Michael Appleman

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  1. Hey Gennady, this list is neat! You could add Ludwig Spohr as a Tourte owner. He mentions his bows in his memoires. Also for Isaac Stern, one of his favourite bows was an Henry that got broken in a recital, but that he continued to use after it was repaired.
  2. Thinking of Don Noon's posts, and David Burgess' admission that he hasn't tried every possibility, yet, reminds me of how many variables are being juggled by violin makers and how many lifetimes it would take to actually try all the possible combinations of arching, thickness, wood stiffness, mass etc. In the end, we gather as much anecdotal information as we can and fiddle around at the edges of the things we've found that work, don't we? My little anecdote to add to the pile, for whatever it's worth, is that last year I made a fiddle with a 12mm arch that prompted me to post some questions about overstand/neck projection compromises on low-arched violins, as sticking with a standard overstand gave me a disturbingly flat string break angle, and while the violin had a pleasant sound, it was darker than I liked. After a little experiment to see what increased string break might do (involving tying down the tailpiece) I decided to re-set the neck to get a 158-160° angle (though that gave me quite a high bridge). That improved the tone considerably, and made the violin usable in a pro setting to my ears, at least for tone quality and projection. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a wolf-monster! I'm used to playing some fine fiddles with wolves, and having to avoid c5 on the g-string is a small compromise if the rest of the fiddle sounds great, but on this fiddle, ALL the c5's would wolf, d-string and a-string, and even the c6 on the e-string a little bit! I made a new top for it last January, with a 17mm arch, and the violin's doing fine, today. I've been thinking of course that with a different piece of wood, that 12mm arch might have worked better, or with different thicknesses, or a different profile descending towards the edge, but again, so many variables! As I admitted in my post about the overstand/projection question, that low arch was a bit of an improvisation after a bit of over-zealous roughing out, not a reasoned experiment, but the experience doesn't make me too impatient to try it again when my usual arching height/profile gives me fairly predictable results.
  3. Unfortunately true! Thinking about the time I bought a carefully re-labelled and branded Réghin type violin from a junk dealer shortly after moving to France nearly 30 years ago made me think about some fundamental differences between the fiddle trade in Europe and in the US, at least as it was when I was growing up. It's hard to imagine, now, but back in the 1970's, after William Ganshirt retired and before Horst Kloss (and later Andy Weinstein) moved to town, there was not one real professional violin maker working in Boston. It seemed not only normal, but that the only way to "hunt for fiddles," was to make the rounds of various junk dealers (calling themselves "antique" dealers, but that label means something quite different in Europe) and pawn shops to see what they might have scrounged up since our last visit. My father's strategy was to buy a couple cheap trade fiddles each time, in order to stay on the junk dealers' good side in case something really interesting ever turned up. We even had arrangements with some of them to fix up their broken fiddles or rehair their bows in order to have first dibs on anything interesting. That was how things were done in a town where there simply weren't any professional shops around, and I think this sort of mentality prevails in many areas around the world where real violin shops are rare. When I first started coming to Europe to play concerts in the 1980's, I did what I grew up doing in the States, that is pop into any antique shop, junk shop or pawn broker I might pass to ask if they had any violins. At first I found it odd that the shop owners would look at me as though I were crazy, but after a while I figured out that concerning violins especially, things work quite differently here. There is a caste of "scroungers," who roam from estate sale to estate sale and flea market to flea market looking for anything they might be able to sell wholesale on the Rue de Rome (or now, apparently to overly optimistic Ebay bidders), but there is a long standing tradition of both professional violin shops in almost every medium sized town and state controlled or sanctioned auction houses to handle estate sales etc. in every town, so there really isn't a viable "junk shop/flea market" side to the fiddle business. Families that have an old violin they want to sell will generally bring it to a professional violin shop or their local auction house where a court appointed expert will estimate it for auction, or if it's a valuable violin, call in a bigger expert like Rampal. (the UK is probably less reglemented than continental Europe for this sort of thing, but the tradition of going to an auction house is certainly ingrained, I imagine) In fact, a friend of mine who opened up a shop on the rue de Rome a few years ago admitted to me that what made the rent worth paying was the traffic of people stopping in every hour or so with a violin to sell. I just thought I'd post this thought, both to help some MN'ers from the other side of the Atlantic to understand why some of the Europeans might seem so dismissive of their queries, and to help the Europeans understand why so many Western Hemisphere posters seem so intent on throwing their money away.
  4. The books by Sylvette Millot are seriously researched and the information about the dealings, successions and living conditions of makers is thoroughly documented. What's a bit disappointing in the earlier books is the dearth of analysis of making techniques and styles, but that was never her thing, she's not a maker/restorer/expert, but a historian. Her latest book(s) about Lupot and his followers and contemporaries is better in that regard. I haven't bought one, yet, as they are expensive and I'm not really "into" french violins, but this looks like a must-have if one is dealing in them from what I've seen looking at friends' copies. There are several pretty picture books like the series by Le Canu, but those are the opposite of the earlier Millot books, great fiddle pictures, no biographical (or technical) information at all.
  5. Heads like these often show up on decorated French violins, of the "Duiffopruggar" type. We had one in my dad's "collection" with very fine marquetry and decorative work with what looked like a real Collin-Mézin signature inside, which would have placed it around the same time as Joseph Hel. If this violin was indeed made by Hel for a friend, he could have ordered a head like this from Mirecourt and stuck it on.
  6. This is a fun sport, trying to separate late 19th-early 20thc. French and Turin violins! I once got to look over Eric Blot's shoulder as he examined a violin I was sure was French and that he proclaimed Turin school. One of the problems is that since the early 19thc., Mirecourt makers set up shop in Turin and influenced the way local makers worked for the rest of the century, and the big Turin shops continued to buy their cheap stuff from Mirecourt, often finishing and varnishing white violins as well. Concerning the "lesson" Blot gave me, among the features that made the violin he was looking at Turin school were details such as shorter purfling mitres in the corners and a certain type of craquelure in the varnish, two features absent from this violin, but in the end the only way to pin down an answer would be to contact him, or perhaps Dimitry Ghindin.
  7. It's one of those features that the "old-time experts" would share in private discussion (D'Attili, Beare, Vatelot, Schmidt et. al.) and the first time I can remember it being written about in public was in Roger Hargrave's article about a pristine Stainer in the Strad many years ago. It seems many Ruggieris got pins added over the years in order to "Amati-ize" them.
  8. I see some replaced bits, but I'm not sure I see fading of the blacks. I do see creaky splits in the blacks, which if you've ever tried to bend ebony purfling, might seem familiar...
  9. Interestingly about the pins, the Ruggieri family were one of the only Cremonese shops that didn't seem to use pins in the back, originally, something that finds an echo with Stainer as well as the purfling whites which seem to be a little different from the usual Cremonese poplar. Most of the pins one sees in Ruggieris seem to be later additions.
  10. The way the ribs meet is very interesting! Straight up the middle with two thick ribs could of course be Saxon Dutzenarbeit, but it also applies to certain old schools of making, and there are old Brescian and Milanese violins that look like this. This violin should be shown to someone serious in person.
  11. AtlVcl, I think you're missing the point. The last person who thought this cello was a Ruggieri and was willing to put it on paper was Joseph Settin in 1938. He was a respected maker, but I don't believe his legacy was that of a great expert who's papers carry much weight today, like an old Hill or Wurlitzer certificate might. No one has certified it as such since then. If someone was willing to, they would have, since there's either a hefty mark up or a good percentage fee to be made, and any owner or seller would have tried their best to get that paper. The best anyone could do was a "follower of Ruggieri" paper from a guy who I don't believe ever considered himself a big-time expert certifier. Who inherited D'Attili's "mantle?" There was a thread on who the respected experts are in the US these days over on the Pegbox, and you could take a look at that. Basically, Reuning, Warren and Kass (and Mr. Holmes) in no particular order, with of course JA Beare over in England being the doyen for old Italian instruments. With the "attributed to" and the old papers, I think there is a "seeding" of the idea that this is something really good flying under the radar, but it's up to the potential buyers to think carefully about it. Maybe this is a great sounding and playing 'cello, in which case it could be a bargain for a player if it stays in a decent price range. If it IS a Ruggieri flying under the radar, rest assured that the big dealers are on to it, and if more than one of them is confident they can certify it and sell it as such, the bids will mount. I once experienced a "sleeper" at a Christies auction back in the 1980's. I was sure I was looking at a late Bergonzi, and the estimate was enticing in the 15-20k range. I let it pass at the high estimate, but a week later found it hanging up at D'Attili's house for a certificate. I cursed myself because I might have scrounged 25k back then, but a few months later I ran into the guy who bought it, a professional dealer who "consoled" me by telling me he would have gone up to 80k if I had tried to bid against him...
  12. Richard Oppelt is (or at least was, I haven't been in touch with him since the late 1980's) a top class maker who studied in Mittenwald before joining the Français/Morel shop and later setting up on his own to concentrate on making. (he did win some VSA competition gold medals for tone, if I remember right) Despite having a lot of hands-on experience repairing/restoring old master instruments, I don't believe he ever considered himself an "expert," and this is the first time I've ever seen a "certificate" of any sort from him. I'd point out that he doesn't say this cello IS a Ruggieri, but that it's by a "follower" of Ruggieri, and that it had in his opinion a certain "replacement value." In other words, this is more of an insurance valuation than a certificate and should be seen in light of the other document, a letter from 1938 in which Joseph Settin gives his opinion that the cello is by Ruggieri. I remember Richard as the sort of guy who would, when shown a potentially authentic old Italian instrument, would explain what he was seeing and send the owner to someone like D'Attili, who was the "big" expert at that time. I can imagine him doing this paper to placate an owner who kept insisting "but what about the Settin letter?!!"
  13. I've seen different qualities of German bows stamped as "Leon Pique," which I think was a brand invented for the US market. I had a very nice silver mounted one which was unanimously attributed to Hoyer by all the bow experts who saw it, as well as others that were nickel mounted, more ordinary Markneukirchen style bows, which is what this one looks like. It might well be a good playing bow, but getting it attributed to a particular maker or even workshop would seem fairly impossible and pointless, but you could always send photos to Schmidt in Dresden.
  14. I have a couple of repaired bows that I use constantly because they have great playing qualities and limited resale value. Both are insured as repaired bows with correspondingly low valuations. One is a Voirin that was repaired nearly 50 years ago by Arnold Bone with a splined head that hasn't shown any signs of movement or fatigue after 50 years of hard use. The other is a Lupot with a grafted handle that was done a long time ago. Curiously, Raffin wanted to set the value of the Lupot much higher than I thought was realistic, and I've actually gone with a much lower insurance estimate. No point in paying higher premiums if I intend to keep and use the bow myself. I just want to cover my expenditures, not make a profit off the insurance. Arnold Bone was a meticulous perfectionist when it came to repairing or restoring bows. I once had the sad experience of lending out my violin and bow to someone on tour in Boston. The Sartory came back broken in the worst way, just behind the head. Bone asked my permission to try a "new" procedure, less visible and invasive than the traditional "wrap" reinforcement, and it did come back barely visible. He was never totally convinced, though, so a year later he contacted me with a buyer, an older amateur violinist who he thought would be gentler with the bow than a young concertizing professional. The Sartory was unchanged playing wise after the repair, but it was never my favourite bow in the first place (and back around 1980 or so, Sartorys weren't that expensive) so I was happy to let it go. Bone later passed on a very sweet letter from the buyer who was ecstatic to have been able to buy the bow!
  15. Seems to be the one from the Amati auction cited just above.