Michael Appleman

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  1. I was told this was regularly done by English makers, but I'd be interested to know if our resident English experts on MN concur.
  2. This thread is reminding me of what things felt like back in the 1980's when I was starting to work regularly in different orchestras. There were violinists who believed that "if it comes with a certificate from a big shop, it must be real" and others "in the know" who felt that there were always a certain number of "hopeful" certificates that dealers would write to make a sale, confident that either the buyer would be happy with the violin and keep it a long time, bring it back to trade up, or in the worst case, if they brought irrefutable proof that the dealer had made a mistake, they could just buy it back. Back then, we "trusted" old Hill papers, Wurlitzer papers signed by D'Attili or D'Attili papers. Certificates coming from a major shop in NY and another in Philly could be very doubtful at times, not on "slam dunk" obvious fiddles, but on the marginal stuff, rare makers from rare schools, and I know personally of several real cases where a colleague couldn't get his "marginal" "italian" violin certified by anyone, put it in at Sotheby's or Christie's, and it turned up later having been sold to another colleague as a "real" something by one of those shops with a "proper" certificate. Those are the sort of fiddles showing up at auction today with "attributed to..." titles. I'm sure there's a sad story behind each one... I think things are a bit different today. It's so much easier to trace a violin from one seller to the next, and I think dealers are much more careful in general about over-inflating the value of marginal instruments. Most any buyer prepared to spend big money on a big name violin or bow will want certificate(s) from the universally respected experts, and fora like this one can help everyone to be more informed about who those are. For lower priced instruments, on the other hand, certificates are just "case candy."
  3. I think it's a sad reality that the sheer number and overall questionable quality of cheaper German instruments has tainted the reputation of all German language area violin-making. The true artisans made some wonderful violins, and I've seen Klotz', Widhalms, Buchstetters, Hellmers, Poschs...etc etc that were in my opinion right up there in the quality/beauty of sound/ease of playing and comparable carrying power with similar Italian violins. As Guido wrote above, if you've played a lot of "2nd or 3rd tier" Italian violins, you realize that carrying power isn't necessarily what makes them desirable.
  4. A twist on a US expression for a DIY mechanic, fixing his car under the shade of a tree by the house, as opposed to inside a garage.
  5. I personally wouldn't want to buy something like this, but I'm glad that the luthier(s) who replaced it took the trouble to preserve it. There are always neat things to learn from examing little odd bits like this. A friend of mine once showed me some Testore cello corner blocks he saved from a big restoration project. Just the weight and the feel of the wood was totally different from what I expected from hunks of spruce/pine that size, they almost felt like balsa in my hands! Just the effects of aging? Who knows, but in anycase the kind of thing it would be impossible to tell from photos.
  6. Thanks for your input, gentlemen! I think in my lifetime, I 've seen a several hundred southern German violins, including 3 exemplary Maussiells and a dozen Widhalms (plus a handful of Buchstetters, Fischers and Thumhardts). I've seen precisely two southern German violins with whalebone purfling, one an early double purfled probable Füssen, and the other a probable Mittenwald. Both of these left me scratching my head, and more knowledgeable folks could basically only shrug and say, "yep, that's whalebone." No one seemed able to say this was a trend or to be expected from a given shop or city in this region, unlike, say Gragnani in Livorno or Jacobs, Rombouts, et. al. in Amsterdam. For what it's worth, the French makers in Amsterdam came later, like Lefevre, and they used French style wooden purfling as did Cuypers who worked in a more "Vieux Paris" style than anything like the earlier Jacobs school.
  7. Ths is interesting! I have never heard of Maussiel using it, before. Jacob, Ali and the other folks who may have seen a mountain of Maussiells over the years can you corroborate? IMHO, the OP violin doesn't look like it has whalebone purfling to my eyes from the photos, more like ebony, which is in line with a mid 1700's French origin.
  8. Basically, yes, though it might be more precise to say "before the Paris based makers started seriously copying Stradivari," so before Pique and Lupot(ca.1780-90), with a few odd makers like Bassot and Aldric trending in that direction. French violin "know it alls" tend to break up Vieux Paris violins into three sub-categories, the pre 1730-40 makers (Pierray and Boquay the best known) who used mostly an Amati inspired model and could have some very soft and rich coloured varnishes (amost Venitian looking at times), the 1740-1760 ish makers (Guersan dominated the market, and Castagneri appears in Paris) where Stainer models start showing up and the varnish is getting thinner and harder. 1760-1780ish is the last period when the models get a bit farther from the Amati inspiration and one can even start seeing Strad inspired f-holes. The varnish starts getting seriously yellow and hard, and more and mors violins are being brought in from Mirecourt. Some of the better known makers from the last group are Leclerc, Chappuy and Frebrunet.
  9. I don't think this is a Saxon trade instrument. I get the feeling this is something much more interesting, and from what I'm seeing, probably French 18th century. I think I see a trench for the ribs on the back, and while the varnish may have been stripped, there are quite a few "blonde" vieux Paris fiddles that look like this. Purfling up the bottom rib joint could be a later repair/addition, but was done on old French violins as well. What's the back length?
  10. Absolutely! In the end, the poor girl stopped playing the 38cm Klotz and got a 17" (43cm) Melanson which I remember was an excellent instrument, but the young lady was (is still, I imagine) a diminutive 5'4" (162cm) and she was suffering... Sorry guys, I did not want to make a blanket indictment of the Français shop!. As I said, I have several personal friends who worked there and later when Morel carried on, and I have the utmost respect for their work and skill. Considering the thousands of violins that went through their hands and the number of highly satisfied clients, my two little anecdotes are surely marginal, and of course should not be taken as an indictment of the quality of the shop as a whole. As for new fiddles "stretching," I just fitted a new post to a violin I made one year ago, and I was shocked that the new one came out 2mm longer than the original one! I might have been overly conservative on the first one, but I wasn't expecting that much movement in one year.
  11. I still consider it really weird, and I can imagine there must have been weak spots (probably luckily!) in the glue joints in the center bouts on both of these instruments, but I'm afraid it's not hearsay, nor hyperbole. I saw it with my own eyes! One was a smallish but very nice Klotz viola that a close friend was using as she was getting her Master's in Karen Tuttle's class at Julliard ca. 1985-6. Her teacher and entourage felt her instrument wasn't powerful enough and so she dutifully went to Français' for a post and bridge. A week later, the back popped open around the treble side c-bout. At the time she came crying to me and I defended the Morel run shop, saying it was just a coincidence, her viola was old and frail, there was probably an issue with the back/rib joint etc., then a few months later, a violinist colleague brought home his Sannino from Français' after a bridge and post and the same thing happened to him. I told both of them to go back to Français' and get things sorted, I didn't intervene myself so I never got to examine the actual post lengths, but the way the instruments were playing before the backs popped open, and the way the upper treble f-hole wing was sticking up over the arching of my friend's Klotz made me suspicious that there was a lot of sideways squeezing going on while fitting those posts...
  12. I do not wish to denigrate Mr. Morel, and I'd like to stress that I have several friends who worked under him in those days, but I did witness some instruments that suffered from overly tight soundposts coming from the shop in the 1980's. They were generally lesser grade instruments (Klotz viola, Sannino violin before Sanninos became high-dollar etc) so I imagine they were handled by assistats and not Mr. Morel himself, but I actually saw backs pop off the ribs on two occasions! It's probably a tribute to how well the posts were fitted that the plates came apart instead of cracking, but I found it scary!
  13. I am a violin player (and teacher), professionally, and just an amateur (although fairly obsessed) violin maker, but I didn't start performing in Europe until the mid 1980's. After 1985, it's possible you may have heard me some place. I've never been a big name touring artist, but I've played recitals, chamber music and occasional concertos in many cities across Europe. These days I mostly stay in Paris where I have my teaching positions and play a couple of concerts a month. If anyone's around and interested, I'll be playing "The Lark Ascending" with a teacher/student chamber orchestra from my conservatory on November 26! I'll be using my composite Gagliano/Contreras for which I made a top 20 years ago. That's one that has become quite a bit louder in recent years. Last week I played the "Till Eulenspiegel Einmal Anders" quintet in a couple of concerts, and I was surprised how little effort was needed to balance with the horn, bassoon and clarinette, whereas I remember playing the Brahms Horn Trio with the same horn player 5-6 years ago, and I needed to put a lot more effort (the usual effort, I'd say) into keeping up the balance.
  14. I was just wondering if you guys have had the chance to follow some of your "spongier-top good for chamber music" violins over a several year (or several decade) period? Have you noticed a pattern of how they evolve as the varnish and ground harden and the un-varnished wood surface oxydizes? I haven't made enough violins to consider my opinion based on any kind of significant sample size, but what I've observed is that all the violins I've made have gotten noticeably brighter and louder over time, and some that were "nice and warm" but not necessarily powerhouses 15-20 years ago are very powerful now. Others that started out satisfyingly powerful are starting to sound harsher and brighter than I like after a decade or two.
  15. I think one has to think a bit about what the appellation "Tourte school" means. It really doesn't add much value to a bow, since it just means that the expert can't identify the bow but thinks it shows some awareness of Tourte's models. It does not necessarily mean that the person who made the bow worked with Tourte. I have several bows that Raffin has described or certified as "Tourte school" and they range from a very fine Lupot/Eury type that had lost too many identifying features through wear to certify it as by one specific maker to an ironwood Lagrosse type in the same case to a ca 1770-1780 Kramer type. In each case the bow's value is radically different and based on the quality of the bow itself, so the "Lupot/Eury" was still fairly valuable while the Lagrosse was and is a cheap bow. The fact that Raffin called them "Tourte school" really means nothing at all. As one Paris bowmaker once said, since you can find just about every model of bow that's ever been made in the work of the Tourte brothers at some point, from Peccatte to Tubbs to even Voirin, we are ALL Tourte school in the end! Your bow does not look French to me, and I think your idea about early 19thc. Mittenwald makes sense, although the button and brass reinforcing collar seem to be a later Markneukirchen style repair/replacement. I'm not sure a trip to Paris and the cost of a certificate for this one bow would be "paid for" by any increase in value or saleability you might get, not to mention that Raffin might say he can't certify this. He readily admits he's not an expert on German bows. If you have a few other bows to show him, and other business in Paris, that's another story.