Violin making competition for maturing violins (no, not ones with wet varnish!).
Violin making competitions - such as the recent "Violin Society for America" (highlighted in a current blog) serve to identify promising and accomplished current luthiers and help buyers decide which instruments may be playing and provenance stars. I think we agree they serve a useful (but obviously not diagnostic) service - and allow the luthiers a moment in the sun and pats on the back (and to adjust their prices accordingly I presume). This topic is NOT about this (please resist :D ).
It occurred to me that since instruments exhibit significant maturing changes during aging (due to aging, care, setup etc I know, but lets ignore that for a bit), it might be interesting to have a competition for individual violins that have seen the test of time. While prices reflect in part the quality (again both provenance and playing) of the instrument I think most would agree that these are biased by many factors that are irrelevant to the instrument itself. The competition would presumably be divided according to instrument age (with a limit as its probably not very useful (but not impossible) to compare instruments from 1800-1850 but 1950-1969, 1970-1989, 1990-2009 would, IMO be fascinating. For example wouldn't it be fascinating to have an impartial direct comparison of a ~2000 Curtin and a Burgess. Which one 'evolved' better?
A big pluss is that this might highlight luthiers that make violins for the long term (and vice versa, ones that shine but fade).
This would have to work by individual owners submitting their instruments for the competition. The costs would be covered by fees to enter and, perhaps, to attend. However please focus on the idea and not the logistics of such a competition. [Whenever a new idea is proposed almost invariably people focus on why its impossible - negating the idea before its potential has been considered.]
You would also get the possibility of having an instrument at its best setup, with flattering strings, etc. As good as Stradivari was, I am guessing that the new owners took a little time working out how to make them sound their best.
Elise - I'm one of those naughty people you mention in your last sentence. Firstly, the competition would have to be judged "blind", i.e. all idiosyncratic identifying features would need to be concealed. Or else the judges would have to be perfectly ignorant of violin history and make their decisions according to freshly minted criteria, determined by..?
Sign me up. I don't think my violin is all that special but I'd be curious to know where it stands relative to its peers.
Steve wrote: "Firstly, the competition would have to be judged "blind", i.e. all idiosyncratic identifying features would need to be concealed"
Why blind? Because even if you're supposed to be judging violins on sonic criteria it's hard not to be influenced by how they look, how old you think they are, who could have made them and how well. I believe that to give any violin a fair trial of its tone, playability, carrying power, subtlety of nuance etc requires more than a short acquaintance. And as with any beauty contest, variation in personal taste is likely to be a major confounding factor.
One needn't focus only on sound.
I wonder if anyone will pick up on this - this would be an owner's show, not a luthiers one.
I’m trying to imagine how it would work. The premise seems to be almost entirely focused on sound and not workmanship; the idea of a mature violin is usually associated with its playing characteristics. Before getting into the mechanics of its organization, the premise needs consideration.
A few comments about the Violin Society of America competition events:
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.