Michael Appleman

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  1. Michael Appleman

    Some pics from the old days at Jacques Francais

    Great photos! It's always fascinating to see the talent gathered in a big shop, and to imagine how they worked together before heading out on their own. Interesting to see the Greffuhle getting a new neck. I wonder if this was before or after it came up for sale at Sotheby's? If the photo is from June or later, that would probably be after the sale. That was a long time ago, but I remember playing on it then, and I don't remember any issues about the elevation or solidity of the neck. I don't remember any issues about the sound either, but the old Frenchies always seemed to see neck corrections and bassbar replacements as necessarily going together, unthinkable to do one without the other. I got to play on it again years later when Axelrod lent it with the "Spanish" to the Tokyo quartet, and it was as I remembered it, all-around excellent, warm, deep and powerful. Sitting in a collection didn't seem to have hurt it...
  2. Michael Appleman

    Drilling string holes in pegs

    The OP seemed to find the question of aligning the pegheads interesting, and I just wanted to say that for a working violinist (without geared pegs) it's pretty important to have the heads aligned so that tuning is as easy and as "ergonomic" as possible. That's not a matter of what angle the string hole is drilled, though, it's just a simple matter of adjusting the amount of string wound on the peg. A few millimetres more or less and one can get the heads angled so that it's easier to grasp them and cradle the peg box for counter pressure. Of course, as new strings stretch, it may become necessary to re-adjust, but personally I take that into account when I install my strings.
  3. Michael Appleman

    Violin ID please

    Um...the no. 8 in the label is the street address, not the number of the violin. The violin looks french, but as Martin pointed out, not as "fine" as one might expect from a typical Thibout, but that could be just an artefact of the photos, or revarnishing. I would agree though that it looks more like a better quality Mirecourt from the period (early-mid 1800's) and might have been supplied to the Thibout shop. I've got something that looks quite similar, though a Maggini model, and it looks outwardly quite nice, very close to what the best Paris shops were doing at the time (Gand, Bernardel et al) but just falls short in finish and varnish. The mention "luthier du Roi" on th OP label is interesting as is the fact that it's missing from the 1835 label cited by Dilworth. Sylvette Millot's super books on Lupot and his contemporaries should shed some documentary evidence on the subject. I have some notions, but I don't want to circulate shaky suppositions when solid information is available. I'll look it up when I get a chance. BTW, the "Nouveau procédé" (new production process) mentioned on the Dilworth label refers to a funky (and chunky) way of constructing the rib garland (on an outside mold, I presume) which ends up with thick rib miitres capped with ebony.
  4. Michael Appleman

    French Cornerblockology

    Jacob, if I may humbly contribute some thoughts about this superbly restored fiddle...despite living knee-deep among French fiddles for the last 27 years, I too have a lot of difficulty distinguishing between the Vuillaume disciples on the one hand (i.e. Derazey, Maucotel, Sylvestre, barbé et. al.) and the Gand/Bernardel workmen on the other, although between the two schools it's a bit easier because of their varnishing tendencies. There are subtle "tells" in certain details, but on the whole they were so uniform and consistent (academic regarding their models and methods, I'd say) that what usually earns them their certificate is the presence of internal brands and signatures. It's no surprise that whenever one brings a fiddle to Rampal, he goes straight to his probe camera and pokes around inside! I don't think your violin is a Derazey, a. because if it were it would be signed even if it were early, and signed and branded if it were later and b. he was using an outside mold and often making his inside work "look" as though it had been made on an inside mold. That seems to be something common to both the Vuillaume disciples and the Lupot/Gand/Bernardel followers. The blocks on first built on the back method was being used by the earlier Strad copyists, like Aldric, Pique and Bassot, carrying on the techniques of their predecessors, and was also carried on by Mirecourt and sundry isolated makers. Your violin could be something earlier than you seem to be thinking, along the lines of an Aldric. I fear you're going to have to hold your nose and make a visit to Rampal for it. If you do, let me know and I'd love to buy you a drink or invite you to a meal!
  5. Michael Appleman

    Does anyone NOT build Strad? And if not, why?

    Don, I think you've summed up the question quite precisely. If I might bring a personal thought to the exchange, I think we might be losing some perspective when we limit ourselves to thinking in terms of specific "models." Of course it's both reassuring and probably necessary to start with an existing successful model as a baseline, and if we face the constraint of having to sell our work to not necessarily well informed players, it can be a help to be able to say "this is a .... model." Personally, though, I found a huge inspiration in the articles Roger Hargrave started writing in the 1980's about the Cremonese "method," and when I got "back into" violin making as my main hobby nearly 20 years ago, trying to approach the process "inside out," the mold being the only thing fixed, rather than "outside in," the final result must look like a Strad or a Del Gesu, made the whole process a lot more fun and creative for me. I've only ever used one violin mold, traced off the Kreisler DG poster, but I've found that that tracing can basically yield anything from an "Amati model" to a "late Bergonzi" depending on how I wish to treat the corner block shapes, overhangs, arching, f-holes etc. I am lucky that I've had access to a lot of interesting high-end fiddles, so I've got some pretty clear ideas of how I want mine to turn out, and I've had lots of fun "mixing and matching," for instance basically taking a wide, low Del Gesu-ish arching and sticking Amati style f-holes on it. That was inspired by a late Hieronymus Amati II that a friend of mine used to play on, which was very much that but with a Strad-ish outline to boot!
  6. Michael Appleman

    Does anyone NOT build Strad? And if not, why?

    Just about everything in a Stainer is "Italian," from his inside mold construction to his nailed on neck to his varnish. If you can find Roger Hargrave's article on a pristine un-modernized Stainer, you get a pretty clear idea of how Stainer's work differed so radically from just about anything else that didn't come from Cremona at that point in time. One mustn't forget that the things we commonly think of as "German" characteristics came from later makers, many of whom much later. It might be better to think about what features in Stainers are more "Amati-like," (build method, outline, internal back pins, arching, scroll) or more "Ruggieri-like" (purfling, lack of external pins,) or more "Stainer-like" (f-holes, pegbox).
  7. Michael Appleman

    Does anyone NOT build Strad? And if not, why?

    Back in the 1980's I had a great professional relationship with a gifted maker based in NY. I've mentioned in older posts that I played on one of his violins for over 20 years and it served me extremely well, but I've never mentioned his name as he seems to have gone "off the grid" and I don't know if he would want me mentioning him on here. Suffice to say, he was trained in Mittenwald and worked at Français' before striking out on his own to focus on making new violins. I met him through David Nadien who had a couple of his violins, which says something about the quality of his work and the sound potential. Oh yes, he also won a VSA gold medal for tone at some point. He was basically making excellent Del Gesu models, some a bit more Canon inspired, others more Ysaye like, with deep channels, long hooked corners, and very expressive scrolls. Mine was fairly Cannon-like for the body, but the scroll was a bit "squinty Lafont" like, with neat spoke-like gouge marks in the turns. He didn't antique his varnish and the violin was made quite neatly, with just enough "freedom" to not look like something from a factory. At one of my visits, he showed me a fiddle he had just finished, and it was a well made, cleanly executed Strad model. He complained to me that he was just, after decades of restoring real Strads and Del gesus and making sought after DG copies, starting to feel like he could pull off a Strad model with which he could feel satisfied. The discipline and control necessary to pull it off to his own high standard, without getting the asceptisized "French look" were so different and so much more demanding than the freedom with which he could make DG's, that he said he didn't get the same pleasure making the Strad copy. Did his Strad model sound totally different from his Del Gesu models? He was fairly consistent with the sound of his violins by that time, and they all had good quality, volume and range. Some were brighter, some darker, but I wouldn't say there was a radical difference between this one Strad model and the dozen or so DG models of his that I had played. It was on the brighter side of his work, but I would have been perfectly happy playing on it instead of my slightly darker DG model. It's surely a mistake to draw generalities from anecdotal experiences, but based on the rather large number of violins I've played on in my lifetime, I wonder if we might infer too much direct correlation between "models" and sound?
  8. Michael Appleman

    Need help with info inside the violin

    Good post, Dabenno. You sum things up pretty well, although I once got flack for using a Hyundai analogy...I thought I'd add one thing, though. Although this violin looks like a decent Markneukirchen trade fiddle, it would be a mistake to describe it or think of it as a "Bergonzi replica" or copy in any way. It's not. It just has a Bergonzi label stuck in it. Think of it as the difference between a Japanese made Squier Stratocaster and taking one of those earlier weird Japanese electric guitars that didn't look anything like a Stratocaster and sticking a Fender decal on it. The first could be called a Fender replica or copy, but the second just has a label stuck on it.
  9. Michael Appleman

    Violin ID

    I recently saw something similar, perhaps a slightly higher grade, in the hands of a student whose grandmother had bought the violin new from the shop of Aubry in Le Havre in the 1920's. I really couldn't tell if the violin came from Mirecourt or Markneukirchen. The methods, style and details became so close in that period that I'm hard pressed to tell them apart. What would you be looking for, Jacob?
  10. Michael Appleman

    Violin or viola transitional bow?

    Martin, thanks for the glowing endorsement! I 'd like to use it as a preamble for all my future posts! I didn't feel the need to intervene about the OP bow or older model bows in general as everything you'd been posting is certainly inline with my understanding on the matter. As a matter of fact, if I've been posting less frequently here it's in large part because I feel like between yourself, BF, JS and the other regulars, there's not much I could add that would be of interest. From what I've seen and gleaned from the "bow masters" over the years, it would be unwise to be dogmatic about dates, weights and lengths, as many assumptions made over the last century or so since "early music" practices went from the amateur drawing room to full conservatory departments and university research faculties have been overturned when documentary evidence was found. One example is a Cramer type Tourte I have that had been certified to ca 1750-60 before the "Quinze-Vingts" stamp and the dates during which the Tourte brothers were renting there came to light. Now the bow is considered ca 1770-80. I thought I'd mention one thing about l'Archet, which is the "Bible" when it comes to French bows starting from the Tourte family. Bernard Millant was never very enthusiastic about the first part of Volume I, which is why he always autographed copies for friends in the second book. Comprends qui veut (ou comprends qui peut)...
  11. Michael Appleman

    Violin or viola transitional bow?

    Please feel free to disagree! There are absolutely no consequences from it for you, and my ego does not need for you to accept that I might have a bit more knowledge and experience on the subject than you. The internet is a wonderful thing, since anyone can post whatever they want and pose as someone knowledgeable. On this forum, however, there are several regulars who do have a great deal of professional knowledge and experience, so if some of them try to correct or re-direct when a tyro posts something misguided, it's for the benefit of those who are sincerely interested, not those who wish to win an argument.
  12. Michael Appleman

    Violin or viola transitional bow?

    Straight answer: whichever he wants it to be. Violin bows from that time could be as light as 45 grams with hair, so the OP bow could have been originally made to be a viola bow, but it might just as well have been made for a violinist who wanted a heavier bow.
  13. Michael Appleman

    Violin or viola transitional bow?

    The description "archet de violon/alto" is used with no shady intentions by bow appraisers/experts here in France. It merely designates bows that fall between the usual expected parameters of weight and frog/head height that usually categorize violin and viola bows. There are bows from every period, baroque, classical, romantic and 20th century that fall in that grey zone, and can be used on either instrument if that's what the user wants to do. For a "modern" post 1800 bow, something weighing 64-67 grams might fall in that grey zone, and that terminology might be used for a 65 gram bow with a high frog, or a 66 gram bow with a lower one. The shape of the frog has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with it! Rounded violin frogs have been used all along as have square viola frogs. Personally, for a long time I used a 66 gram ca.1785 L. Tourte viola bow as my main violin bow, and when I passed it to violists to try, they adored it as a viola bow, too. BTW, that bow was described as a viola bow in its certificate, but I could imagine that if it were from a lesser maker or unidentified, the expert might have described it as a "violon/alto."
  14. Michael Appleman

    Franz Simon, Salzburg & Johann Gandl Ramsau

    Thanks Jacob! In your fascinating post about Buchstetter, you suggested he might have origins in the Salzkammergut, I presume with some link to this rare combination of inside mold with through-neck construction. Could you expand on that if you have any other reasons, please? Also, I believe either Roger Hargrave or John Dilworth wrote in a Strad article way back that Anton Posch came from Goisern, as opposed to the usual Fussen origin for all those Viennese makers. Any thoughts on that?
  15. Michael Appleman

    Funny fine tuner

    With a plain gut e string, it's not necessary, but with a steel e string, solid or wound, it's pretty indispensable. A simple solid peg simply turns too much too fast to be able to tune a steel string precisely, since it is so much less elastic than gut or synthetic cored strings. Modern geared pegs like the Wittners do ok without a tuner.