Who are the "must-try" contemporary makers?
I'm attending the Reed-Yeboah Contemporary Maker's Exhibition in NYC this weekend: LINK
Any thoughts on the violin and bow-makers there?
And anyone else going to be there?
Wanted to go but not sure if I can yet.
Their exhibition page seems to be down right now. Here are the makers submitting this year:
I would add Don Leister (Richmond VA) and Patrick Toole (Roanoke VA). I have played their violins and was impressed. My friend Daniel Foster (Blacksburg VA) has retired so unfortunately I don't think he can be considered contemporary any more, but he made nice violins, violas, and cellos. He made a poplar cello, late in his career, that was beautiful.
Personally, I wouldn't mind test-driving a violin by Ada Quaranta and/or a bow by Matt Wehling, if I ever had the chance. Have fun! It sounds like a great event.
Burgess, Zygmuntowicz, and Curtin are amongst the best contemporaries I have played.
I have the indefinite use of a Kuttner violin and a Raguse bow, and I really enjoy them both.
Lydia - IMHO, must tries:
Try a bunch out and see what you like. I know there's a gazillion choices, but you can randomly pick a few and see what's you fave.
Sounds fun! Enjoy your visit there
@ Mary Ellen -- How did you select the Raguse bow? He is one contemporary maker I would like to try, but have not.
Douglas--I didn't select it. I was teaching an adult beginner--a dentist--who very suddenly and sadly passed away. He owned the Kuttner and Raguse; the family member who is the recipient of those instruments does not currently have the time to keep them played, so I am the caretaker at the request of the family.
I have to say I second the Raguse. He is just incredible as I own his bow as well.
I own a Raguse bow already. :-)
Jesse Maschmeyer, Shahram & Saeid Rezvani and Cody Kowalski (Bow)
since this is about
I attended the exhibition today. I spent about two hours there, and I tried every violin, as well as every violin bow. I arrived right at the beginning when it was relatively quiet. (I was bemused to see that the players that arrived were nigh universally Asian women.)
Thanks Lydia! Fascinating and well organized report.
Thanks Lydia! You've made me really wanna go Monday, if there's anything left, though I assume they leave the instruments until the end of the show even when sold.
You should totally go. I imagine it'll be quieter on Monday too. :-)
Oh, a note on strings: The strings of choice seemed to be mostly Vision Titanium Solo or Evah Pirazzi Gold, but also some regular EPs, Peter Infelds (with the platinum E), and Dominants. I'm not sure that I saw any other string brands.
It's been a long time since I tried all those nice old and modern fiddles and I don't know how much I trust my memory. Would you say, based on your experience, you've still not come across a newer fiddle as warm as your Vuillaume?
I haven't. But I also haven't played another violin that I think is as good in its price class, period.
The question of warmth stands out because a friend recently bought a 19C German (can never remember the maker's name) and has sworn off newer fiddles for their presumed lack of warmth. It's such a fuzzy notion but I think all players have a conception, or preconceptions, about it. He made me want a warmer fiddle :) whatever that means (though I don't find his fiddle particularly warm.)
@ Lydia Leong & Jeewon Kim
In the latest Cremona exhibition I went to, the instruments were generally bright and responsive, but didn't have a very interesting sound. As if someone had taken the tonal concept popular in a student instrument, and given it faster response and more volume.
@Lydia: thanks for sharing it generously! Great report & experience!
Thank you Lydia! That's a most helpful report and I'm sure it will be reviewed in future again and again.
It bodes well for the future that new instruments can impress fresh off the bench. Imagine how good these instruments will sound in 100 years when they have matured!
@ Lydia Leong
Thanks Lydia, nice writeup, and a nice supplement to the concurrent MONSTER THREAD. :-)
Is "focus and punch" the same thing as projection?
Thank you Lydia.
Paul, not exactly, at least not in my mind, but I think there's some overlap.
Thanks Davide and David!
In the Monster Thread Don mentioned physical changes to wood, hemicellulose degradation. I'd heard of the phenomenon before, but as it was explained to me, it is the cause of the 'mature sound', claimed by more than one dealer (reputable, highly experienced dealers and a respected restorer/dealer,) especially past the 100 year mark.
Thanks Lydia, an amazing and useful thread/post! Would love to read more from anyone else that have gone and played the instruments. 2 quick questions
Sorry, Paul, I'll take another stab at answering your question.
None of my violins are really old" one made in 1951, 2 from the early 1970s, and one from 1996 - I bought them all when they were either new or no more than 2 years old. But the most "mature sounding" violin I owned was made in 1990* and it had that mature characteristic when the maker showed up with it right after the varnish dried at one of our orchestra rehearsals and I was in the back of the hall when some of the younger violinists were trying it on stage during our break. It blew me away! And i tried it and reinforced that opinion. One of the young violinists (who later that year went to college and earned a degree in violin performance) had it for a couple of weeks and I feared she would buy it - but her teacher advised purchasing an old French fiddle instead - so i ended up with it. So I had it for about 10 years until my granddaughter chose it as her violin when I offered her my choice of any of mine. I paid the maker (a personal friend) $1,400 for it - but I felt it held its own against any $30,000 violin I later tried. I also had opportunities to play violins "in the white" this man made and later the same violins after they were varnished. We would try these instruments in his shop and later in the large space of the church he attended. Although these violins did not meet the standard of the Stradivarius I had played 30 years earlier, they were very good (although none quite as good as the one he sold me in 1990*).
Lydia -- glad you enjoyed yourself and thanks for the great details about the violins. Any more bow details?
@ Marc Marschall
Davide: Ciaccio's violin had a sound I liked but did not distinguish itself sufficiently from the other fine makers present. The Levaggi was one that I put down almost immediately; if I recall correctly I didn't find it to have much color, and I tried it towards the end, when it was noisy. I don't remember a Rosenblum -- he might have had a non-violin instrument there instead.
Jorge: I didn't ask about the price of the Curtin. It had effectively already been sold. There were less-expensive violins there. Yann Poulain's, for instance, was $15k, and I think a very nice violin compared to others I've played at that price point. One of the makers, Jeffrey Haas, is an amateur; he said the violin on display was the eighth one he's made, and I imagine that he would have been selling it for considerably less than most of the other makers present.
Thanks Lydia, probably Rosenblum have a viola family instrument, if I recall correctly she is more focused on those instrument than violins.
@ Lydia -- Interesting. I've tried a few Begin bows. One in particular pulled an amazing and refined tone with superb on-string control. It refused to sautille or bounce well. Similar to your experience.
I own a Bégin bow -- light and nimble, refined tone, and quite the contrary to what has been said above, it has a very lively response for sautillé strokes. I tried three or four different Bégin bows before settling on this one, but they all performed extremely well for off-the-string strokes. Bright articulation and clarity made it a perfect match for my instrument (a Guy Harrison 2011 Del Gesu model).
Sibelius is one of the concertos that I don't know. There was another player in the room for whom it was their initial test on every violin, though. It's quite revealing in terms of a violin's ability to project, heard that way.
There’s a thread at Maestronet with many good photos.
That thread identifies the Gusset as from 1983. Interesting. That makes it nearly 35 years old. That might explain to some extent why it has a more mature sound. (And now I really wonder what his current instruments are like, after he's had a few more decades of experience!)
D.Gusset is one of my top 5 favorite US makers, as well as one of my top 10 favorite worldwide makers. Sophisticated (philosophical) sound & playability and great design approach & workmanship.
I would be interested in your non us top 10 ;)
J.Spidlen, S.von Baehr, F.Leonhard (namely Gabor Draskoczy), C.Goetting, F.Ravatin, P.Robin, F.Chaudiere, R.Hargrave, J.Dilworth, P.Beare.
There are more for sure, I miss to have played a Ravatin, a Beare, Chaudiere and Dilworth yet.
Which countries are typically regarded as top in violin making? I read people usually go after Italian and French violins? Then German? Where does the US rank? Then Chinese-made are usually avoided.
I think contemporary its France, Italy and US sharing the first place, than GB and Germany.
@John: my other two favorites US makers are S.Zygmuntowicz and.. hmm.. X, because the 5.position X changes very often. ;)
"I was aware that most makers study at a handful of schools (Salt Lake, Chicago, Newark, and Cremona--do I have that right?) regardless of their nationality,"
Gurus, who are your candidates for #5? :P Top 5 of #5? haha
You are right, von Baehr, Greiner, Leonhard and some others are pushing France/GB while originated in Germany. I counted them to the countries they work at.
Thanks, I have heard good things about Rittwagen. Imho, Kolja Jens Lochmann is another very fine german maker as well..and he has won both gold for violin and cello at the Cremona Triennale 2000. His 4-5 violins which I tried around 10 years ago were excellent, with different characteristic sounds.. in general exquisite and lively. I didn't really like the intense reddish (a bit hard for my taste, possibly by the mineral components or pounders, sorry I don't know) vanish of his Del Gesu copies and models.. but they are excellent made with beautiful carving details.. It was my most regretful moment as I did not buy a Guarneri copy of him that has a very deep, dark, smooth and lively sound.. It was just basely us$14k - 15k. I used to hear its sound in my head until now.. don't know how are his instruments now.
@John: my top 5 candidates for #5 at this moment are Feng Jiang, G.Alf, J.Phillips, T.Borman and.. hmm I forgot his name again.. Let's say Y. ;) Could I have many candidates for Y as well?
@ Gurus Goring
Gurus, sure why not :P
@ Davide: I edited my post with the quantor "all" added. My apology! Yes, I like the work of Pistoni and have heard good things about Ive's and Sbernini's instruments but unfortunately have not tried one myself. My other experiences with some other italian gold medalists did not always confirm that. Maybe I have had just my bad days, or some makers have had their bad days. It's totally normal I guess.
@John: I have just heard the youtube clips represent Marvin Beaver played 30 modern Cremonese violins (Laurie's blog) and found a "noname" (to me) contemporary US maker: Odin Bykle. Good violin, great price! Why do I need to make the list of top any longer.. You have just too many great new made violins out there, not just some great makers.
Kevin, on Jeff Phillips' violin: Seeing pictures reminded me of more impressions of it. It had a particularly pure sweetness to it (or at least I hope this is the violin I am remembering). I remember that I abandoned my usual testing on it (where I didn't especially care for the sound) in order to play bits of the Beethoven concerto on it instead, something that it was very suited to.
Thanks Lydia. The reason why I’m particularly interested is because it must take something very special for him to win VSA so often in such short period of time. And your comment seems to confirm it :)
@ Gurus Goring
@Davide: yes, you are right! I forgot that they've won gold for viola, cello, bass..
thanks for all the useful information as I am in the process of procuring a new instrument for my child.
It depends on the maker. Some are relatively consistent. Some are not. Even the very best makers often have significant variability -- sometimes deliberate, sometimes not.
Thank you Lydia !
I think the important metric between 15-25K might be the reputation of the maker and what kind of gamble are you willing to take should you decide to sell the instrument some years later. There is no guarantee a 25K violin will sound better than a 15K violin...but this is simply a $$ consideration.
I would say that in the $10k to $25k price band, whether you are looking at contemporary or antique instruments, that price is more a matter of the number of acceptable possibilities, than about absolute value. This is true in other price ranges as well, but is especially true when you are looking in this price range.
I encourage players to try everything they can get their hands on, including what is way out of their price range, whether new or old.
As I'm sure that everyone here aware that drawing definitive conclusions on a maker based on a sample of one instrument heard in crowded noisy conditions by any one player are questionable at best, the thought I'd like to add is that dealing with a contemporary maker is also a two-way interaction with potential for changes in the future. All the instruments (including bows) are different, even if they have some family resemblance of the maker, simply because the materials cannot be the same, and as players, our tastes and needs are not all the same. Dealing with a living maker is an opportunity to express your needs and preferences to that maker, and if what she or he has made at the time doesn't satisfy you, maybe as a consequence of that conversation, the maker might make some changes, or build something new, or remember you when those characteristics arise in another instrument at a later time, or even direct you to another.
I believe Elmar Oliveira played the instruments privately the day before the open exhibition and may have offered feedback to the makers. There might have been other private events for that purpose, as well. I did talk to one maker who was hanging around listening to players try his violin, and I suggested to him that its set-up might not have been optimal. (He talked to Julie Reed afterwards, and I think they might have made some changes.)
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