Jean Baptiste Vuillaume Violin
My parents acquired a violin a while back at a garage sale as it looked fairly old and they love antiquing. I was bored of couple of days ago and decided to check out what they had gotten. When I looked inside the violin, I saw the stamp on the inside so I began to research the information on it. From what I see online, these violins are fairly expensive and was wondering if anyone could tell me how to identify if it is a real vuillaume. I also have a Tubbs bow with it. Any information on either of these items would be greatly appreciated.
Take it to a luthier. If you have a genuine Tubbs bow, a genuine Vuillaume might actually be within the realm of possibility.
Lydia's right, very often faked, fakes way outnumber the genuine ones say 10,000/1
If you got it at a garage sale it might be fake, but on the flip side, that's the maker of the violin Hilary Hahn plays on now isn't it? Definitely worth taking it to a luthier to find out...
Ok, yes I think I'm going to take the violin and bow into a luthier. I had the feeling that they were both probably fake but the small chance that they are authentic is at least a fun thing to look into.
If its stamped Vuillaume at the top of the back its definitely a fake. Genuine Vuillaumes usually have several signatures in pencil on the inside as well.
FYI, I own one. Luthiers who haven't seen it before generally know what it is immediately on a moment's casual examination. Then they check themselves by looking at the label. The young ones ask, "This one is real, isn't it?" The others just know. :-)
Expert luthiers, yes, but not all luthiers can identify a Vuillaume, or a Strad for that matter. I would be one of the latter!!
Around here, even the staff at the student shops appear to be able to identify it as real, although I wonder if some of them simply know it's a fine violin and the label tells them the direction they should be thinking. I imagine they probably apprenticed at shops where there's enough flow-through of this kind of violin.
If one were to upgrade to a (real) Vuillaume or something in that price range, where should one start?
To get a rough idea of the range take a look at the Cozio Archive in Tarisio.com where you'll find a fairly comprehensive list of auction prices. For the year 2017 in which 5 J.B.Vuillaume violins have so far been sold the lowest price was $87K and the highest $212K. Of course dealer prices would be much higher.
Start by shopping in person in cities that have violin shops that have a significant number of such instruments. Chicago, NYC, Boston, LA, etc. Most major metro areas with top-notch symphonies have shops that sell in that price range as well (DC/Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Francisco, etc.).
A Guarneri-model Vuillaume associated with Ysaye sold for L260k at auction last week -- roughly $350k. Record-breaking.
Would a relatively provincial place of Twin Cities, Minnesota have a shop for instruments of that type? There are two respectable orchestras here. Thanks in advance.
David, are you thinking of buying me a Christmas present?!
David, you're not that far from Chicago. Take a weekend and head out there as part of your search (ie, play all the good stuff in the Twin Cities, and then after you pick out a few to take home do the same thing in Chicago). You could probably do the whole trip for less than $300, and it would be totally worth it.
Jason, thanks. Will do
If you have that much to spend I could sell you all the violins in my shop!!!
Jason's advice is sound. Play everything in your local shops, and then try Chicago as the next step. Make appointments.
Oh, and one more thing. Gently break the news to your spouse that you're planning to drop six figures on a piece of antique wood. ;-)
That reminds me... Be cautious when making big upgrades. I seem to recall you're still playing your student violin. Your technique is probably attuned to that violin, but you might actually be better off adapting your technique to a better instrument -- but when you're trying violins you have to be careful not to pick the violin that's best with your current technique, rather than the violin that would be best once you learn to play it properly.
I upgraded from my instrument of teenage days earlier this year to something in the low 5 figures. I was a poker player with, let's say, a mixed record before I returned to the violin. My wife was really happy with my new hobby so she was very supportive. The instrument is perfectly fine for an intermediate player like me.
I hope all the young hopeful violinists reading this will take note that it is the serious amateurs, not the professionals, casually discussing shopping for a six-figure violin. Not that there aren't professionals playing six-figure instruments, but I suspect that once you get out of the top 52-week orchestra range, there are many more of us for whom such an instrument is completely out of reach.
As violin price goes up, you are not necessarily paying for a better sound. In many cases, in the antiques arena especially, you are paying for name / provenance. Still thoroughly test everything with the same skepticism you might use on a lower priced violin. I've played some very expensive famous-name antiques that were not good violins by any measure. There are great ones, but you still need to use caution.
I am amazed how many letters are used to spell maker's short last name.
I wonder what it's like to play on a great high-end instrument?
LOL Mary Ellen, that is very true! Music can still be a serious and high-minded endeavor even when not a full-time one.
Kan and Jason, I have a decent modern instrument in low 5 figures. The recent mega 1000-post thread got me interested in considering a high end instrument as both my main instrument and an vehicle of investment (diversification is a sound investment idea). The price is definitely out of my comfort zone! We'll see : )
I laughed out loud at Mary Ellen's comment. (Such students should also read this article:
you mean violin addiction?
I'll take your word for it Lydia. This is beyond my experience so I'll trust you and others with more experience in the matter.
I have been thinking about Mary Ellen's comment. It is common for young soloists to play on very fine instruments the use of which was granted by foundations and/or individuals. Are there ways in which young orchestral violinists get help (with perhaps somewhat lesser instruments) along similar lines at the start of their career?
Not that I'm aware of.
I have the use of an instrument in the mid 5 figures, but its not a violin, the reason I could afford it is because I built it myself!!
I believe some symphonies own instruments that are loaned to players (usually title chair holders). And sometimes there's more specific generosity. The Baltimore Symphony's music director, Marin Alsop, comes from a family of professional string players, and instruments and bows from the family's personal collection have been loaned to a number of the players. (These loans are noted on the musician roster in all BSO programs.)
David, there's a beautiful Vuillaume (one of the last ones he made) available at Ifshins near me. By far the best violin I've played (but of course that's my tastes and not necessarily yours.... it's a guarneri model). Just unending depth to the sound. If there was any possible way to finance that violin, I would do it. But it's a lot easier to get a mortgage on a house than on a violin, sadly.
David I definitely recommend to make an appointment with Bein&Fushi in Chicago. I visited them last summer and they were really great to me. It's mind-boggling trip you can make there, starting with 5-figure instruments which sound really great, moving on to 6-figure instruments which are amazing (I still cannot forget the Michele Deconet I played there), and finally playing a Strad and an Amati, then going back to the original five-figure instruments and they suddenly sound like crap :-) They seem to have quite a wide range of quality violins in all price ranges and in all different characters of instruments. They are also very easy on taking back an instrument you bought from them and swapping it for a better one, so you can go up in stages.
And that touches on Kan Pai's earlier question of what it's like to play a great violin.
I'm feeling a bit of buyer's remorse reading this thread, as I definitely think I bought the louder version of the instrument that I was comfortable playing. I sounded better on it than I did on other, more expensive instruments (including a couple of Topas) and my more skilled brother-in-law liked it a lot too.
PS: Erik, I did a lot of shopping at Ifshin. No one suggested I play the Vuillaume. Might have something to do with the fact that I walked in asking to test Jay Haide violins and then gradually worked my way up. ;-)
This is one of the reasons that I buy stuff from my local violin shops -- I walked into Ifshin's to get strings, and got to try a Strad. :-)
Did you buy the Vuillaume from them too? I imagine that gets you VIP treatment. Actually, on second thought, just owning a Vuillaume will surely get one the VIP treatment;)
This seems like an interesting option for musicians and patrons alike:
Not really Jason.Nobody in my orchestra rolls out the red carpet for me with my six figure violin. I have to blend in and play by the musical rules as much as anyone else.If anything having a powerful Italian fiddle can p off people around me if I don't be considerate towards their lesser tonally endowed instruments.
Katie, it might have to do with the fact that I visit Ifshins every few months or so and basically play every single violin above 20k that they have.
I bought my previous violin from Ifshin's (spending five figures), and did some serious bow shopping there as well. I figured that as a dot-com start-up engineer, though, they figured that one day I might hit the IPO stock-market jackpot and decide to buy a Strad. ;-)
I loved shopping there--they've invested a lot in the space and the atmosphere and I had, at any given time, 3-5 instruments out on approval. Raphael is such a nice, helpful guy and I felt super guilty when I ended up purchasing a violin elsewhere--but it was the obvious choice for me at the time. I'd definitely go back. There's a Rolland bow that got away...
Thanks for the encouragement, folks.
Raphael is great and very helpful. He's always saying I have "chops" but I know he's lying so I buy something eventually. It's alright; I'll take the fake compliment :)
So Gunnar to get back to you: could you post some pictures of your violin and bow?
"I grew up poor! When my family first arrived in the US, we had nothing but each other."
Our lives are no doubt richer because of professional musicians.
My parents went from poor to a steady upwards trajectory in my childhood, but not sufficiently so to buy me as good of a violin as my childhood teachers thought I needed. :-)
On the topic of quality vs. price, I've been told by luthiers that once in the 5-figure range, the quality can vary as factors like rarity & the maker's name come into play. There are people in my city's full-time orchestra playing on violins "worth" 10-20k but by new, less known makers.
This is where the question of "good enough" versus "great" comes into play. Plenty of people earn a living on less-expensive contemporary violins, but don't confuse that with those instruments being competitive with great violins.
Oh yeah I wasn't implying they are in the league of 'great' violins - just that there can be huge leaps in quality between violins of the same price.
I wonder would someone be kind enough to suggest a book or a website so one can read up on "good" and "great" violins and bows?
Isn't it usually 30-50k for a contemporary violin of the highest level, nowadays? You might get lucky with a new maker, but you have to be prepared for a long hunt.
David, "great" violins as defined by price are just going to be a matter of the name of the maker. "Great" violins as defined by how well you play on them are going to be a matter of how well you play on them.
I don't think you can read about good vs. great equipment per se -- I mean, there are books for luthiers and whatnot, which can tell you what is considered good or bad construction, but that won't help you discern playing qualities. To discern playing qualities, you want to play as much inventory as possible, in a wide spectrum of price ranges. And preferably you want to do so in the company of at least one other person, preferably one that is knowledgeable about the sought-after playing qualities.
Yeah, as lydia has effectively stated, your preferences/needs may change over time as you develop as a player (or just get older). That's the problem with investing a house's worth of money in an instrument when you're not (nearly) completely developed as a musician.
“ there are books for luthiers and whatnot, which can tell you what is considered good or bad construction, but that won't help you discern playing qualities”
Some but not all luthiers are. The ones that are really expert in identification have generally worked in shops where a high volume of violins by particular makers have been seen. There are reference books (most of them grotesquely expensive) but as far as I know, the eye is mostly developed through hands-on experience.
Lydia, yeah, Zygmuntowicz costs more, but he's basically the top of the field now.
Jason, from my recent experience violin hunting it seems like that price range is pretty accurate, although I'm trying one at the moment around 20k and it seems to be an outlier - miles ahead of instruments priced a lot higher.
Note that a lot of good contemporary makers are still below the $30k mark. Many of the makers that I liked at the recent NYC exhibition were in the $15-20k range,
Speaking of Zygmuntowicz, I really enjoyed reading The Violin Maker.
The book is as you said. It provided a lot of insight to me into the contemporary world of violin making and playing esp. wrt Eugene Drucker and the Emerson quartet (who all play Zygs except for Drucker). It focuses on Zyg's journey into making a great violin.
The most educational aspect for me was gaining a more informed perspective on the process of commissioning a violin. It’s not as magical as I had imagined it to be. $85,000 is out of our reach anyway but when it was around $40,000, it was within the realm of possibilities.
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