Michael Appleman

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About Michael Appleman

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  1. Yes, a soundpost is "âme" in french (anima in italian), oe soul. Here's a little quote from Proust: "On cherche à retrouver dans les choses, devenues par là précieuses, le reflet que notre âme a projeté sur elles." "In these objects that have become precious to us, we look for the reflection of our souls that we projected on them."
  2. Santagiuliana, you're asking very interesting questions, and I salute you for your introspection, asking yourself whether playing is really what you want to do. We should all be asking ourselves such fundamental questions regularly, and be wary of just doing what seems easiest or what others expect us to do. First of all, Jacob mentions "practicum," of which I imagine you can infer the meaning, but I should point out that many European countries have very structured and active apprenticeship programs, and "internships" are both a way to "test the waters" and get an idea about the nature of a trade or business, and the way many young people enter the work force after their studies. (it's also a way for businesses to get cheap, subsidised labor...) In America, things are much less formal, but it's definitely worth contacting the shops in and around Boston and asking if you can spend some time there to observe, make coffee, sweep the floor etc. to see what life is really like. Most luthiers I know are happy to exchange like that with players, and I know many players who have done iternships with luthiers. I also know a few players who went to violin making school years after finishing their conservatory studies and seem happy about the switch. Is earning a living as a luthier "easier" than being a musician? I think the question is besides the point. The fundamental question is what do you enjoy doing, and by that I don't mean bowing before an adoring audience or seeing your violins sell at auction for 100k. Do you enjoy, or at least hate less the "worst" aspects of a given profession? Violin side: Do you enjoy the day to day grind of practicing? Can you get through auditions and competitions with enthusiasm and excitement, without breaking into hives or having a nervous breakdown? Can you deal with abusive conductors or nasty colleagues with calm? Luthier side: Would you enjoy the woodworking equivalent of "praticing," perfecting each element of the craft so that you'd have the confidence to take on a delicate restoration or show your work to the most demanding experts? Would the satisfaction of working with your hands and doing a good job make fitting pegs to a Chinese violin somewhat satisfying? Can you deal with ignorant or abusive customers, who make wild demands or unfounded criticism? I know from my own experience that when I was 19, I loved playing concerts, but I hated the freelancing I had to do to keep afloat financially, and I wasn't very enthusiastic about practicing. I did it because I had to in order to get ready for concerts and competitions. Later, after getting a full-time orchestra job, I still loved the concertos, recitals and chamber music concerts I got to do, but the job itself, like practicing, was sort of an annoying necessity, not something I looked forward to doing every day. In my mid-thirties, something changed inside my mind-set. I realized that one of the things I enjoyed the most in my life was being alone with my violin and practicing, exploring technical difficulties and repertoire freely. As that feeling grew stronger, everything else I did with my violin took on another aspect, and I started to really enjoy all the challenges I faced, including orchestra gigs with blowhard conductors and the humblest teaching jobs. I measure how lucky I've been to be able to make a living and raise a family while playing and teaching. The main reason I hang around on this forum, though, is that around 20 years ago I started making violins myself, and another thing I truly enjoy is sitting at my workbench, working on a violin. I know enough, though, not to want to switch professions. I learned basic vioin repair as a child and I hang around with a lot of highly trained, experienced luthiers, but even though I'm always trying to improve, I recognize my limits as a maker and I would not put my work on a par with that of a professional luthier. I would hate to have to fit pegs to a new Chinese violin. I can't stand dealing with ignorant or abusive "customers" and I would hate to have to rely on them for my living. For me, violinmaking is and will remain an amateur activity which gives me pleasure, even joy. At the age of 19, if you're not already "on track," in a serious study program or already performing, it's definitely too late to "decide" to become a player, but it's not too late to become a luthier. I think the key question you need to answer is in what form of "grunt work" you'll find the most pleasure (or least displeasure).
  3. Wow, this topic got a lot of attention fast! I'd love to comment on the bike theme, but maybe I'll start with my experience trying to improve factory instruments. As a kid, my father had me cut my teeth re-graduating, re-barring and re-setting necks on cheap trade fiddles. It was a way to learn the ropes, and since he'd bring home a box of them every weekend for an average price of probably $1 a fiddle from various junk shops and flea markets in the area, there were plenty of them around the house to work on. Were any of them improved to "professional" grade? I remember them being decent, useable violins, but I don't remember any that I wanted to use instead of the better quality violins I was playing. Skipping forward several decades, when I moved to France, although I hardly played viola at the time, I thought it might be useful to have one around, and I took the cheapest viola we had, a left over new cheap MNK factory instrument (Paesold label under the Strad label) from the 1960's or 70's that had been part of my dad's stock. The thing was ridiculous, thick, heavy, neck like a baseball bat and an ugly opaque brown varnish (more like car paint, really), and in the end, it sounded so bad and was so difficult to play I never used it, even when I needed to play viola. (I'd string up my french 37cm Maggini model as a viola and it would work better!) I brought it around to some shops and auction houses to try to get rid of it, but no one wanted it, even for firewood! I decided to give it a going over, stripping the sprayed on lacquer finish (all those years of working on cars helped!), regraduating, re-barring, re-varnishing (using a mineral ground which seems to have helped to mitigate the horrible quality of the wood) and the end result is an instrument that sounds quite good, and is totally useable in a professional situation. I used it and lent it to colleagues for several years until I got around to making a viola myself. The violas I've made use better wood, a better model, and better arching (something I couldn't really change that much on the MNK trade viola), and they do sound quite a bit better, and frankly making one from scratch is a much more attractive proposition to me. The work involved in re-doing the trade viola was nearly as time and energy consuming as making one from scratch, and frustrating, since I couldn't choose the wood or the arching. As a side bar, several years ago I decided to take a cheap "junk" bike, a Virago 535, and turn it into a café racer. It was a fun project, kept me sane at a time I was juggling a lot of stress, and the end product was a good-looking (to my eyes) bike that was much more enjoyable to ride for me than the original. I prefer low bars/clip-ons and rear-sets to pull-back bars and highway pegs, and making an 18" rear wheel and having custom longer Hagons made for it improved the handling. On the other hand, the bike is nowhere near my "serious" classic sport bike (RD500LC) for performance or thrills, but it still makes me smile.
  4. Interesting! The French version says exactly the same thing, literally, so no linguistic insight I can contribute. It seems to be a fairly rare description, since looking at other members of the Bazin family, and randomly through other makers, I haven't found any other buttons described this way. I take it to describe the way the second cut sometimes lops off the front of the octagon corners on Charles Nicolas II's buttons.
  5. Those corners on the condition report were odd! That it was reduced does make sense as far as the dimensions and outline compared to other Rogerinis. Interesting that Biddulph made no mention of it in his certificate. The ones I've seen have all been wonderful sounding, and I've been very tempted to go for one, but those nagging thoughts of "am I the only one that thinks it's worth this price?" and "will I ever be able to sell it?" keep haunting me.
  6. Yes, "octagonal rings" is the translation for "viroles martelées," literally hammered rings, meaning a flat strip was formed around an octagonal mandrel as opposed to a round tube filed down on the outside, so one sees the "inside" as octagonal as well as the "outside." I haven't found an example of "the second slanted back," so if you tell me which maker you were looking at, I'll compare it to the French text. "Among others" means he worked for or supplied bows to other shops besides the one(s) mentioned.
  7. Thanks! Interesting it having been reduced! I was curious about those dimensions.
  8. Your memories of those early days of Dominants resonate with mine, although the customers filing in and out of my father's "shop" daily were buying more Black and Gold Label Pirastros than Olivs and Eudoxas. The longevity of synthetic core strings must have had a serious effect on daily violin shop turnover, even before the mail-order and internet high volume businesses completely blitzed the brick and mortar shops for strings and accessories. It makes me think of something a bow-maker friend relayed to me while we were musing over one of my Vuillaume self-rehairing bows. According to the "ancients" (Millant et. al.) the real reason Vuillaume dropped the "self-rehairing" bows was that bow-makers from all over Europe were up in arms that he was taking away their bread-and-butter re-hairing income.
  9. There's an excellent Strad article on Lupot by Dilworth (I believe) from a few years back. It basically sums up that no one seems to know for sure what method(s) he was using, but he seems to have been the first "copyist" trying to get a similar look of the inside work to Stradivari's quite consciously. There was not a tradition of using an inside mold among french lakers at that time, although the technique would not have been totally unknown to savvy makers like Lupot who had contact and dealings with makers from all over Europe. It seems likely that he was among the first to abandon the french BOB method (that his father used) and began developping outside molds as a way of replicating the Strad outlines he was observing. that he proportioned the blocks like Strad, inserted the linings, mitred the rib ends and mostly used willow indicates how keenly he was studying the original Strads that would go through his hands. All of those features can be done with an outside mold (or without a mold for that matter), if one wishes to do so.
  10. It can be interesting to play on famous violinists' "spare instruments," besides their well known and documented "top dog" Strads and Del Gesus. It can give an insight into what they considered important for sound and playability, and often one runs across interesting examples of makers that aren't always the most sought after. I can remember a Balestrieri that belonged to Grumiaux, and a Pique that belonged to Ysaye and Thibault that were remarkable fiddles, up there with the best concert violins I've ever played. There is also a Hel that was specially made for Ysaye that wasn't anything special, but that might be a case of accepting a gift or keeping a commission without it having been picked out by the player himself for its qualities. Of course, these being more recent violinists, the evidence trail is irrefutable, but when we start going back to the Mozarts (and Beethoven, for that matter), evidence gets a lot more tenuous, and there is often a "leap of faith" involved, not to mention that in the case of this unidentified Mittenwald violin, if it is the one Mozart passed to his sister, it is then the one he didn't want to play on, so we should keep that in mind before we light incence and make animal sacrifices to it.
  11. I guess if this sort of fetish-ism can get people to buy tickets and recordings, why not. It is all a bit silly, though don't you think? A while back, a record producer asked me what I thought about a project to record Chopin's works on a tiny old spinet he used to practice on while he was on holiday in France, so we could "hear what Chopin heard..." The piano was a piece of junk and sounded like crap. I told him I had another proposition. For years I used to host a rather famous russian pianist when he was passing through Paris, and he used to practice all day and night on my Clavinova. I suggested we wait a few years for this pianist to pass away and become a legend, then record his repertoire on the Clavinova to get a sense of what he was "authentically hearing!"
  12. Certain schools and makers were known to use pretty tall ribs, and Prague is a city where they could get this tall. Some makers who usually didn't use such tall ribs would accasionally try it as an experiment. There's a well-known "Ole Bull" Vuillaume, supposedly actually made (or worked on) by Bull himself at the Vuillaume workshop, with "viola size" ribs on a Vuillaume "Del Gesu" model outline. It would seem to be an attempt to get "viola like depth" out of a violin sound.
  13. That lot no. 40 reminds me of a Posch viola that Roger Hargrave wrote about in the Strad some years ago.
  14. 30 years ago, I remember colleagues buying Guerras from major dealers for between 15k-20k$, so 3000€ is indicative that whoever sold you this knew it was not a Guerra. On the other hand, it does look like a well made violin, so trying to get it to sound more to your taste might be worth the effort.