Luthier recommendation in Cremona needed

May 8, 2023, 2:38 PM · Hello to all readers,
A while ago, I posted a similar question here asking if it would made sense to look for an instrument in Cremona.
The replies I got were mixed but one reply did say, "A day in Cremona would be a good day".

Since our vacation in Milan is set, I plan to visit Cremona, if not for instrument hunting but for site seeing and visiting the Stradivarius violin museum.

While there, I would like to stop at a luthier shop (or two), and see if we can find an instrument my wife likes.
We would be looking for a viola, definitely under $10,000.

I am looking for recommendations which luthier shop(s) to visit, and if it is possible (for not a luthier) to determine whether an instrument was made in Europe or in Asia.

Thanks a lot for your feedback.

Replies (17)

Edited: May 8, 2023, 3:56 PM · There are three kinds of luthiers. One can tell the difference between an instrument made in China vs. Europe or America. The second one can't and tells you they can't. The third tells you they can, when really they can't. So, the real question is, can you tell the difference between the three different kinds of luthiers? Sorry to be cynical, but I wish I had a nickel for every time someone posted a picture of a violin and some folks swore it was French and others said no, German, or Chinese, etc.

If I were looking for something under $10000, and I wanted to combine that with an interesting trip, I think I'd be going to Hong Kong or Singapore. Maybe get a couple of bespoke suits or pairs of shoes while I'm there.

May 8, 2023, 9:56 PM · Paul, shoe shopping is definitely on the list :)
I guess she will try a few instruments and see if there is one that is better then her current one...and it is in our price range.
I will share our experience here after we come back.
Edited: May 9, 2023, 7:59 AM · I would suggest emailing the Consortium of Violin Makers - they have a showroom with instruments to try out in that price range. They might have violas available. And they can provide a certificaton of origin.
May 9, 2023, 7:43 AM · I recommend Vittorio Villa and Fernando Salvatore Lima. For more info you can contact me.
Edited: May 9, 2023, 3:29 PM · Raphael, do you receive any potential monetary gain by recommending these makers?
Personally, among the work of contemporary Cremonese makers,
I am more impressed by the work of Davide Sora. That seems to be the impression of my high-level colleagues as well. He probably doesn't have anything immediately available, versus a long waiting list, but that's the way these things go sometimes.
May 9, 2023, 8:49 PM · Thanks to everyone who replied to my post. I will update this thread after our travel.
May 10, 2023, 5:40 AM · This thread is interesting as I've also been considering visiting Cremona (I've been there once but purely for a brief touristic stop). What Dimitri writes, to visit the showroom of the Consortium and try out violins available there, interests me. The violins that can be tried there, are they for sale also, or are they only there to advertise the luthier, and if you're interested, you still have to go to the luthier, and probably get on a waiting list?
May 10, 2023, 8:06 AM · @David, I think Raphael has owned a couple of Vittorio Villa instruments in the past, not sure if he still has them. Some years ago he was offering at least one of them for sale, so he might have unloaded them by now. Recommendations based on personal experience are part and parcel of what a site like this one are all about.
Edited: May 10, 2023, 12:22 PM · Paul, I am of the opinion that it's useful to know what's behind an endorsement, whether it's in the form of a sales commission, a purchase discount on an item, a promotional fee, or a good-hearted recommendation with the sole intent of being helpful. Sometimes, finding out can be as simple as asking.
There are players who are also part-time fiddle dealers, whether they make this known or not.
May 10, 2023, 2:32 PM · I think David's inquiry is valid. He didn't accuse Raphael of anything; he simply asked.
May 10, 2023, 2:35 PM · And I didn't accuse anyone of accusing anyone. So there.
Edited: May 10, 2023, 3:05 PM · Well, just to make things simple- Mr. Vittorio Villa currently does not have any violas in our price range; he told me he can make one but it would be twice our budget...
Still I am thankful for any recommendation, since I asked for that in my original post.
May 10, 2023, 6:35 PM · After my recital this weekend I will have a lot to say.
Edited: May 17, 2023, 10:42 PM · Ok, the question was put to me as to whether I receive any potential monetary gain from recommending the makers that I have so far recommended. I will answer this question but for full meaning, more than yes or no will be necessary and then, anyone interested in this subject can decide about whether this matters.

The short answer is that in some cases I have and in some cases I’m not sure if I will. In all cases the quintessential criteria for me to recommend a maker – or any product or service – is that I have good personal experience with it and it frequently means that I own it. I have to at least tried one or two violins and liked them for me to recommend the maker. I own violins by the New York area based Edward Maday, Cremonese Vittorio Villa and Chinese Wang Zhiguo. I have tried and liked violins by Cremona-based makers Fernando Salvatore Lima and also by a Cremona based maker I forgot to mention earlier, Lucas Fabro. And if anyone is looking for an excellent contemporary bow maker, I would recommend Matt Wehlling. When I can eventually afford to, I hope to purchase one of his bows, having tried a few.

A few times I have received a finder’s fee when I have recommended a customer to a maker and it resulted in a final sale. The customer always had the option to return the violin if they were not satisfied with it. And I have never recommended a maker to anyone whose work I did not personally like. If this doesn't sit well with anyone, fine. It's no hair off my bow and represents such a negligible part of my violin life that it's not even funny - although I may have to hold off on making a deposit on a Stradivari or a luxury yacht!:-)

I will turn this around and make an offer to anyone in land: If I have something to sell and one of you finds me a customer that I don’t already know and a definite sale results I’d be happy to give you a finder’s fee. Why not? You deserve it. But the above only applies to these fairly strict parameters. I have given written endorsements to and about makers without asking for, expecting or getting any fee. I simply believed in them and wanted to say something nice. On another thread here I have spoken highly about Larsen strings and I don’t expect to get even one free string from them. Nobody paid me to use a Maday violin for my 2nd CD, or a Villa violin for numerous gigs and recitals or a Wang Zhiguo violin for my recent gigs and recitals. Nobody paid me to write two blogs on my website in connection with Vittorio Villa including a passing shout out to Fernando Salvatore Lima.

May 18, 2023, 11:00 AM · now that this thread is "hot" again, does anybody happen to know the answer to my question above (regarding the instruments in the showroom of the consortium)?
Edited: May 18, 2023, 9:55 PM · Hi Jean,
I e-mailed the Consortium and they told me that they do not have any violas in our price range.
Since I told them I was looking to buy an instrument, I assume that if they had one available it would be for sale.

I will update this thread after we come back from our trip, maybe it would be helpful for someone else.
I found four luthiers who have a viola on hand for less then 10000Euro, but I am not sure if the instruments were made by those luthiers, their apprentices or imported and finished in Cremona.

May 19, 2023, 1:42 AM · @ Jean, sorry I missed that part, yes, the instruments that the Consortium has on display are for sale.

Facebook Twitter YouTube Instagram Email is made possible by...

Shar Music
Shar Music

Pirastro Strings
Pirastro Strings

JR Judd Violins
JR Judd Violins

Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra
Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases
Dimitri Musafia, Master Maker of Violin and Viola Cases Shopping Guide Shopping Guide

Metzler Violin Shop

Southwest Strings

Bobelock Cases

Johnson String Instrument/Carriage House Violins

Jargar Strings

Bay Fine Strings Violin Shop


Los Angeles Violin Shop


String Masters

Nazareth Gevorkian Violins

Laurie's Books

Discover the best of in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews. Interviews Volume 1 Interviews Volume 1, with introduction by Hilary Hahn Interviews Volume 2 Interviews Volume 2, with introduction by Rachel Barton Pine