martin swan

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Everything posted by martin swan

  1. OK I vote for the scroll being original! If it was playable when it came into the shop I would get it set up again and give it back to the director pointing out that it's authentically labelled, worth a few bob, and not suitable for a careless student. For all we know the donor might have been very proud of this violin and might wish it to go to a talented student. For all we know the director may be planning to play it! Not every good student at a music school has a good violin .... Interesting paradox this thread has pointed up - that a violin can be too special to be played by a student and yet not really worth anything! Personally I think this is exactly the sort of violin that should be used by a good student. A Hamm in similar condition went for £650 or so at a recent Brompton's auction - it sounded wonderful.
  2. secrets of cremona yawn yawn ... I bored my wife to tears with this shit, in the end she said "you don't suppose Stradivarius just threw away the bad sounding violins?" Bill Yacey's account of the evolution of the violin is beautiful and plausible. If there was a particular secret then everyone would know it! I think great violin makers have a sound in their head (often based on an instrument they own or have studied), and they stick at it stubbornly until they get that sound. I'm sure this involves a lot of dis-assembly and re-assembly, fine tuning, chucking things in the bin and starting from scratch, playing (a lot), plus of course having fantastically keen ears, a love of music, and respect for and understanding of the achievements of others as epitomized by the apprentice system. The Cremonese Sound is an acquired taste. A good Stradivarius may an appropriate tool for a superstar solo performer (debatable of course) but there are many other kinds of violinists in the world and better instruments for them.
  3. Scottish arithmetic works on the basis that everything is worth less than I think and actually I don't have any cash on me, perhaps you could lend me a tenner? I'll pay it back by the end of the week promise ...!
  4. God no, I'm thinking of people I know much closer to home ... I would be happy to share Machold-like tales. Jacob, I really didn't want to offend you - maybe you were sucking your teeth while looking at the photos, but I think your assessment of its value to a restorer (based on photos) is 100% fair, though I would buy it for $500 as I am generally optimistic! It's just a rather odd case because the violin belongs to the music school, and I was urging caution. I think if your option were offered to them amongst others, it would be the easiest and quickest so lution (provided Brad actually wants it and has the time to put into it), but it's just one of several possible paths, and if presented as the only option it might lead to discontent somewhere down the line. Very few lay people understand or are prepared to accept the brutal mathematics of restoration, and since more and more players buy at auction, prices go up and up, lots of price history available on the web etc etc you buy a knackered Volger from someone for $400 and then they see one sold for $3000, much more difficult to explain the reality of the situation after the fact! My apologies for any upset, I'll buy you 2 deep fried mars bars (though I'd be surprised if you could eat one)
  5. I agree with Jacob about the violin, it's definitely of the period, absolutely characteristic of the region, and no reason to assume it's not Vogler. I also agree that the neck is probably a replacement, partly because the scroll looks too short and plain, and partly because of the mis-shapen button. This is not a student violin, although obviously on Maestronet the fact that it isn't a Strad or a Guarneri (or a bollocks tradey violin being passed off as a Guarneri by a lunatic) doesn't stand in its favour ..... So the question is one of value, and of how to do right by the people who brought it to you. You say the condition is poor, but everything looks repaired after a fashion, and unless you say otherwise, it's quite possible that this violin could be brought into playable condition in a few hours (if this is incorrect please say so). I think it's very hard to know the value of something like this without playing it - if it has a fine tone then it could easily sell for a couple of thousand - it is very old. If it was set up as a baroque instrument (assuming the neck is a long replacement ... what's the stop length by the way) it might sell for more to a player, but that's a labour of love, probably uneconomic, and I wouldn't want to do that with someone else's violin. I think selling it "as is" at a Tarisio speculative sale would be the best plan - possibly in playing condition if it sounds good (there are some wierdos who acutally go to Tarisio viewings and play the instruments!). I would propose to the school that you take 15-20% plus parts. There would be an open record of the sale and everyone would know where they stood. A buyer who has a particular interest in Vogler (perhaps someone who has a neck ...) might pay a good price for it. You could also offer to waive your 15-20% in exchange for a pledge to spend the money in your shop, even better. The violin trade is so corrupt on all levels, and shops get rich by sucking their teeth and looking sad when someone brings in a nice old fiddle ... "well the neck angle's all wrong, the varnish has been retouched, hell of a job to get it back into condition, it's really worth nothing and I don't want it, it's just a liability and it will sit around the shop for years, nobody wants a violin with a soundpost crack - but I suppose I could give you 300 for it ....." etc. After a day's efficient work the violin is on the shelves with a 5 figure price tag - don't say it doesn't happen! As Jacob says, this is a great chance to work on a genuinely old instrument without being scared to breathe in. Best to be open about everything, and explain that it might be worth $1-3000 at auction, maybe more on a good day. If the neck's original (unlikely but possible) then it could be worth more. Martin Swan Violins
  6. Hi Lyndon, I see the substance of my post (originally Melvin Goldsmith's argument) being repeated by many, although the great Burgess seems to take exception to me on the grounds of lack of experience. Maybe I should post again after I've set up another 500 or so .....! But for now, please allow me my fanciful notions born of ignorance and general stupidity. If you start with the concept of letting the position of the bassbar govern the set-up (I only started doing this about 200 violins ago), then you need different width bridges in order to avoid making bizarre cuts for the ankles. Despiau, Teller and Aubert all do odd sizes, though really a 7/8, a 40mm and a 41.5 should cover most eventualities. To repeat what I think are the vital points to emerge from this thread .... 1. Relaxing the bridge/top etc and then putting the whole thing back under tension changes the sound a lot, so most perceived benefits of post adjustment are mis-attributed. I have regularly got an indifferent trade fiddle "honking" (I assume this means sounding good) only to discover than the next day it sounds shit again! Any long-term improvements I have made seem to do with achieving a perfect contact/fit more than with position left to right. 2. A full contact between the top & bottom surfaces of the post and the inner surfaces of the instrument will give the fullest harmonic picture - on balance it would be more important to have this full contact than a completely vertical post. 3. Violins are not cellos 4. If the fit is good and moving the bridge a bit doesn't improve the sound sufficiently, then find the person a different violin! As to loose fits, I do agree that on a few occasions I have fitted a soundpost, then brought the strings up to about half tension, then moved the top and the bottom of the soundpost in by half a pasaucie. Or sometimes this loosening off can be achieved by moving the soundpost forward (depends on the arching). I think it's probably good to move both top and bottom to avoid losing the fit. But I assume my fits are loose anyway, and I tend to hold the violin gently around the middle while fitting. I know there are a lot of people on this site far more experienced than me, and with exerience of far more valuable instruments. I read and learn, and am grateful for the range of knowledge. Martin Swan Violins
  7. I agree with Melvin - slacken off the strings, remove the bridge, ignore the soundpost completely, put the bridge back on and bring the violin back up to tension and it will sound very different, to the point where many players bored with the sound of their (less good than they'd like) violin will feel that a marked improvement has occured. In view of this, it's very hard if not impossible to judge what difference a post adjustment has actually made! I was taught that the bass bridge foot should sit over the bassbar, the treble bridge foot should find itself exactly equidistant on the other side of the centre line (not always the same as the centre seam), and the post should sit in line with this foot. This involves first choosing the right width of bridge and then shaping the feet exactly so that they will allow for this. The post should fit perfectly, I don't think it's a big deal if it's a bit loose when there's no tension but I do think it shouldn't be tight. I can't see any harm in it being a degree or two off vertical but if the top and bottom of the post are cut exactly right it will want to sit upright, and in more heavily arched violins it's impossible to shift one end of the post without losing the fit. I haven't found that moving the soundpost away from this approved position brings any kind of result, generally any small moves I make are corrections towards this ideal. However, I also agree with Melvin that adjusting the distance between bridge and post is often productive, and has the benefit of being realizable with the strings under tension. There's a ritual amongst professional players involving soundpost adjustments that's very similar to a trip to a fetish priest - reassurance is offered in exchange for gifts. Martin Swan Violins
  8. lalofrank2011 is the new i.d of "ihaformosa" whose bizarre and deluded use of eBay I recorded in : previous post Interestingly the last violin this freedom fighter sold repeatedly was a genuine but tatty Joseph Chanot which he bought at Bromptons. I see lalofrank2011 has just "sold" a bow which he inherited from his mentor, the same bow as has been "sold" several times by ihaformosa! How long before he lists it again? Martin Swan Violins
  9. Melvin, what piquant sarcasm! The Nicola Bennedetti/Aly Bain clip was originally posted on Maestronet by me, and I'm pleased it has been seen by so many people. I posted the video of Ms Bennedetti because I thought it gave some insight into why soloists choose to play instruments they often don't like ... I would love think I could help Ms Bennedetti with any problem she chose to lay before me, but I don't think I would go poking about in her Stradivarius - she wouldn't even let Aly Bain touch it! As for wolf notes, I am merely recounting my own very limited experience, and I'm fascinated to hear the observations of more seasoned professionals. Jacob's fix is a great tip, and I will certainly try it next time I encounter the problem. My link
  10. If you have a stand-out fiddle but aren't playing it because of a wolf note, why not try to fix the wolf? It seems to me that you could afford to take quite radical steps given that it's not valuable or historic. Omobono's advice about after-string length is worth following, but in my experience most wolfs in the C or B/B flat region are caused by an unhappy distance between the soundpost and the bridge .... Or to be more precise, I think the real cause is that the natural frequency of front and back plates is too close, and for some reason the soundpost position can make this unpleasantly noticeable. I have had 2 good violins with this problem, both times it was fixed by tweaking the soundpost in its front to back orientation (while maintaining its sideways position). Other causes of wolfs ... poorly fitting soundpost, badly graduated spots in the back, bridge fit not perfect etc ...... All fixable by a luthier who can play, but often impenetrable to one who doesn't! The idea that you would play a less good violin because it's Italian is bizarre - or it would be bizarre if 90% of the classical fraternity wasn't doing the same! Martin Swan Violins
  11. Auction houses fit violins with Dominants, it's a kind of industry standard because they're very cheap in bulk and people know they're reasonably neutral. If a priceless Italian violin sounds a bit rough, you can always blame the Dominants!
  12. Warchal Karneol should become the new industry standard - they have no tonal defects and work on every one of 400 or so violins I've tried them on. They don't have the fizz that can be quite offputting with Dominants, and the E is much sweeter (Dominant E should only be used for cutting cheese). Warchal Brilliant Vintage are a very odd sounding string, and should only be used for problem instruments - they are low tension but extremely fizzy. Karneol are about £20 a set dealer price .... Martin Swan Violins
  13. That pipe is SMOKIN'! But the axe is a bit of a hatchet job ....
  14. I've tried a couple of Romedio Muncher violins - they sounded dreadful. Ettore Soffriti is the only 20th century maker who ever got 3 stars from me, though I confess to having rather particular tastes. The Ornati in tarisiofever's clip sounds great, I've never played one so I can't confirm or deny. I've played a few Bisiachs and a Fagnola, and while they were consistently good, they weren't any better than a good EH Roth. Martin Swan Violins Tone Evaluations As a general rule modern Italian violins seem to be massively overpriced, and while the craftsmanship is often very good, there's no intrinsic tonal quality that can be relied on. It's my opinion that Italian violins command a premium for no good reason whatsoever. I think it's to do with the fact that the names often end in "i" .... Post 1920 I would go for an English maker - Arthur Richardson, Alfred Vincent and William Robinson all made fantastic sounding violins. I don't have any experience of contemporary American makers, but in Scotland Peter Goodfellow, Paul Bowers and Colin Adamson have all produced instruments which are way ahead of any contemporary Italian instruments I've played (talking purely about tone and response). Don't believe the hype!
  15. Roger, send me your address and I'll post you a copy ... it wasn't a big seller, would you like a few dozen? Also, if you ever visit Edinburgh I will treat you to a deep fried Mars Bar.
  16. Amongst the upper (and lower) echelons of professional players a violin is primarily a statement of worth. It has other attributes already listed, but that's the main one (you might also describe it as a psychological prop). In Selfridges you can buy a diamond encrusted iPhone for £17,000. With this phone you can call your friends and have a nice conversation, you might even say some beautiful things. You will probably be in a better mood because you're holding a diamond-encrusted phone (and you're worth it)! The person you're talking to can't hear that you've got a diamond phone, but your tone of voice may reflect that fact, you may even tell them. Great musical performances are about relaxation - the player must be relaxed and mentally prepared to withstand the scrutiny of thousands, the audience must feel it's in safe hands and that it was worth buying the ticket. Stratospherically expensive instruments and their stories help enormously in that process. A bit of bling ... In my view this is why "top players" have tended to prefer these instruments - I'm sure a few stand out like the Cannone, and everyone would acknowledge that it's an instrument where everything went right (a few instruments from all traditions of making and periods stand out), but in essence a massive and greedy trade has built itself up around the need of performers for reassurance and status. This trade is propped up by the classical music establishment, and of course there's a financial link there, as well as an elitist and excluding tendency of cultural refinement which this thread has at times demonstrated. By the way what is Gilligan's Island? Is it television? I'm from Scotland ...
  17. I think they'll have to get a lot more expensive before top soloists will endorse them completely!
  18. As David Burgess has said, the only way to get to the bottom of these claims for the superiority of a few early Cremonese makers is to conduct a listening test in which no-one knows what is being played (and to use a violinist who doesn't know any of the instruments already). So the question is, who is happy to have their Stradivarius handed to a blindfolded player who may drop it? We should blindfold the audience too. Should the whole event happen in the dark? Perhaps the violin handlers could wear night vision goggles so they don't stumble on the stairs. I suggest we find a way of suppressing the player's sense of smell as well - nothing improves my playing like the heady whiff of the early 18th century emanating from an f-hole. I'm deadly serious about this - unless you don't know what you're playing or what you're listening to, the test can't prove anything other than that people have prejudices. I assume that the "Juillard student" whose bluff was called by Mr. Burgess never accepted the challenge? I would go to an event like that with an open mind (I hope). Martin Swan Violins
  19. Opera singers are an interesting point of comparison. I think everyone would agree that the Wagnerian voice is in itself pretty hideous, but entirely necessary to be heard against an obscenely large orchestra belting out brass at high volumes. Perhaps when it comes to violins the volume and quality of projection is more important to professional soloists than other considerations. A violin which will carry above a large orchestra may not actually have a good tone! Pavarotti's voice has a harmonic character which cuts through anything, it's very pure and rather lacking in lower midrange colour - soloist's violins suitable for playing big concertos tend to be the same! I think it would be good to stop talking about "good tone" as separate from performance requirements - it's true that overall the most important thing is that the player is excited by and believes in their instrument (spending a few hundred thousand helps with that!), but there are also situations in which the choice of an instrument is dictated by the nature of the performance. I believe 100% that many 19th, 20th and 21st century violins are equal in all respects to the Cremonese Da Vinci Code violins. But professional musicians are a nervy and unquiet lot, and they like to be packing when they go on stage. Most orchestral players spend their tea breaks checking out each other's labels .... The dealers, starting with Tarisio, have given birth to this strange cult, and makers and players are in thrall to the myth, which is fuelled by avarice and performance anxiety. I like the idea of scraping the outside of the instrument to optimise the sound, but I think it would be best done while playing the instrument, rather than while measuring harmonic content by some "scientific" means. Tone divorced from musical performance is not tone. I have so many customers who come to try violins and who play scales and arpeggios, or strange pieces of non-music in an attempt to hear the violin. They very often get stuck, at which point I suggest they play some music that they love and try to relax. Then everything becomes obvious and they can make a choice easily.
  20. I imagine that quite a few inferior Strads and Guarneris also got junked or recycled along the way by luthiers who thought they were a bit poor ...! Even in Vuillaume's day I don't suppose they were treated with any great reverence.
  21. You may think Pavarotti's voice is "objectively" better - I also disagree - but does Pavarotti make better music than Domingo? I have a theory to explain the secrets of the great Cremonese masters .... they strung up their violin, played it a bit, and if it didn't meet their exacting standards they took it apart and started again or just burnt it. Some contemporary makers have been known to do this also!
  22. What you are describing is an "acquired taste". In my view this taste has developed in the wake of these instruments' rising financial value, rather than being the cause of it. An analysis of what causes the "Cremonese sound" (perceived by very few in some but not all Cremonese instruments made at a particular period) is not a great starting point for future endeavour, though even if the premise is false (I'm not saying it is), it may be as good a starting point as any. Not that the debate isn't very entertaining .... it's just like the question of whether God exists. Many fascinating side issues are touched upon, but the question of God's existence remains a matter of faith for those who feel it's important, and it eludes all scientific approaches. I keep raising the same questions in this context .... 1. Is there any evidence that Stradivari or Guarneri were players? I'd bet they were, and pretty good ones. 2. Is it possible to conduct controlled experiments to see if their violins are preferred by violinists for their performance alone? I don't think so.
  23. Dwight - I'm going to the Tarisio viewing on Monday so I'll have a play on it and give you my verdict!
  24. I am fascinated by Jacob's explanation. I have seen so many rather fine German violins with labels of makers I don't really believe in, from towns where there's no tradition of making. These always seemed to me to be broadly equivalent to good Mirecourt instruments ie. superior trade violins. The consistency of the outline bothered me the most, although everything else could be very different, carving, purfling, varnish, neck shapes, heels, button profile etc. I then came across a dealer who was selling a few such instruments as "Grossstadtgeigen" and asked him what he meant - he said it was a well-known German classification for trade violins suitable for city orchestral musicians etc. This appears to have become loosely translated as "German city violin" in American circles. I assume that this is the German version of a violin like this Granier, Marseilles 1926 It's a good Mirecourt violin with an authentic Granier Marseilles label ie. a violin labelled by a maker but largely made by a distant workshop! Violon de metropole, perhaps ...
  25. Jacob, did these violins then turn up with rather grand "maker" labels saying Berlin, Marburg, Bad Hersfeld etc ....? Would such violins have been bought finished from Schoenbach and just labelled, or bought from Markneukirchen and finished in violin shop backrooms? If the latter, there seems to be a lot of the same thing still going on with Bubenreuth instruments & kits bought in the white (though Sandner et al buy these in Reghin)!