Michael Appleman

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  1. 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.
  2. In my experience Raffin doesn't like to certify "Cramer" bows of this type, unless they are clearly by NL Tourte. This one doesn't look much like a Tourte, nor a French bow for that matter, so I think it would just get a shrug from him.
  3. Makes me think of Scarampellas some 40 years ago, when dealers, collectors and even players kept shoving them at me telling me I should be liking this, and I couldn't figure out what was so special about these shrieky, hard to play boxes. About 20 years ago, I started coming across Scarampellas that played more like fine 18thc italian violins. Maybe I only tried mediocre ones before, or maybe they got "played in" in the mean time, or maybe...
  4. I just opened a copy and re-read the passage on "Joseph Gouarnère" (sic) and to be more precise, he compliments the brilliance of Del Gesus on the top strings, but describes the G-string as dry and almost un playable, criticizing Del Gesu for sacrificing roundness or depth for brilliance. He does go on to say that there is a growing minority of players who prefer Del Gesus to Strads (even in his day!), and flatly concludes it's a matter of personal taste.
  5. If you've read the Abbé Sibire book, "La Chelonomie, ou le parfait luthier" you have an insight into what Lupot might have thought about Del Gesus, since the book is basically a transcription of Lupot's ideas about violin making. There's a passage where Del Gesus get trashed for sounding harsh in the high registers, due to the tops being too thick, and that in order to bring out their potential, they had to be brought down to Strad-like thicknesses. The book was published in 1806, so that gives a snapshot of what one of the top violin makers of the day thought about these fiddles a couple of decades before Paganini became a continent-wide star.
  6. The varnish, the "swirly" Amati inspired f-holes and something about the scroll make me think pre 1750 if not pre 1730. The thick craquelled red stuff started disappearing in Paris makers ca. 1730 according to JF Schmidt. I came across something like this in a friend's shop here, and he was thinking like you, Martin, 2nd half of the 18thc. while I had a hunch it was earlier. I'll check in with him to see what Rampal finally said.
  7. That long-Strad model Hardie is a fabulous fiddle!
  8. Old French, I'd say. Something like what's usually called Boquay school.
  9. It's interesting to note the contrast between players' and dealers' viewpoints in this thread. Players generally don't get to try that many examples of a given maker, often only one, and based on the impression from that instrument often either aren't interested in trying others or go out searching for one by that maker for themselves. Dealers on the other hand are used to the idea that playing qualities can vary a great deal between different instruments from the same maker or shop, and are experienced with the sometimes fickle nature of players who can sometimes fall in love with one violin and reject another for reasons that can be difficult to fathom. The case of Cuypers is interesting since it was brought up. The first one I ever came across was amazing, standing up to and even surpassing a really good Nicolo Gagliano head to head. That one was already in the hands of a good violinist and was definitely not for sale. Having played over a dozen Cuypers since, I can say that the first one was exceptionally good, and although I've seen others I wouldn't mind having to play on, I haven't come across another I'd actually want to own. When it comes to English makers, I've come across many individual violins that I'd be happy to own and play on, but I have simply not been able to try enough Lotts, Vollers or Parkers to be able to say "these violins sound like this." Panormos, second generation included, are always very interesting, and I've played at least one Joseph Hill that was excellent. Many "punched above their weight" price wise, like early 20th century Hills or Wulmes. I'd love to try more Fendts and Dodds and if north of the wall is included, Hardies and Stirrats.
  10. Sad would be a nicer description than "megalomaniac" which is how my wife described it...
  11. I got very interested in this subject some 10-15 years ago, when I first got wind of what Badiarov was up to. I wanted to be able to play cello parts, especially for recordings in my home studio, without having to re-learn everything to play an actual cello. I started out by buying a 1/16 size cello and trying to play it with a strap (after taking out the end pin, of course!). It was an interesting experiment, but there were some serious limitations in terms of playability and sound, owing to the fact the instrument wasn't designed to be played that way, and it was a cheap student instrument to begin with. I was motivated to find out more, and started investigating what sort of historical precedents there might be as well as trying to design something more useable. As far as historical precedents, there just aren't any clear-cut examples of historical violoncelli da spala that have come down to us in original form, having been used as such over the years, tuned c-g-d-a (or 5 string). There is iconographic evidence of larger viola-type instruments being played this way, including things we'd call a cello being played "guitar-style" with an underhand bow coming up from underneath. Of course, there are several fascinating "tenor" type instruments, and although it's often still debated, it seems logical, and there's enough documentary description, to assume that they were often tuned an octave below the violin, g-d-a-e, not just used as oversized violas. There's one in the Paris museum that's particularly interesting, with an extra long neck that really begs for more study. I also discovered that over the years, there have been multiple attempts to revive this sort of instrument in many different countries, and I settled about 10 years ago on a "Violon à Sons Grave" patented by a certain Monsieur Letellier in France at the beginning of the 20th century for my neck cello duties. It uses the same "trick" I later saw in an old English tenor at Ben Hebbert's place, viol style breaks at either end of the back to get more rib-depth in the middle, but keep the instrument playable in "violin position." I have found two main problems with any neck-cello type of instrument. The first is accessibility of higher positions, since greater rib-depth makes it uncomfortable to get above the 4th position. Badiarov got around that by making his a 5-string, and the Banks and Letellier (and some others I've found) did it with a viol-style break. The second is much tougher to deal with, since it's the nature of the beast: getting a low sounding string with such a small string length. Without enough mass, the c-string, if you want to get down that low, will be too loose and intonation will be unpredictable with a fuzzy, nasal sound. With enough mass to get it up to tension, the string will feel like a truck towing cable under your fingers, and you're still left with an instrument body that doesn't seem optimised for frequencies that low. In the end, I still use my neck-cello at times for fun and to study the cello parts in chamber pieces I'm preparing for teaching or performing, but if I ever get back to multi-tracking chamber music, I'm just going to get a real cello and spend some time learning to play it.
  12. Again, this is one anecdotal case concerning one bow and one player, so I don't want to suggest this is some sort of universal truth. I wrote that it got better "for my use" and I can imagine that someone else might have preferred it with its originale frog. For me, with this bow, the softer attack at the frog was not "lost." I could still get it at will with flexibility in my fingers, and strong attacks were available without the ferrule the same way strong attacks at the tip are available where there's no ferrule. What I gained was greater ease with precise, pianissimo attacks and bow changes at the frog, the feeling that the bow was a direct extension of my fingers and that I could feel what the string was doing in a more precise way. The bow gained in precision, not power or harshness. To complete the story, I should perhaps explain that the bow in question is a ca.1780 NL Tourte that was certified as a viola bow because of its weight and size. It is definitely heavier than most of the violin bows they were making at that time which seem to range from 48-56 grams in general. This bow came in at 65 grams (with either frog, of course, the replacement was made to have the same mass as the original) but its balance and stiffness/flexibility characteristics made it work fantastically with both violins and violas. The first time I used it in a concert was to play the Messiaen "Quartet for the End of Time" and if you know that piece, you know the last movement is a monstrous challenge of sustaining incredibly long notes and hiding bow changes. That concert convinced me I HAD to have this bow as it sustained and staid glued to the string like nothing I had ever owned. I continued using it with its original frog for a year or more, playing everything from solo Bach to "l'Histoire du Soldat" on it and I got a kick playing 20th century music in public with an 18th century bow. Putting a replacement frog on it was not really about improving it, but preserving the old ivory frog, button and screw, and my bowmaker was dubious about making a frog with a ferrule since the bow worked so well aith an open frog. In the end we went ahead with a ferrule out of curiosity, and the result, for me, on this particular bow, was an improvement.
  13. I'm sure there were some who preferred the more "forgiving" nature of the open trench frogs and others who preferred the more precise controle of bows with ferrules then as today. I'm always a bit sceptical about the notion that players and tastes were so radically and uniformly different at a certain time compared to today. If one looks at the whole range of playing styles today, even among players who only use post 1800 style equipment (I hate to use the term "modern" since what we refer to as modern is really a 200 year old spec) you can find every kind of combination of articulation/sustain/tone colour combination, depending on the players' taste and technical command. I have trouble imagining that there was some sort of uniformity among string players at a certain time in history, that they all played with a certain style of articulation for instance. In the end, I believe there's nothing one can do with one type of bow that one can't do with the other. Our results depend on our conception of sound and articulation more than the characteristics of our equipment.
  14. I think it might be over-simplifying things to say that bows worked "very well" before ferrules. Among both types of bows there are lighter and heavier, softer and stiffer, brighter and warmer sounding, better sustainers and better bouncers. In short, there are bows that "work very well" and bows that don't in both categories. I have had the experience of owning and playing a very, very "well working" bow with its original open frog as well as a modern ferrule-equipped replacement I commissioned. The bow was already a dream to use as an open trench bow, and I could have continued to use it that way just fine, but since I wanted to preserve its over 200 year old ivory frog from possible damage I had a new one made and I was curious if adding a ferrule would change its characteristics. With the ferrule, the bow became even better for my use of it, more precise and controllable at the frog, a greater range of available articulations in the lower half. It wasn't a night and day difference, just more precise and confidence inspiring for all sorts of repertoire, from Bach to Contemporary music. Of course, this is just one anecdotal story, about one bow and one violinist, but it helped me see how the ferrule became the norm, and why quality sticks gradually stopped being fitted with open frogs.
  15. I'll see if I have a photo I can upload. When you look at ca. 1750-1790 open frogs, you sometimes see a bump or lip on the upper side of the hair extension. It's often assumed that this is just an ornamental thing, a little decoration, but I've come across some old frogs in fairly untouched condition with a bit of gut string, or in a couple of cases, a wire twisted to act like a ferrule and keep the ribbon of hair from jumping out of the channel. There's no slide involved nor traces of a mortice for a slide in the hair channel. of course it's impossible to know if these "proto-ferrules" date from the original period of the bows, but some frogs have bumps at the end and some don't, and it would make sense that the bumps served a purpose.