Famous soloists' string combos
I've put together a list of string combos of famous violinists. I'm fully aware this is not the first time this has been discussed (https://www.violinist.com/discussion/archive/6294/ and others). I wanted something more up to date.
The list below is from an afternoon of Googling for quotes and looking at images. I've deliberately excluded players who are no longer alive such as Heifetz and Milstein because the strings available back then were very different.
Here are a few of my observations:
- Dominants and Evah Pirazzis are very popular: 15 out of the 20 soloists in this list use either Dominants or Evah Pirazzis as part of their combo
- I added their year of birth to see if there were any patterns. I can't see any apparent patterns in string choice with the age of a player
- Most soloists (16 out of 20 in this list) stick to the same brand for A, D and G
I hope you find this interesting. Any additions or corrections welcome.
Violinist, Year born, E, A, D, G
Itzhak Perlman, 1945, Gold label, Dominant/PI, Dominant/PI, Dominant/PI
Pinchas Zukerman, 1948, Westminster 27.5(?), Vision Solo, Vision Solo, Vision Solo
Nigel Kennedy, 1956, Westminster 27.5(?), Dominant, Dominant, Dominant
Anne-Sophie Mutter, 1963, Kaplan Golden Spiral/Gold label, (?), Dominant, Dominant
Joshua Bell, 1967, Jargar Superior/Goldbrokat extra heavy, Jargar Superior/Evah Pirazzi, Jargar Superior/Evah Pirazzi, Jargar Superior/Evah Pirazzi
Anne Akiko Meyers, 1970, Peter Infeld Platinum, Evah Pirazzi Gold, Evah Pirazzi Gold, Evah Pirazzi Gold
Midori, 1971, Gold label, Dominant, Dominant, Dominant
Gil Shaham, 1971, Jargar Forte, Dominant, Dominant, Dominant
Maxim Vengerov, 1974, Evah Pirazzi Green Gold, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi
Rachel Barton Pine, 1974, Gold label, Vision Titanium Solo, Vision Titanium Solo, Vision Titanium Solo
Julian Rachlin, 1974, Rondo, Peter Infeld Viola Steel Core, Rondo, Rondo
James Ehnes, 1976, Gold label, Peter Infeld, Peter Infeld, Peter Infeld
Janine Jansen, 1978, Evah Pirazzi Green Gold, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi
Hilary Hahn, 1979, Gold label, Dominant, Dominant Silver, Dominant
Sarah Chang, 1980, Gold label, Dominant/Vision Solo, Dominant/Vision Solo, Dominant/Vision Solo
Julia Fischer, 1983, Jargar Forte, Evah Pirazzi, Passione, Passione
Augustin Hadelich, 1984, Gold label heavy, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi
Stefan Jackiw 1985, Jargar Forte, Dominant, Dominant, Dominant
Nicola Benedetti, 1987, Jargar Forte, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi, Evah Pirazzi
Ray Chen, 1989, Peter Infeld Tin, Dominant Medium/Peter Infeld, Dominant Silver Light/Peter Infeld, Peter Infeld
Update. Additions/corrections made based on the comments from Raymond and Christian
Per the Thomastik website...
I’ve seen Perlman sometimes use PIs on A, D and G.
Thanks, Raymond and Christian. Original post updated to reflect your additions.
Very interesting, thanks for your work!
And still no one uses Obligato.
I used Obl1gato years ago.
Sure, I've also used. But I was referring to the "Famous soloists' string combos".
Very interesting chart. I suspect most, if not all, of these soloists have sponsorships with either Thomastik or Pirastro. For that reason, I wonder how accurately this chart really presents their personal preferences (as opposed to their contractual obligations).
Janine Jansen switched recently to Evah Pirazzi goldsteel, Thomastik Rondo, Thomastik Rondo, Thomastik Rondo
Oh my, gut is popular!
Lots of good choices (reminds me of tennis strings,almost too many to choose from). I wonder if some soloists are using strings that haven't been marketed and sold to the larger public. Prototypes perhaps?
Gut is "popular", but only relatively so, and seemingly only in these forums. (I understood the sarcasm.)
Do gut strings have the same projection/volume as other strings ?
No, and it's a nightmare to tune.
If I were going to perform the first two movements of the Brahms D-minor again, on my violin as it was then, I'd fit Eudoxa or Olive, for at least the G-string. But the issues between synthetics and gut are, I think, much smaller than between steel and gut, and I'm not sure that gut really is better.
I think its about purpose. Soloists need reliability as much as projection and perhaps less nuance than, say, a chamber musician.
I think it's more about a trend, with reliability as a secondary reason. Teachers who grow up on synthetics let students know how "safe" these are, and usually steer their students towards their preference. Few of these still teach on gut and promote them, and many previously gut string-using teachers also switched to a synthetic at some point. I grew up on Dominant, tested lots of other synthetic trings, then later was taught again to use regular EP with goldbrokat E. Only started using gut strings much later, and even then still respect Dominant, EP, et. al. not because of reliability, but because of being used to them and knowing the type of sound they are likely to produce.
Further "gut" updates:
"Gut is not still surpassed by sinthetic."
IME, even the "humble" Pirastro Gold Label set is better than ALL synthetics I have tried, all things considered. It is not very popular, but it does sound and play better for me and my violin. Note that there *are* virtues for synthetics, but I agree gut core strings have not been surpassed-there are only good sounding synthetic core compromises out there.
David, have you tried using gut strings (especially modern ones like Passione or Oliv rigid?). I don't mean to be offensive here - there's definitely reasons why most soloists today don't use gut core strings - but I think you are overstating the tuning difficulty and especially projection issues. A set of Passione Solo could easily match a set of Dominants, for instance, and I think a set of Olivs could as well, albeit with different bowing technique. I asked one of my old teachers which violinist had the strongest sound in the hall - and he said without hesitation Francescatti, who played on Eudoxa (and Golden Spiral D), but with huge bows glued right next to the bridge and a very pronated bow arm. I think the biggest difference between gut strings and synthetics is in the response curve of the contact points - Pirazzis for example can give you most of their sound in the middle contact point, and will give a bit more closer to the bridge. Eudoxas will only be maybe a mezzo piano or mezzo forte in the middle point, however are easier to play very close to the bridge and the sound difference is huge. Not saying that their maximums are similar - I'm sure Pirazzis will be louder at their maximum. In a way Eudoxas are a luxury string for orchestra playing - it's very easy to play different shades of piano and mezzo forte without needing to lighten the bow (which is more tiring than digging in for me). For a modern soloist, the opposite is more valuable and I'm sure they value the easy to get loudness of synthetic strings, since they rarely have to play a true orchestral P or PP but constantly need to worry about projecting their maximum.
David, for me gut strings rest unsurpassed for quality and color of sound. And playing experience is different and more satisfying, as described by Adalberto and John.
@John, Symphonic orchestra?
Interesting review, he says their tuning stability isn't that great.
Well, I prefer Oliv too, especially if I am going to spend so much already. But Passione were generally pitch stable strings when I used them. I have seen his review before, several times. I did test Passione Solo some 8-9 years ago-Pirastro was kind enough to send me a test set back then. I am not as concerned as Mr. Streuff with having to tune occasionally. But I feel Oliv have a "better" sound for that price. If Passione/Passione Solo were in the realm of the price of Eudoxa strings, they would be more attractive for me. But even Eudoxa have a more beautiful and nuanced tone than Passione-even if both would be priced the same, I feel going for Eudoxa would not necessarily be a lesser choice.
Hello David, yes - well, technically the name is Hong Kong Sinfonietta - we are still a (smaller sized) symphonic orchestra.
Another thing to consider about gut strings; something that helps with stability and life span is that some people soak their strings in oil before installing them and then also oil them frequently while the string is on the instrument. Of course, I have always done this with my unwound gut strings but recently discovered that every single viola da gamba player I know oils their WOUND GUT strings as well ! So I thought, well I can try this too and the worst that could happen is that I would have to replace a set of wound gut strings. After one year of oiling wound gut strings, I can report that I now oil all of my wound strings and wish someone had told me about this 40 years ago.
Even if I have the curiosity to try them, I don't believe they can be strings to use, but only strings to play for yourself at home, as projection seems to be a real issue and of course the tuning inconvenience.
I have had some decent results from Passione, but not Passione Solo. I found that those gave the impression of more power, but at the expense of all flexibility and variety of tone. YMMV, of course.
Nah, I am certain gut strings can be pretty powerful. It is up to the violinist. I am sure experienced modern gut strings users would shrug and smile at the prospect of their violins having weak projection due to gut, because they know how well they work in practice.