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Michael Appleman

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Everything posted by Michael Appleman

  1. Interesting. I used a side mount mostly for 40 years, but switched to center mount when I found it made a huge improvement on a particlar violin I used to play. With most violins, I've never noticed much of a difference swapping chin rest types, but on this particular violin with a slab cut shell maple back the center mount rest really opened up the sound.
  2. That's an interesting set-up, Dwight! Who did that? Looks like the chinrest is attached to posts that go directly into the end-block, and the tail-piece and button are a unit of some sort. Like you, I've always been a sucker for boxwood fittings, and I usually set-up my violins that way, usually with Hill-style fittings, since I've always preferred that look. The violin I posted about was fitted full ebony, because that seems to be how the maker did it and I thought I'd leave it that way until I got that "heavy" feedback last month. The strings are the same ones that were on it before the switch, and I've tried to keep everything else as it was, but one can't rule out a tiny movement of the post while tensioning down and manipulating the fiddle during the peg fitment. Of course, the pegs probably haven't had much impact on the sound, and I initially tried the violin with just a tail-piece and chinrest swap, which gave the dramatic change in response. I did the pegs and end-pin because I found the violin didn't look right with mismatched fittings. Once fitted, the set of boxwood pegs are 4 grams lighter, though. When it comes to switching around tail-pieces and chinrests, I've found that there are some violins that seem to be hardly affected at all and others that change noticeably. Over the years, I've kind of come to the conclusion that a violin that's functioning well will do so no matter what you stick on it, and a "problem" fiddle will still have problems, just maybe slightly modified problems. I frankly wasn't expecting this violin to get that much easier to play, I was thinking in terms of making it seem less heavy to future potential buyers. Btw Dwight, is that Dave Holland in your profile picture with you?
  3. I'm sure this topic has been beaten to death over the years, but searching through the forum I mostly found "friendly advice" threads and after all, both sound and appearance are matters of very personal taste, so I thought I'd just share a personal anecdote. I have a violin that's mostly just been sitting around the last ten years or so. It's a middle of the 20th century italian with a good, loud, brilliant sound, but something about it's playability just made it less enjoyable to play on than other violins I have. It was basically a great fiddle to play loudly, but trying to do delicate piano passages felt like trying to dance with heavy boots on. Since I haven't used it much these last years, I thought I'd leave it on consignment at a friend's shop just before the summer. The reaction to the violin was pretty good, but a comment came back that in addition to feeling a bit "lethargic" in its response, it felt heavy. I took the violin home since my friend was closing up for the summer, and I checked the weight which was 515 grams with chin rest. On the heavier side, for sure, but not exactly a boat anchor. The violin was fitted out full ebony with what were probably the original fittings that came from the maker. The chinrest that was on the fiddle when I got it was even heavier than the ebony "Guarneri model" I had put on it. I decided to refit the violin with boxwood pegs, tailpiece, endpin and chinrest. The total weight savings is only 30 grams, but there is a noticeable difference when picking up the violin, as the single biggest difference is between the chinrests (still a "Guarneri model"), so the "lever effect" when picking up the violin by the neck amplifies that difference as well as the lighter taipiece and button. What has surprised me, however, is the difference in playability. I don't believe the basic sound of the violin has changed, much, but it's response is much quicker and it has become much easier and more enjoyable to play at lower and medium volume levels, making the violin feel overal more flexible and versatile. I really wasn't expecting such a dramatic difference, but at this point I feel like I'll be holding on to it and playing on it more often.
  4. There's nothing wrong with a flute-like sound, so long as that's not the only thing a violin can do. I think I wrote it once in another thread years ago, but my idea of a really good violin is one that feels like a mixing board where the player can dial in more or less flute, oboe, clarinette, trumpet or french horn at will, or as I sometimes describe it to my students, create different vowel sounds. Almost all violins can be coaxed into getting the sound one creates in one's head, with enough effort, but the most rewarding ones to play do it easily with a large range of volume, and some of the very best violins I ever played seemed to suggest timbres to me I hadn't even thought of! In the end, it's up to the player and the sounds he or she wants to get.
  5. I once brought up the name of Gregorio Antoniazzi in a discussion about a venetian looking violin with funky lower f-hole swings and an over-cut scroll eye like scroll no.2 above. I got a stearn reminder from Stefano Pio that this Antoniazzi seems to be another "made-up" luthier with a similar documentary history to Deconet! Among venetian makers, I'd feel fairly confident looking at a P. Guarneri, Tononi, Bellosio, and S. Seraphin, but when someone shows me Goffrillers, Montagnanas and Gobettis, I can only shrug and ask "what do the experts say?" I've seen such wildly different models and workmanship that I wouldn't dare to form an opinion on my own. Add to that the names like Tassini, Deconet and G. Antoniazzi that seemed to be re-sellers, if not out-right inventions, and the funkier makers like Busan and all the mysterious workmen that Stefano Pio has listed...I wish the "definitive" venetian makers book would come out, finally!
  6. I learned from a maker who worked in a big Mantuan shop that one of his last jobs before leaving ca. 1980 was to train a group of Sri Lankan workmen who were brought in to keep costs down...
  7. I personally know some people who worked for him and dealt with him whose opinions I do take seriously. At some point, the better fiddles will get seperated from the chaff, and we'll have a "body of work" that will be considered as "real Marios," (even if some of those were made by Sri Lankan outworkers...that would be the "dumbing down" you're talking about...) Seriously, the guys I know are pretty good about telling the Marios from the Sri Lankan outworkers...
  8. It's true that the name Mario Gadda has become radioactive for the last ten years or so since it has become general knowledge that he did so much fakery and that there are all sorts of "Gaddas" out there, but that sort of fear will probably be cyclical. There was a time when no one wanted to buy a Scarampella because buyers learned that many of the later ones were made by Gaetano Gadda (even with Scarampella's approval). In time, the market shook itself out, and fake Scarampellas were winnowed out, Gaetano Gaddas appreciated for what they are, and "real" Scarampellas going for higher prices. Some violinists I know actually prefer the sound of a good Gaetano. This violin looks good, and the edgework and corners look a lot like a violin I have that experts who knew Mario personally and even worked with him say is most likely a personal work of his (though labelled and branded as a late Gaetano...). If the sound of this violin pleases you, don't be scared away by the reputation of the maker, but don't pay too much for it! In 5 or 10 years, Mario Gaddas will probably stop being radioactive, but in the mean time, they're not as easy to sell as a lot of violins of similar quality.
  9. Jombar cellos can be excellent. I know of a principal cellist of one of the top US orchestras that's been using one as his main instrument for years. He's had the possibility of using and buying some of the top cellos in the world, but the Jombar keeps getting used regularly. I can also think of a top violin soloist who's name is associated with a couple of Strads and a Del Gesu, who made several recordings on his Jombar violin instead of his prized Cremonese stuff.
  10. I played the Greffuhle and the Spanish, back in the 1970's and the 1980's. Both struck me as excellent at the time.
  11. I'd be curious to learn what sort of malicious chatter was going on in the "dealerverse." Is Boyer not considered a heavy enough hitter to handle such a sale on his own?
  12. Thanks, Martin! Count me among those musing that "Zosimo had to be doing something all those years," especially to run up the sort of "inheritance" his sons would refuse! Besides, how did Paolo Strad still have a huge stock of instruments to sell in the 1770's...?
  13. Just wondering if anyone here had a chance to look at the "probably by Michelangelo Bergonzi" at the Vichy auction? I was just way too busy this time to either get to Rampal's beforehand or go down to Vichy before the sale. I'm curious if anyone has any thoughts or opinions about this fiddle.
  14. What's the first question a player asks when you hand them an instrument to try? "What is it?" If you tell them something, Strad, Vuillaume, Gagliano, Scarampella, Roth, Mirecourt trade, whatever you say, their perception will be coloured by what they think the violin is, and they'll make more or less of an effort to try to find how to get the most from the instrument. Here's a fun anecdote. Some 15-20 years ago, I was on tour with a chamber orchestra. The principal violist was a player who has been known as a successful dealer for many years. He brought along a double case with his Brothers Grancino viola for use in the orchestra, and a violin which he passed around to all of the violinists in the orchestra to get their feedback. He told everyone, "Don't pay any attention to the label. It's just a good copy." The opinion of the orchestra's violinists was pretty unanimous. Nice fiddle, easy to play, not very powerful, could use more bass, could use more "core," good, but nothing special. When it was my turn, I gave it a good looking over. I noticed the pins, the purfling joints, the pin pricks on the center line of the scroll, and when I saw the corner blocks through the f-holes, I let out an audible "oh sh*t..." The violist/dealer who brought it immediately asked me not to say anything to the other players. It was a golden period Strad. In my opinion, it wasn't one of the finest Strads I'd ever played, but it was fairly typical. If those violinists who'd tried it knew what it was, they would have tried different bow speeds, pressures and contact points until they could get the Strad working optimally, and they would probably have reacted quite differently to it.
  15. I think it was Robert Bein who said that the real value of a certificate is in the capacity of the one who wrote it and sold the instrument to stand behind it and guarantee the price of the sale, being willing to buy back the instrument if it's authenticity were questioned. Anything else is just an opinion.
  16. If I may contribute some highly anecdotal musings from a player's perspective, or at least from ONE player's perspective...and noting that in the case of long stop classical fiddles we don't know what the the length of the original necks were so we can't be sure what the overal string length was when new...longer stop (197-200mm, so a longer string length with a modern 3/5 set-up) violins I've played (Guarneri Filius, A. Gagliano, long pattern Strads, Rogerinis) tended to have a more "complex," silvery and flexible tone profile than similar violins by the same or similar makers with more "conventional" stop lengths (192-195mm). Violins with shorter stops tended to be more "focused" and give proportionally more fundamental and lower harmonics. Violins with longer f-holes (and bigger "islands") tended to sound louder under the ear (at least, possibly at distance as well) and give the player (me) more confidence. That's all highly subjective and reflect what I've experienced, so please take it with kilograms of salt!
  17. I would say the button does look French, and looks like it could come from a decent bow. As for the length of the screw, there is no "standard." Screws need to be fitted to the bow and often get replaced. What's a little weird about the screw on your "found" button is that there is almost no "landing" or "pilot" area at the end, just a filed point. That coud mean a number of things, but my initial hunch would be that the screw was replaced and the bow it was fitted to had a worn out "pilot" hole.
  18. We had one very similar way, way back. It had a signature inside which resembled the squiggle used by Collin-Mézin. It had the same head and similar quality marquetry, but no added ivory accents. Those do give it a Markneukirchen aspect, but the underlying fiddle looks like a typical "better quality" Mirecourt Duiffopruggar.
  19. I'm afraid I don't know this violin (Regis Pasquier's Del Gesu) personally, so I can't comment on whether or not it has issues. I do know of another DG that took a long time to sell through private direct sale. It didn't have any "hidden" defects like a back crack or replaced parts etc., but it did have a small problem: it didn't sound very good. After many bassbars, neck resets and much massaging, it finally found a buyer that appreciates it, but it was not easy! While I've never met Regis, I did have the pleasure of working alongside and playing with his brother, Bruno, a great violist as well as both his sons who are excellent violists as well. The Pasquier family are musical "royalty" over here, having been top chamber musicians, orchestral leaders and soloists for three generations. I am familiar with Bruno's Maggini viola which is an amazing playing instrument, capable of cutting through or even drowning out any ensemble in all registers! I can't imagine Regis would have pluncked down a small fortune 20 years ago to buy an instrument that wasn't a similar powerhouse concert instrument. They did play together for years as the "Pasquier" string trio together with Roland Pidoux, making a Del Gesu/Maggini/Strad instrument combo...
  20. I'm a bit surprised at the estimation of this violin: 4-4.5 million. Does that seem low to anyone else?
  21. Amati Mangenots can be high quality "hand-made" artist grade violins. They can also be bought-in Mirecourt violins, but this one seems a much lower "tradier" grade than what I'd expect to see, and I agree with Martin that it's a Laberte that's been dolled up with fake label and brands.
  22. Great find! So, at least we know there was a Georges Valot who was a painter in St. Leu in 1933! As far as the pictures shown above, the first violin is certified by Boyer, and I think is pretty much a reference example. The others share many features, notably the squarish, narrow Alard style head and I think should be considered quite probable, as I think the OP violin is as well. Still, an opinion from Rampal or Boyer would be a good idea.
  23. Fahrkarte = "subway ticket." The pins that I've referred to on most Frebrunets I've seen are ebony. From the little I can see on your photos, this violin doesn't have much in common with those violins regarding thos details (button, purfling channel, pins) but absent any full photos, couldn't say much else.
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