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.
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 v.com 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.
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.
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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.