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Michael Appleman

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  1. This makes me want to tell of a cello I know, owned and played by an excellent cellist I used to play with in a quartet. He had found it and bought it as an anonymous cello from a wealthy amateur's collection, and got some interesting speculative assessments from some of the world' top experts who thought it might be a "Rogerini," a unique example of Rogeri doing a Maggini-inspired cello. I recommended he do a dendro, and a test came back with a same tree match with a Parker! I thought he would be thrilled to be able to say he had a rare (if not unique) Parker cello, but in the end, he continues to mention in program blurbs that he plays a Rogeri...
  2. Strad violas are so rare, I wonder how many people have played enough of them to be able to give a general opinion about them? I did sit across from Paul Silverthorne for a while when he was using the Archinto, and of course in his hands, it sounded excellent, but if my memory serves me right, he was never entirely happy playing on it. I did prefer the sound he got from the giant A&H Amati he also got to use. As I mentioned in a recent post, I got to play on the Kux/Castelbarco, and I thought it was a top class concert instrument, neither hollow nor synthetic, and just enough fizz, especially on the C string.
  3. I just wanted to say thanks to Jason Price, Matthew Huber and the folks at Tarisio for organising a very enjoyable "highlights show" in Paris. A nice selection of instruments in a nice setting (former Mahler Library), in a relaxed atmosphere where everyone got to get close to and play on even the finest instruments on exhibit. If anyone is curious about the Kux/Castelbarco viola, I can't say I've played on any of the other Stradivari violas, but I have played on a bunch of Vuillaume violas, and this certainly doesn't sound like a Vuillaume. I was curious, because there was a young pro/advanced student type who was playing on it for a long time when I showed up, even launching into some Symphony Concertante with one of his buddies, and across the room it sounded pleasant, but I didn't feel like I was hearing anything that special. I finally got to try it out and I found it to be an excellent instrument, with a strong gutsy c-string and a nice, liquid-y a-string. I have no idea what kind of price it will fetch, since its history is quite colourful (viola d'amore converted to a viola by Vuillaume, back by Vuillaume, head by Brothers Amati, top and ribs by Strad), but I think serious violists should definitely give it a look. I thought I'd mention one observation. When I showed up, the doors had been open for only a half hour or so, but there was already a gaggle of young pro/advanced student types trying everything in sight. I like to look at the violins first, so by the time I picked up a bow and started playing on the fiddles, those young violinists had been giving all the fiddles a serious run through for about an hour. The Cremonses fiddles, the Gaglianos, the Venetians, all had been played on, but when I got to a starkly "Stainer-ish" violin (I'm having a doubt now whether it was a Gabrielli or a Tecchler), it obviously hadn't been tuned up or played on, yet, as though all those future Thibaud-Long competition contestants took one look at the high arching and short f-holes and passed on by...
  4. Interesting. I used a side mount mostly for 40 years, but switched to center mount when I found it made a huge improvement on a particlar violin I used to play. With most violins, I've never noticed much of a difference swapping chin rest types, but on this particular violin with a slab cut shell maple back the center mount rest really opened up the sound.
  5. That's an interesting set-up, Dwight! Who did that? Looks like the chinrest is attached to posts that go directly into the end-block, and the tail-piece and button are a unit of some sort. Like you, I've always been a sucker for boxwood fittings, and I usually set-up my violins that way, usually with Hill-style fittings, since I've always preferred that look. The violin I posted about was fitted full ebony, because that seems to be how the maker did it and I thought I'd leave it that way until I got that "heavy" feedback last month. The strings are the same ones that were on it before the switch, and I've tried to keep everything else as it was, but one can't rule out a tiny movement of the post while tensioning down and manipulating the fiddle during the peg fitment. Of course, the pegs probably haven't had much impact on the sound, and I initially tried the violin with just a tail-piece and chinrest swap, which gave the dramatic change in response. I did the pegs and end-pin because I found the violin didn't look right with mismatched fittings. Once fitted, the set of boxwood pegs are 4 grams lighter, though. When it comes to switching around tail-pieces and chinrests, I've found that there are some violins that seem to be hardly affected at all and others that change noticeably. Over the years, I've kind of come to the conclusion that a violin that's functioning well will do so no matter what you stick on it, and a "problem" fiddle will still have problems, just maybe slightly modified problems. I frankly wasn't expecting this violin to get that much easier to play, I was thinking in terms of making it seem less heavy to future potential buyers. Btw Dwight, is that Dave Holland in your profile picture with you?
  6. I'm sure this topic has been beaten to death over the years, but searching through the forum I mostly found "friendly advice" threads and after all, both sound and appearance are matters of very personal taste, so I thought I'd just share a personal anecdote. I have a violin that's mostly just been sitting around the last ten years or so. It's a middle of the 20th century italian with a good, loud, brilliant sound, but something about it's playability just made it less enjoyable to play on than other violins I have. It was basically a great fiddle to play loudly, but trying to do delicate piano passages felt like trying to dance with heavy boots on. Since I haven't used it much these last years, I thought I'd leave it on consignment at a friend's shop just before the summer. The reaction to the violin was pretty good, but a comment came back that in addition to feeling a bit "lethargic" in its response, it felt heavy. I took the violin home since my friend was closing up for the summer, and I checked the weight which was 515 grams with chin rest. On the heavier side, for sure, but not exactly a boat anchor. The violin was fitted out full ebony with what were probably the original fittings that came from the maker. The chinrest that was on the fiddle when I got it was even heavier than the ebony "Guarneri model" I had put on it. I decided to refit the violin with boxwood pegs, tailpiece, endpin and chinrest. The total weight savings is only 30 grams, but there is a noticeable difference when picking up the violin, as the single biggest difference is between the chinrests (still a "Guarneri model"), so the "lever effect" when picking up the violin by the neck amplifies that difference as well as the lighter taipiece and button. What has surprised me, however, is the difference in playability. I don't believe the basic sound of the violin has changed, much, but it's response is much quicker and it has become much easier and more enjoyable to play at lower and medium volume levels, making the violin feel overal more flexible and versatile. I really wasn't expecting such a dramatic difference, but at this point I feel like I'll be holding on to it and playing on it more often.
  7. There's nothing wrong with a flute-like sound, so long as that's not the only thing a violin can do. I think I wrote it once in another thread years ago, but my idea of a really good violin is one that feels like a mixing board where the player can dial in more or less flute, oboe, clarinette, trumpet or french horn at will, or as I sometimes describe it to my students, create different vowel sounds. Almost all violins can be coaxed into getting the sound one creates in one's head, with enough effort, but the most rewarding ones to play do it easily with a large range of volume, and some of the very best violins I ever played seemed to suggest timbres to me I hadn't even thought of! In the end, it's up to the player and the sounds he or she wants to get.
  8. I once brought up the name of Gregorio Antoniazzi in a discussion about a venetian looking violin with funky lower f-hole swings and an over-cut scroll eye like scroll no.2 above. I got a stearn reminder from Stefano Pio that this Antoniazzi seems to be another "made-up" luthier with a similar documentary history to Deconet! Among venetian makers, I'd feel fairly confident looking at a P. Guarneri, Tononi, Bellosio, and S. Seraphin, but when someone shows me Goffrillers, Montagnanas and Gobettis, I can only shrug and ask "what do the experts say?" I've seen such wildly different models and workmanship that I wouldn't dare to form an opinion on my own. Add to that the names like Tassini, Deconet and G. Antoniazzi that seemed to be re-sellers, if not out-right inventions, and the funkier makers like Busan and all the mysterious workmen that Stefano Pio has listed...I wish the "definitive" venetian makers book would come out, finally!
  9. I learned from a maker who worked in a big Mantuan shop that one of his last jobs before leaving ca. 1980 was to train a group of Sri Lankan workmen who were brought in to keep costs down...
  10. I personally know some people who worked for him and dealt with him whose opinions I do take seriously. At some point, the better fiddles will get seperated from the chaff, and we'll have a "body of work" that will be considered as "real Marios," (even if some of those were made by Sri Lankan outworkers...that would be the "dumbing down" you're talking about...) Seriously, the guys I know are pretty good about telling the Marios from the Sri Lankan outworkers...
  11. It's true that the name Mario Gadda has become radioactive for the last ten years or so since it has become general knowledge that he did so much fakery and that there are all sorts of "Gaddas" out there, but that sort of fear will probably be cyclical. There was a time when no one wanted to buy a Scarampella because buyers learned that many of the later ones were made by Gaetano Gadda (even with Scarampella's approval). In time, the market shook itself out, and fake Scarampellas were winnowed out, Gaetano Gaddas appreciated for what they are, and "real" Scarampellas going for higher prices. Some violinists I know actually prefer the sound of a good Gaetano. This violin looks good, and the edgework and corners look a lot like a violin I have that experts who knew Mario personally and even worked with him say is most likely a personal work of his (though labelled and branded as a late Gaetano...). If the sound of this violin pleases you, don't be scared away by the reputation of the maker, but don't pay too much for it! In 5 or 10 years, Mario Gaddas will probably stop being radioactive, but in the mean time, they're not as easy to sell as a lot of violins of similar quality.
  12. Jombar cellos can be excellent. I know of a principal cellist of one of the top US orchestras that's been using one as his main instrument for years. He's had the possibility of using and buying some of the top cellos in the world, but the Jombar keeps getting used regularly. I can also think of a top violin soloist who's name is associated with a couple of Strads and a Del Gesu, who made several recordings on his Jombar violin instead of his prized Cremonese stuff.
  13. I played the Greffuhle and the Spanish, back in the 1970's and the 1980's. Both struck me as excellent at the time.
  14. I'd be curious to learn what sort of malicious chatter was going on in the "dealerverse." Is Boyer not considered a heavy enough hitter to handle such a sale on his own?
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