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Posts posted by Marsden

  1. Manfio,

    Thanks for the response.

    I decided to put some violin polish on. I normally do not use it, but at least it would get some moisture on it directly. I hope that that will strengthen any more of the varnish that is not yet reached the flaking point. I will watch it as the humidifier takes hold over the next few weeks and decide what to do then.

    In the past I have used "essence of turpentine" to lessen the visual impact of scratches. (This is just the residue of turpentine after it has been allowed to stand open for some time.) This very thick liquid leaves nothing that needs to be smoothed, and seems to dry in no time after rubbing with a soft cloth. I have never applied it to this large an area, and do not want to learn negative possible results from a violin I really like.

    Thanks again,


  2. As I mentioned in the post concerning dry conditions, one of my violins just seems to have started to flake. I am assuming from the dry conditions. It has about 30 or 40 little spots - about a 32nd of an inch wide and from a 32nd to an 8th long, following the grain lines on the top. What would anyone suggest to do to check this, and what is the best way to manage it? Should it be touched up in the locations with new varnish, or just be accepted?



  3. Just thought I would revive this thread as a reminder to others in the presently cold mid-west!

    Just came home from a four day trip to find one of my favorite violins with the varnish flaking.

    My wife and I couldn't find a convenient location for the humidifier, so we never turned it on this winter. In the teens last night. Not good.

    Amazing, I was just able to find a good location for this devise - a little late!

    Please be careful out there!

    Best wishes,


  4. I was unable to find any images of Becker Sr. or Jr. to compare. The Becker site said that pictures were on the way. If anyone has any images of their work, it would be fun to see them.


    I was only making the reference to Pezzoni, because we had the image - picture is worth 1000 words etc. Again, I think Michael's point about the body of work is important. At the same time I do wonder just how good a wooden violin can be, and if that level hasn't been reached time and again by hundreds of dedicated makers, some more consistantly than others.

    Hmmm.. maybe the "i" would give him a little bit of an edge!


  5. Ok, let me stick my neck out here and sum up what I think this thread has told us.

    First off, let me express my appreciation to all those that threw in there thoughts. I have really enjoyed this thread.

    If I have this right, there is no greatest maker, American or any other. But rather a large group of great makers that have striven to reach the unreachable, the genius of being first. No one is probably ever going to catch the old masters - first of all because the majority of great makers are only trying to copy those that have gone before, trying to make them as good as, not breaking new ground.

    In this effort, I have little doubt that many have equaled the sound of the great masters, but who really can tell this. As good as?? Jeffrey points out that many different groups are satisfied by the works of different makers. This is great as it gives a varied market that accepts differences.

    The thing that I find fascinating is that it shows us that there are many many makers out there who have worked at the

    goal of creating great instruments in the likeness of the masters. How many truly succeeded? Who knows.

    I would assume from this, that the most famous American makers are the Gemunders and the Beckers. But do they truly make a violin better than Pezzoni did? I am surely not the one to judge, but I am having fun trying.

    Best wishes to you all!


  6. Neil,

    From my personal experience in buying from this guy, I would say it was worth the trip. Be carefull in your dealings.

    Do not limit yourself to this particular violin however, push him to show you violins that he has not yet put up for sale. You may find you can cut a great deal on ones that he has not yet listed.

    Best wishes,


  7. falstaff,

    I was thinking about that as well, but I do not see it in this case. First I do not see this as being antiqued, and try as I might to see it otherwise, I thought the corners matched the purfling pretty well. At the same time, I thought your description of the sag in the shoulder matched very well.

    At this point with only these two instruments to consider, and only from their looks, I would go with the Pezzoni. I would bet that they are close in sound.


  8. falstaff,

    I guess I should withdraw my comments about the subjective.

    The more I look at it, the more I see this as a Guarneri model, and than some of your comments whould be expected. He just doesn't bring it all off well. At this point maybe you call it after Guarneri. If you put a mirror on the center line of the instrument and looked at the one side as a total, you would see two different instruments.

    I still do not see the corner issue. However, I agree he should have waited for the varnish to dry.


  9. Sherman,

    I looked up Mr. Collingwood. If you do not have it, here is the listing out of a book on American makers.

    Collingwood, Joseph; Ottumwa, Ia. 1853-1928. Born in Pittsburgh, Pa. Primarily a self-taught maker. Established a shop in Ottumwa in 1882. Modified Strad and Guarneri models. Also used his own smaller model called the "Collingwood de Luxe." Rather mediocre varnish of his own making. Early labels read "Joseph Collingwood" later labels read "Joseph Collingwood and Son." Made more than 700 violins, several violas, and a few cellos. Helped by his son, Drew. Many appear to be rather Germanic in nature.

    Hope this is of use, I would have no idea on the nature of his instruments.

    Best wishes,


  10. Am I seeing this right? As I look at the shape, one to the next, the Peresson starts to look slightly deformed, the Pezzoni less so and the Strad nearly perfectly symmetrical.

    We would be talking minor difference unless you are looking at them side by side.

    Is this correct?


  11. Michael,

    I just put the Peresson and the Pezzoni up together on a split screen. (They are clearly the best images form those that I was able to find.) It makes an awsome comparison table.

    If you would, could you walk through a discription of what you see in these two examples of these makers works? I would enjoy your thoughts on them, and I am sure others of us would as well.

    Obviously, any one elses comments would be appreciated as well.


  12. I tried powered maple and super glue, and it turned significantly darker than the original color of the bridge , but it seemed to function fine . I will give Micheal process a try in the future.


  13. I started this thread with reference to the article by Mr. Mckean, but in fairness to him, he was not trying to identify the greatest American makers, his article talks about finding value in the violin market. I think the lack of reaction to Friedrich and Pezzoni may be because of what Michael pointed out - that you aren't really getting toward the level of a great maker until you have put together a body of work to be identified with. Pezzoni worked under the firm of Conn. While he may have made many violins, he may not have had his name identified with them all. How famous would Panormo be if he had spent his entire career working for Betts after he left Italy? But if he did, I bet you could buy some great violins for a song.

    For those interested, here is the section on American Violins from the Mckean article. (Inexpensive Doesn't Mean Cheap, James M. Mckean 1999 all rights reserved - the entire article is in the Maestronet Library)



    There has been a lot of discussion lately about American violins, and there are excellent instruments to be found, although the general level of achievement is lower than that of other national schools. For the most part, the makers fall into two categories, European émigré or self-taught. The former were almost all from Germany, and they were found mainly in Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. Many of them established large shops, with the result that works by their own hand can be rare; but the violins from their shops are usually of a very high standard. Charles Albert, in Philadelphia, was one of the best known, along with John Hornsteiner of Chicago. The latter had learned the trade from Matthias Neuner in Berlin, who, as we saw earlier, worked with Vuillaume. Many of Hornsteiner's violins were actually made by his assistant Frank Sindelar, who went on his own in 1917, operating a shop in Chicago until the end of the Second World War. Another pupil of Hornsteiner was Carl Becker, Sr., also of Chicago.

    New York was home to several large shops, the most notable being that of the Gemunder brothers, August and George, who, after a brief partnership, worked separately. Their instruments are worth seeking out. George Gemunder had worked for J. B. Vuillaume in Paris and he made instruments in that style but with his own distinctive character. As did other shops, such as that of John Friedrich and H. R. Knopf (both also of New York), the Gemunders sold a line of shop violins of varying levels of refinement; they can be quite respectable and are still valued at a very low cost.

    American-born and trained makers of a professional level were few and far between, but that can work to your advantage - the prices of their works are held down by the general perception that there were none worth talking about. The Conn Wonder Violin was the product of a huge operation, rivaling in scope the mass production facilities of Germany. It was begun in the 19th century by an ex-Union soldier, C. G. Conn, and while most of the fiddles were of that same level of quality - which is still quite acceptable - the business also employed three makers who signed their own violins, and whose works are of the first rank. Ironically, the best of these was of Italian descent, William Pezzoni from Brooklyn. His violins are much superior to many of the modern Italian makers and if you find any, sell at a fraction of the cost. Margaret Downie Banks wrote a thorough piece on Conn in the Violin Society Journal of November 1990 (vol. 11, no. 3).

    An earlier issue (vol. 5, no. 1) detailed the life and career of the man who was perhaps best known of the native-trained American violin makers, J. B. Squier (unlike the initials of so many of his colleagues the J. B. stands not for Jean Baptiste but for Jerome Bonaparte). His background was in the colorful tradition of John Lott, the celebrated English elephant trainer and del Gesù copyist. Squier began as a farmer in Michigan, then was a shoemaker and, as far as violin making goes, was essentially self-taught. He moved to Boston in 1881 and produced a large number of instruments, working with his adopted son Victor Carroll, and they can be very good. J. B. Squier is described as having devoted the greater part of his time to varnish experiments; in this, one could say that American violin making has changed very little in the intervening century.

    There were many more of these makers across the country; an invaluable guide to them is the comprehensive Violin Makers of the United States by Thomas James Wenberg (Mt. Hood Publishing, 1986). Skinner, the Boston auction house, is a good source for American instruments, since they turn up there regularly - so you can find one at a great price before it heads to Europe, where chances are excellent that the label will be pulled and it will be sold as a modern Italian.

  14. Jeffrey,

    Thanks for your insights. For those of us who have not seen examples of these different makers, it is of interest to hear the thoughts of those that have.

    How would you compare a Charles Albert to a Gemunder?

    The question of, who is America's greatest maker, would seem to change to the question: are there any makers that can be truly considered to stand above the rest. Further, are these above makers, really any less than the other great makers from other countries, only that the self taught aspect of American culture conveyed a lessened reputation for all - even these European trained immigrants and their protégés.

    If, as was proposed in the post concerning who are the present top makers, North America presently finds itself home to many of the best makers in the world, how much better are they today than these older American makers who worked under a cloud potentially created by perception alone?

    Emmanuelle; I missed the rehearsal today, I then couldn't attend the concert tonight, following, I am tied up tomorrow. I had really hoped to have the opportunity to hear her perform this weekend on the Marquis de Riviera, but it is not to be. I did not think that she would sound different, but I was interested to hear. So, when fubbi took the liberty to start to include the undead, linking the reality of today and members of his list was to much to resist.

    By the way, what violin was on her shoulder?


    PS, Does a Friedrich really belong on this list?

  15. fubbi,

    While not the issue at hand, I do agree that your list is interesting. Have you seen any sales for the others on Mckean's list? I don't think that I have ever seen a listing for Pezzoni.


    Have you had the opportunity to see and compare some of these makers? A Gemunder to a Becker, for example? A Hornsteiner to a Becker?


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