Soloist violin, contemporary maker, 30.000€ range
I'm a violin student on a soloist track, looking for a good student concert violin from a contemporary luthier. So sound quality and projection over a large orchestra and to the back of the audience are really important to me.
The price range would be up to about 30.000 € (roughly $36.000), a little over would be fine as well. I'm based in Munich, Germany (so travelling to most European countries would be possible). I'm not in a big rush, so longer waiting times wouldn't be too much of an issue.
Any recommendations? Thank you in advance for your input!
Martin Schleske is not too far from you. Jan Spidlen is in Prague. Supposedly, there are some good makers in London and the UK.
You may want to visit David Bagué in Barcelona. I understand he's on a waiting list.
I believe Philip Ihle (UK) is still in that price range? I imagine he's got a waiting list, though.
Hello, in my opinion the best makers in your price range here in Europe are Christian Bayon (Lisbon/Amsterdam) and Stephan Von Baehr(Paris), with a substantial price difference between both of them. The list of soloists and great players playing on their instruments is very large. The other makers that were mentioned are very good too but - in my experience after trying many examples of all of them- Bayon and Von Baehr are better. Then there is Greiner, more expensive but maybe not so consistent. Some examples sound great and some just ok. There are many things to consider when buying a good instrument, some are objective and some not, but all these names are "famous" for a reason and always a good departing point to start your search. And it's also worthit to check the past winners of the Cremona triennale, Mittenwald or Wieniavsky violin making competitions. Their prices are lower than your budget and their instruments are wonderful too. Nicolas Bonet, Charles Coquet,Davide Sora, Piotr Pielascek, Gonzalo Bayolo, just to name a few. Good luck and enjoy the purchase process!
Lot's of good names here, some I didn't even know.
William Castle in the UK should be in your price range. He makes some fantastic instruments.
Make sure to go to the Klanggestalten if possible; I think that most of the luthiers there sit comfortably in the middle of your price range around 20k (they did so a couple of years ago, anyway) and even if you do not find what you're looking for you'll get a chance to compare a large number of very consistent and therefore representative violins in your price range. This year there will be many German luthiers as well as a couple of guests from the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK, according to their website. I've been there back when I was searching, and though I ended up with an antique, after all, it was an extremely valuable experience and helped me shape an idea of what I was looking for in a violin and how my violin compares to similarly priced alternatives. The next Klanggestalten is scheduled for early July in Dresden, but I don't know how they'll compromise on its structure due to the pandemic.
Janzen’s violins sound lovely, but I believe he is based in British Columbia, not Europe.
Not far from you in Austria you might want to contact Alexander Schütz in Linz. Comfortably within your budget, and since he's more into building perfect instruments rather than into marketing and competitions, you will not have to face a years long waiting list.
I'm curious, is that staggering the difference for a soloist from an instrument that is worth 5/10k to 30k? I ask because I will never become one :D I mean does the instrument become a limiting factor once you reach certain skill level? Do they judge you based on your violin sound that much?
Price doesn't always correlate to quality, especially in new instruments, where you are mostly paying for the maker's time and materials, not pedigree or imagined excellence.
Damian, same here... ;-)
It's an uncertain world, particularly for aspiring musicians, but one thing you can be pretty sure of is that a "student" violin bought new from a good maker will almost certainly be worth a lot less when you come to sell it. That's why very few secondhand ones come on the market. You may find you're stuck with it for longer than you'd like.
I believe when Jakob (the TO) us talking about a "good student concert violin", it's because he isn't familiar with the "classifications" used in this forum.
When considering a contemporary instrument, I think one of the most valuable resources a musician has is the violin making competitions, provided that it is one of the competitions which draws a large number of contestants from all over the world, and will be judged by both a team of high-level professional musicians, and a team consisting of acclaimed violin experts who have already earned the admiration of their instrument-making and instrument-expertise peers. I'd consider this sort of evaluation to enhance the probability of an instrument maintaining or increasing in value, and to be a lot more reliable than personal anecdotes.
Not that anyone at the VSA are listening, but it seems they could have a separate "masters" competition
Stephen, winning second place in the Cremona Competition is a good strategy, if a maker can figure out a way to pull it off. If they win first place, they don't get their fiddle back. If they win second place, they do. LOL
David, as usual it is enevitable to agree with your wise and experienced words. Just let us keep in mind that there are also plenty of top makers wo do not enter competitions at all, for various reasons.
I agree with David that the VSA competition is a good way to identify premium makers. Responding to Damian's question, I own a violin that cost less than $10,000 but today is probably worth about $14,000. If I were shopping for a contemporary violin at $36,000, I would expect significant rather than incremental improvement over my present violin. Better projection, better balance, more colors, and easier to play.
Nuuska, I agree that it may be risky for a maker with an already-established reputation, whether via marketing acumen, or being really good, to enter a violin-making competition. What will people think if they don't win?
Jose, do you mind telling us who of the two charges less? I'm guessing that Christian Bayon charges more?
David, it's probably risky, but even more important it's a huge effort. Shipping the instrument, traveling there, investing time and money... What for if you've got a waiting list for two years...
Yes, entering an international violin making competition can be a huge effort. When I was judging in Russia, fiddles continued to come in every day (mostly from customs and security delays, I was told), so we had to rejudge things every day.
David, well said - again. Feedback is a necessity in every craft, and if you could not get it during your training and career, the VSA sounds like a good opportunity. Especially as long as the judges are liberal enough to appreciate a tad of personal style. But I don't know anything about these things, except that it's only top qualified people sitting there.
My concern for the OP is that at $36,000 he might already be starting to see a significant contribution from "investment value." I guess I don't have a very solid basis for thinking that, but there it is.
Thank you very much to everyone for your suggestions so far! Very kind and helpful!
Jakob, I wish you good luck and all the best on your quest. If you should consider the mentioned daytrip across the south eastern border, drop me a line. Eventually I could organize some things to your advantage, including a fine wooden bonus, coffee and a warm meal. Vcom-members are always welcome, but happen to be a rare species around here...
Another vote for William Castle. I have one of his fantastic violas. And I have tried a couple of his violins too. They are great instruments. The late David Angle of the Maggini Quartet had one of his violins and said that he couldn't use it in the quartet (where he played a Maggini) - it would overpower the rest. He used it for solo work.
There are certainly a good number of fine makers to choose from at that price level. I'll cast my vote for Andranik Gaybaryan to be included on the list - he's a Russian-born maker out of Boston, MA with several high-profile players using his fiddles. I don't know if you can find one over there...
Jakob, I'm afraid you're looking more nearby? - He's based in Munich, Germany, but it has become an international business.
Some Americans have guns, so tackling alone may not suffice. ;-)
Nuuska, not necessarily. As you say, violin making is an international business. All other things being equal, a European maker might be slightly more convenient in terms of maintenance and check-ups. But as I understand it, these are slightly less frequent with contemporary violins than with antique instruments. And as long as I can find a really great instrument within my price range, I'm not too bothered about where it's from.
Give us all a shout when you know where you'll be next year. You will doubtless get many recommendations.
On May 14 jose m g. belmonte said:
On May 15 David Burgess said about Cremona Triennale competition:
Good thoughts, Davide.
Hmm... European Union ~450 millions, the USA ~330 millions. Anyone has the numbers of active violin makers? A question nev came into my mind yet...
Concerning current rates (as these are probably changing quite often):
Hi Jakob, I believe it!. Just checked my emails and saw that price two years ago was 38k, not 36, sorry. Great looking and sounding instruments though..
Hi Jakob! I came across a violin from Dominik Wlk. It seems he’s the assistant of Peter Greiner in London. The violin looked and sounded incredible!! I found his instagram @djwlk_violins . I don’t know his price, but maybe you can find out more. Good luck with your quest!
Anyone got any experience with Andrew Finnigan & Pia Klaembt? Apparently Anne-Sophie Mutter has one of their instruments.
@Jasper: I do! I've met them at the Klanggestalten a couple of years ago and played two of their violins there, and took a third one home some months later, as I considered buying it. All three were wonderful instruments and, to me, some of the most interesting out of all those participating in the Klanggestalten, and Finnigan & Klaembt are among the kindest people I know in the business. Can't recommend them enough. A good friend of mine plays one of their violins, too, and it sounds lovely.
Some violins need 'breaking in' before they sound their best so how do you judge and compare new violins ?
I don't question the assumption that a violin might change within the first several months of its life, and perhaps beyond that. I do question the assumption that the change is necessarily positive. So, to a degree, when you purchase a newly-made violin, you are taking your chances. My guess is that "reputable" modern makers wouldn't be as "reputable" if their violins went bad after a couple of years.
In my experience, violins change the most in their first three months under string tension. This seems to happen whether they are played or not.
How would you define this "mellowing" phenomenon with your heavily played instruments David? Is the wood drying further or perhaps the instrument is adjusting to its tension load?
In other cases, I have also seen volume 'pop' after some period of use, along with whatever mellowing goes on. Perhaps it is the player doing better in general, or just getting to know the instrument.
Peter Carter asked:
David, then you believe keeping humidity on constand levels would hinder an instruments aging process?
Nuuska you realize you are asking this question of a someone who is a leader in the area of humidity control for violinists!
Paul, I'm aware of Davids achievements in this field, as well as of his merits as a contemporary violin maker. That's why I'm really curious about his insights on that topic.
Yes I agree that seems logical and I am also curious to learn David's thoughts on that.
I know one maker who has a chamber that simulates seasonal change-- humidity, mostly, but perhaps some temperature shifts also. You can put quite a few years' worth of wear on that way.
Interesting. I only knew about UV cabinets. Although I'd expect it to be rather warm and dry in such a device. So using these on-off (as my luthier does as he never leaves it unattended) it may have a similar, maybe unintended side effect.
There is an interesting quote in Eric Blot's book on Ferdinando Garimberti.
Nowadays these controlled-environment chambers are used for all sorts of research into things like weathering of plastics, corrosion inhibitors, paints and coatings, etc. It's not a terribly sophisticated device.
I bought a brand new (made in August 2020) instrument in October 2020. I play about an hour a day and in winter the humidity in my apartment is extremely low so I have to keep the case humidified. The violin's sound has opened up wonderfully and I'm eager to see what the next couple of years brings. It seems to be improving so I hope that continues. I will take it to the luthier for a checkup at string changing time.
In my opinion, which I know runs counter to others' opinions here, it is pretty hard to deconvolute the "opening up" of the violin and the adaptation of the violinist to strengths and weaknesses that may be entirely static. If your luthier played your instrument last time it was with him/her and will play it again, (s)he might notice a difference, but even in this case it is hard to rule out various sources of bias. I'm not suggesting that "opening up" is bunk, I'm only suggesting that we should be skeptical about reaching conclusions that are not based on controlled experimentation.
Paul, What you say is true, though my teacher thinks the instrument itself has changed mostly because my progress is extremely slow. We joke about this. The instrument is changing faster than I do and I have to run to catch up. There is an obvious change in the sound of the Helmholtz frequency, which is similar to other changes so we think it's the instrument and not me. I wish it would be me!
Forgot to mention that the luthier that I deal with sells lots of new instruments in this price range and he told me that mine would change greatly over the first few months and more slowly after that. This has certainly seemed to be the case. Anyway, It's great for me and I probably won't ever need an upgrade unless I can get off the prednisone eventually and my brain gets back to "normal."
My preference would go toward a maker or dealer who sells you an already pretty well stabilized instrument, rather than trying to hand you a wild card, and defer the responsibility to you.
David, Yes, I would agree but there were only 7 instruments that fit my criteria and this one sounded best to me so I got it. It wasn't exactly potluck but close enough! I figured if it sounded good when it was brand new it was unlikely to become a tin violin like little kids used to get to play with. I'm glad that luthiers are on this web site I learn so much. I look at your little "picture" and wonder, were you playing baseball? Playing El Kabong? I'd sure be scared. Ha ha.
I was demonstrating the correct way to hold a viola. ;-)
To answer the OP, in the USA, David Burgess of course, though he has a loooong wait list, and is probably above your price point; Michael Darnton, in Chicago; David Gusset, Oregon; Terry Borman, Arkansas; Grubaugh and Seifert, J. Michael G. Fisher, and the signature models (personal)by Scott Liu, all from California; Guy Rabut, Edward Maday (well liked by a denizen of this forum :-)) both in New Yawk; Joseph Curtin; etc. I like the advice of some previous poster: look at VSA past award winners, esp. hors de concours. In the EU, Peter Greiner, though maybe out of your price range? Roger Hargrave, though probably out of your price range; In Italy: Davide Sora (triple recommendation); Bruce Carlson; Marcello and his brother Vittorio Villa. Those are the outstanding ones I can think of at this time. Apologies to those I left out.
Professional violin for soloists, late 20th century
Paul Lee, it's not unusual for sellers to use glowing descriptions. Certainly, there are instruments which aren't very good which need to be sold too. But have you ever seen an ad which states:
Hey, I have that violin!
Paul, would you part with it? Sounds as if it would go for a budget, and it cannot be THAT bad...? Otherwise the ad would categorize as VSO.
Kurt Widenhouse is supposed to be a very good maker. He's based in the US though and I'm not sure about his price range.
Michael Koberling is less than 100 km from Munich.
This is really late but thank you Jose for the information.
@ David, you crack me up!! :-)
Didn't want to be provocative, but I do definitely think that Michael's instruments are comparable to much higher priced ones. I have played extensively on two of them, still own one, and know that Elmar Oliveira bought several. Michael started his training 36 years ago, first with his father, then at Mittenwald.
Henrik, your sample size is rather small. I have played thousands of violins, as have many others in various areas of my profession.
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