealers to look at and not outrageously priced IMHO
Hi Lyndon thanks for sharing your view , appreciated
Violins longer than 360mm are harder to sell than violins closer to 355mm.
My violin was made in Poland by Topa. It is valued at around $14000. I bought it for much less, but that's a long story that centers on the sterling integrity of one particular individual. I agree that there are good violins being made almost everywhere in the first world, including central-to-eastern Europe, the US, Canada, etc.
Hi Ben, thanks for the insights which are very helpful. Your experience echoes what Corilon staff told me. I almost placed the order however encountered a problem with payment that their website currently does not accept credit card. May I ask how did you pay?
Hey Gracie, the payment was a bank transfer, but it had to be done in person since it was such a huge sum.
Rule of thumb, best sound for the money German, good sound for the money French, worst sound for the money Italian, you pay huge premium for Italian that has little to do with actual quality, but if you're looking for snob appeal, Italian is definitely the way to go!!
Hi Gracie, I'm based in the US, and Corilon offered me 2 payment options:
I would recommend Paypal too, I ordered a whole bunch of violin supplies from a sheister in India, and after 5 months and no delivery I contacted Paypal and filed a report, they were able to seize the money from his Paypal bank and refund all my money, two months later the supplies arrived, with the order all mucked up so I payed him for the things I had ordered that were supplied correctly, he still contacts me and wants me to order more. Anyway the point is Paypal does offer fraud protection, but only if they are able to recover the money from the fraudster's bank account.
I have heard there are bad or at least mediocre Stradivarius out there. Choosing to have your daughter play a number of “Gaddas” to see how they sound because you’ve heard they are good seems reasonable. Dropping 15K just because it has that name without playing them seems like a really bad idea. And that’s without, as has been said, accounting for personal use (orchestra, chamber, solo) or personal taste (bright, dark). As a parent I would not buy anything the teacher had not heard. And it’s important to remember that like a car, the moment you walk out of the shop, you are likely at wholesale value. Unless you are at a violin shop that has a 100% trade in policy, which is common in the States.
I think when people say a Strad sounds bad what they mean is it only sounds as good as a $20,000 French violin
The problem with buying from a dealer with trade-up policy is that then you're always buying from that dealer. They've got you then, and they will have no inclination to negotiate. Also when your child becomes the next Ray Chen, you better hope that particular shop has a selection of priceless Italian antiques. My point is that it can work well for a while, but eventually there will be a ceiling, and your last purchase will be on you to sell, and guess what? That was the most expensive one. Except for the Strad.
Price does not always equal value in the sketchy and opaque dynamics of the fine violin market. The intersection of supply and demand fails to result in the correct price because there are so many subjective factors and market inefficiencies involved in violin valuation. Just find the violin that's best for you with respect to sound quality and playing comfort and forget the false prestige of labels, country of origin, or maker.
Curiously, I watched a video called The Art of the Violin where Perlman says that Oistrakh played on a bottom rung Strad proving that it's the musician not the violin that produces the sound (interesting choice of base level, though!). Having played a plastic oboe, I don't find it difficult to agree. Having said that, I was under the impression that the Russian government owned 15 Strads, and Oistrakh had first choice of any of them.
If you pay attention to the country of origin, you are paying for the country of origin. There is a subset of violinists who like to say the phrase "my Italian." And then those with less cash to flaunt get to talk about "my French", and then down the line of country of origin.
Advertising makes people think that Belgian chocolate is better than anyone else's. It isn't.
Gordon, I had a couple of violins that were troublesome on the G string above the octave harmonic. The problem was solved with string changes. I found that Larsen Tzigane strings solved the problem. It was also solved with other strings (EP Gold or Thomastik Vision sets) when I topped them with a Thomastik platinum-plated E string. But right now two of these violins are the best they have ever been with a full set of Warchal Timbre strings.
Belgian chocolate is the best, under at least two interpretations: the top one and the averaging one. For the top interpretation, there are no better chocolates than those by Pierre Marcolini (one of the top Belgian chocolatiers). As to the averaging interpretation, in any Belgian supermarket you can buy chocolate bars of their run-of-the-mill brand and it will still be very very very decent chocolate :-)
I like French cooking chocolate best.
"USD" is good!
Gordon, it's really simple. One is dollars (or USD if you want to abbreviate) and the other is dollarydoos (which one does not shorten).
Gracie has made clear in her post that she wants something authentic. To this end she has abandoned the essential element of music and that is sound.
THE most important thing to consider is to find a trustworthy dealer. Second is condition of the instrument. Third and of course the most important in certain respects is sound.
I agree with Gordon, Valrhona for me (Guanaja).
Micheal Berger wrote
I understand that the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers consider it to be unethical to offer commissions to teachers who send a student to their shop. I think that it is the responsibility of the teacher to make sure that the only kickback they might receive is directly from the buyer and possibly only for the time spent in investigating possibilities for the student.
"I understand that the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers consider it to be unethical to offer commissions to teachers who send a student to their shop."
Galamian certainly wasn't unique. A sleazy practice. I wonder if conservatories now make that against their codes of conduct.
I have always thought kickbacks to be unethical and I have never taken one.
I agree with Bruce and Mary Ellen. Teachers making large commissions off of instrument sales are unethical. One of my teachers at the Manhattan School of Music talked pridefully about receiving large commissions from a NY dealer on instruments his students bought and was very upset I didn’t consult him when I purchased a beautiful new instrument I loved (I wonder why...). There are also teachers now at the big 2 conservatories accepting cash in exchange for spots in their classes. But that’s another subject altogether...
One more question regarding purchasing from a dealer, would you negotiate on the price or just take it as it is? The question of whether an instrument well worth of the money sometimes can be quite subjective, particularly with the sound apart from the basics, e.g four strings sound of equally volume, clear high pitch and solid low pitch etc.
As to whether your dealer is prepared to haggle, I can only suggest you ask him. Strangely, the sound of the violin has little or no bearing on the price! Pedigree and condition is all.
Commissions are not unethical if they are honestly and fully disclosed up-front to the potential buyer(s) by the dealer and the teacher before the sales process starts.
Disclosure helps, but the system being disclosed will not necessarily lead to a better purchase.
Just remember (or at least learn) what happened to the price (i.e., market value) of classic instruments during the 1930s as a result of the Great Depression.
"Just remember (or at least learn) what happened to the price (i.e., market value) of classic instruments during as a result of the Great Depression."
I sold two professional quality violins in the past three or four years. Both took over a year to sell. I made a little money on one and lost quite a bit on the other (it had been sold to me with a certificate that no other appraiser was willing to substantiate, so I bought it as an Italian and sold it as...not an Italian).
Over at Maestronet.com forums there is much interesting discussion about Mario Gadda. Even with a very reputable dealer, this maker is one with a very dubious reputation. Instruments with his own certificate could be made by him, by his workshop, or people with no connection to him or to Italy. I will echo what others have said: we are living in a time of truly excellent makers, all over the world. Superb instruments are being made that out-perform questionable antique violins, at a fraction of the price. I understand the desire to have an Italian violin by a well-known maker, but I am not sure this is the one to put your money on...
I have ruled out the previously mentioned Gadda piece. Was also looking at some French violins too but found they were not cheap either.