Michael Appleman

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  1. Fiddles shmiddles! Look what we made today!

    Nice Alfa! I see body-coloured bumpers, but I don't see a hood bulge. Is that a 4 or a v6?
  2. French Viola 18th century.

    40cm violas are fairly unusual for the period, because the majority of violas being made around this time were smaller, not larger. Even into the 19th century, Vuillaume, Gand et. al. were making mostly 38cm violas, and I believe the Mittenwald, Viennese and Musikwinkel makers were also making more 38's than 40+'s. I've never played a Leclerc viola, but based on the violins I've seen, this could sound quite nice. One of my former students played one and got into a major orchestra using it.
  3. Kevlar taipiece attachment

    I got all excited by these when they first came out, and even started experimenting with all sorts of different tail chord materials, lengths, stiffness/flexibility combinations. I can't speak for 'cellos, but regarding violins, in the end, once the initial "that's neat" reaction was over, the only benefit I found was in slightly attenuating overly harsh sounding violins. On healthy, well-balanced fiddles, the added freedom of the tailpiece only made them fuzzier and weaker sounding. Some might call that "more complex" so to each their own, but I stopped using these a while ago.
  4. Any functioning self-rehairing bows left?

    If you're coming to Paris next week, Martin, let me know if you have time to meet up. As I have a couple of self-rehairers, I have discussed with the bow people here about making replacement hanks, and the usual idea is to prepare a hank, clamp it flat, then run it through a sewing machine to stitch it up. I've also got one that is a series of "mini" hanks with tiny knots to fit inside the brass tube, though that looks like the hard way to do it. I think Jerry's got a strong point in that the ferrule wedge is important to the feel of the bow and that makes easily replaceable hair an almost impossible dream. That said, even reviving the Vuillaume system in its simplest form (with a traditional moveable frog with a tube slot instead of the internal brass hair holder) could be a boon for players who live or travel too far away from professional bow re-hairers. I just wanted to get back to something, though, and that is the number of wooden Vuillaume self-rehairers I've seen that have split behind the head groove. If you take a look at the "re-converted" ones carefully, you usually find that the conversion was often done after the back of the head had split off. I believe, and the opinion of professional bow-makers would be interesting to have on this point, that this is a potentially fatal flaw with the idea.
  5. Any functioning self-rehairing bows left?

    Honda motorcycles? From the perspective of a Norton dealer in In the 1960's perhaps, but while the quaint 90cc step-throughs were starting to make inroads into the world market, Honda was winning Grand Prix titles, before going on to dominate sales world over. I doubt a De Jacques bridge has ever found its way onto a Strad, and while Vuillaume self-rehairing bows might have been used by some top violinists in their day, they certainly did not take over the market!
  6. Any functioning self-rehairing bows left?

    This is what most of the bow-making community I know here in France think about it. Vuillaume was crushing the independent bow-making shops by furnishing their own replacement hanks for their self-rehairing bows, so pressure was put on him to stop pushing the product, so they say. Another facter is longevity, as the heads of many of the wooden Vuillaume self rehairing bows would split behind the hair slot, and the ebony "outer" frogs were not that robust. I've got a couple metal self-rehairing bows and I'll post a picture of what often happens to the frog a little later.
  7. Top $$$ makers of all time

    I don't know if we should be thinking in terms of blame. There are good sounding, enjoyable to play instruments out there at relatively affordable prices. We don't all need to be playing on Strads or Vuillaumes. Let the billionaires, banks and foundations fight over the Strads, and let the orchestra members earning 6 figure salaries fight over the Vuillaumes, there are still plenty of excellent old and new fiddles out there, and I believe one can find a "professional" quality violin without paying the premium for a big name. Of course, that could mean having a harder time selling the thing the day you want something else, and if the maker isn't well known or sought after, the violin's value might not go up steadily. So, ease of resale can push some buyers towards the well-known names together with the hope that one day their instrument could also contribute to their pension fund. Those concerns could be as significant to the maintenance of this "inflationary" market as greed on the part of the Dealers.
  8. Top $$$ makers of all time

  9. Top $$$ makers of all time

    Hey everybody, let's not fall into that price vs. sound discussion! There are too many threads and posts on that in this forum already! Some of the people (or institutions) who can afford expensive violins do believe they have something in their sound, carrying power and playability that can't be found in less expensive ones, some just want to own beautiful, historical pieces of high artisanry. It's their money, and their willingness to buy them at those prices drives the market. Stainers are rare and not that highly sought after, so their prices are hard to track, but generally seem to lag behind the second tier of Italian fiddles if not the third. Maggini and DaSalo violins are also rare in good condition, and have generally lagged far behind the second and third tier, but violas are another matter. The Maggini market is also shook up by the dendro findings that show that some of the most highly regarded examples were made long after Maggini's death, so potential buyers can be wary. For non-Italian makers, there is a strange logic that's out of proportion with the top end of the market, and there are definitely "relative" bargains to be found. Lupots and Vuillaumes are plentiful (especially Vuillaumes) so their values are easy to track. As soon as you look at their assistants or successors, though, like Gand père and Bernardel père, the price drops precipitously, although their work is not that different from Lupot. In the case of the makers that worked for Vuillaume, it can be argued that they rarely tried to make violins to the same high standard after they left the big shop, but that means there are some happy violinists out there who've got Sylvestres, Maucotels, Barbés, etc for bargain prices. There are rare "outliers" with high reputations like Nemessanyi and Lott, and a sought after example can get similar prices, but, it's hard to assign a steady price range since the reliable transactions are rare. I think one could say the same thing for a maker like Parker. The ex-Kreisler example is pretty amazing, but real Parkers in good condition are rare, so it's hard to base the value of his work on one fiddle. One non-italian who regularly gets Gagliano-level prices is Contreras from Madrid. Guillamis from Barcelona are beautifully made, but don't come up to that price level, and the makers after the Contreras family in Madrid were either too quirky (Assensio) or rare (Ortega) to make a clear price range. Our German and Austrian based friends will be better versed on this than I am, but my sense is that despite the fact that many of the best makers from there were capable of the highest standards of workmanship, there aren't many German language area violins that fetch over 100k. I've seen Hellmers, Mausiels, Widhalms, Poschs, Geissenhoffs, Stadlmanns not to mention Buchstetters, that to me are in every way as interesting and compelling as French and Italian violins up to the 250k range, and I don't think any of them would fetch over 50k on a very good day in a very fancy shop, but I'd be happy to be wrong. Which German-sphere makers could hope to break 100k besides Stainer and Nemessanyi? Schweitzer? Alban? It can seem like a weird and illogical market, but it does have its own logic. If you're looking for a good sounding and playing violin for yourself, you don't necessarily have to look at any of these famous old makers.
  10. Top $$$ makers of all time

    This sort of question might seem trivial, since it kind of reduces violin making to labels and brands, but I do like making lists (a sign of mental disorder?), so who does one put in the top ten most expensive violin "makers" without taking into account individual violins and their particular qualities or problems? (talking violins, not cellos, that changes everything!) Well, you kind of have to put Carlo Bergonzi right up there with Strad and GDG. After that coming hard on their heels in the over 1mil group I'd think would be JB Guadagnini. Then in terms of price, maybe call them the 500k-1mil range (although the best ones are probably asking more) you've got the whole "orthodox" Cremonese school, all the Amatis, Joseph filius and Andrea Guarneri, and the Cremonese "off-shoots" the 2 Pietro Guarneris, and GB Rogeri. You'd probably have to put the best Venetians in this group so the best Montagnanas, and Gobettis, and maybe some of the best late Cremonese Michelangelo, Nicolo or Carlo II Bergonzis and Storionis. Ruggieris seem to come in a little less expensive than Amatis/Guarneris/Rogeris In the 250-500k group you get the more typical Venetians, Goffrillers, Seraphin(s) etc, the Mantuans (Camilli, Balestrieri) the better Neapolitans (Alessandro, Nicolo and Gennaro Gagliano), most of the funky late Cremonese, the Milanese (though the best early Grancinos could probably break into the higher bracket) and you start to get the 19thc makers, like Rocca, the best Pressendas, Lupot, and the best Vuillaumes. Just my trivial personal thoughts, and totally open to contestation by those who are actively buying and selling these things, instead of just borrowing, playing and studying them.
  11. Berlioz, Paganini and the biggest viola you’ll ever see!!

    Bravo Ben, for your research and documentation! I never meant to suggest it was a simple thing, but I do remember reading that Paganini did not seek out Berlioz to write "Harold" for him. There was a society of subscribers who sought out Paganini to "front" for them as they wished to make a paid commission for Berlioz, and Paganini was rather lukewarm about the whole thing from the beginning. I'd have to do some digging to get to the primary sources, and I'm afraid I don't have the time to do that this month, but I'll let you know if I have a chance to do the research. I don't mean for a moment, though, to take away from the exceptional nature of this instrument. I concur that it is stupendous, and it has a bottomless bass quality to the sound! On the otherhand, I wouldn't want to play "Harold" on it, because despite the breaks in the ribs, it is a handful to use the upper positions! Then again, Paul Silverthorne was using the humongous Amati when I was playing in the LSO, so there are surely some brave souls out there that would take on that challenge!
  12. Berlioz, Paganini and the biggest viola you’ll ever see!!

    Ben, I'm really grateful to have had the chance to see and try that instrument last time I came by to see you in London. It's quite remarkable! I did mention to you my skepticism about your Paganini link and Harold business, as the whole Harold commission was a sort of ploy to get some money to poor Berlioz when he wasn't earning much by well meaning friends, and the Paganini connection was a bit of a sham, in order to disguise the source of the money. Regarding the "Gran Viola," wasn't that just Paganini enthusiastic over finding his Strad viola? In any case, it's a wonderful instrument and a great piece of music, so carry on! I mentioned my early 20th century Letellier "violon au sons graves" with its deep ribs and viol-like tapered ends and I'd been meaning to send you some photos. The instrument was meant to be strung an octave below the violin, (I got mine with its original case, strings and brochure) and there seems to be a tradition in the French litterature that tenors were strung that way, although English sources seem to dispute this. Here's a quick side view next to a "normal" viola:
  13. Bonmusica Shoulder Rest?

    I like the idea of the "shoulder hook" on the Bon Musica shoulder rest, but I had a bad experience with one that slipped during a concert and scratched the rib of my Gagliano! I put it on the shelf after that, but one day I had a chance to buy a job lot of replacement Bon Musica shoulder hooks. I tried attaching one to a Kun with velcro so I could knock it all down to fit easily in my case, and that's what I've been using ever since.
  14. Gabriel David Buchstetter

    I've read in certain sources that Buchstetter made "Stainer-inspired" violins before adopting the "Long-Strad" style model, and it seems Gabriel David was at least the second if not the third generation of Buchstetters making violins. That said, so far I haven't come across one that passed muster with Jacob Saunders, and I have great respect for his knowledge and experience. I exchanged with Rainer Leonhardt about this violin, but he would only refer me to the certificate and wouldn't answer any questions about interior construction or other details that could link this particular violin to what I've learned about Buchstetter's work.
  15. The violin looks quite nice, to me. The button makes me think it's more than just a Mirecourt trade fiddle, although the slightly "plain" looking varnish (at least in the photos) makes one think of the plainer JTL models as opposed to the fancier Collin-Mezins. The quality of the edge work, the scroll, the button and the gentle fluting of the FF's make me wonder if this isn't more like the type of violin Hills were selling made by French makers in their employ. Have you had a good look inside (through the end pin hole, for instance) to see if there are any brand marks or signatures?