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John_London

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Everything posted by John_London

  1. The holy grail! As a younger man I fantasized that a great instrument would make me play better. It's too late for that. I want one thing from violin & bow: don't get in my way! That does imply amazing luck with cheap equipment, or a certain mimimum level of quality in make and materials which many participants on this board could doubtless meet. I read abstruse discussion about how violins "sound" because I find it fun. The gut strings (which do sound bettter, obviously) have tamed the wolf :-) Off to practice my first scale since recoveing (more or less) from Omicron.
  2. Very hard to know to who to go to. A good violinist or cellist might recommend a luthier for adjustments who is nothing special or sometimes who is downright bad (I speak from experience). Luthiers are pretty much a "black box" for violinists. I own two violins by a living maker whose name I mentioned elsewhere. I like his work a lot, obviously. But his core skills are as maker, not repairer or adjuster. A friend who had his cello adjusted by a well-known maker in London was over the moon, but was told "He won't charge, but he won't work on it unless he feels like it." Fortunately he was approached for a favour, and and took the opportunity. So we are mostly throwing the dice when looking for a local luthier to make adjustments. The Ida Haendel video is a case in point: her wolf note caused her great anguish, but in spite of her fame and contacts she did not find anyone who really fixed it. What are violinists lower down the food chain to do? I also wonder whether when buying a new violin, the more expensive instruments will have better adjustment. If more was spent on adjustment for cheap instruments than expensive ones, perhaps the cheaper instruments would have greater appeal to players? This is one of the reasons I am sceptical about shopping around for a violin.
  3. In the case of my newish Strad copy, the stiff Oliv G, and the extra thick bare gut D and A which few stockist carry, are a big improvement. But maybe the Eva Pirazzis had just worn out. I have no idea how strings wear out, unless they are getting unravelled or rough, but they say they do.
  4. Thanks for interesting posts. The "force window" reminds me that playing high on the string is harder for a clean note. We students tend to assume it is because we don't have a great instrument, but a lot of it seems to be technique.
  5. There are few things about violin sound which audiences and violinists can reliably hear and generally agree on. A wolf note in first position D on the A string must be an uncontroversial mark against an otherwise fine instrument. Its unsubjective character should make it an attractive area for researchers. Grant that a wolf on G string around high B or C is normal on a fine instrument. But it does not normally migrate to the same note on the A string. Why is that?
  6. Ida Haendel complains about the wolf on her 1696 Strad at 25:20 and 44:30 in this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fARPbGGbtE. She says that it appeared from nowhere. It is on the 3rd finger D on A string, not somewhere high on the G string. No wonder it drove her mad. If it appeared out of nowhere, it is perhaps not so much a feature of a fine instrument, as of a violin past its best? The luthier tries to fix it at at 47:20. He diagnoses by blowing into the bass F hole which gives a note around D, then holds the bottom and taps the scrolls and hears a B flat, and says these frequencies should be close and are too far apart.
  7. Dazio is one of the funniest stories. The book is full of instructive and amusing anecdotes about the violin trade. The most shocking is the Turkish dealer who bought a violin collection, and as the train was leaving threw all the French instruments, including a Vuillaume, out of the window, saying "you can't travel with ballast".
  8. The expensive Olive stiff G string tames the wolf, though it is still there, compared with my aging Eva Pirazzis. Just fitted covered gut G and thick bare gut D and A (custom thicknesses which can be ordered from Pirastro as "Individuelle"), and the violin sound sweeter (if a little quiet under the ear) and "works" to the top of the fingerboard on all the strings. Which I suppose is not entirely surprising in a violin modelled after and antique instrument designed with gut strings in mind.
  9. I think the maker was aware of the question, but could only guess the answer. I was being facetious about "error". Who knows. And I was being facetious about tonal copy, though snake oil finds plenty buyers. Set up, choice of bow, the weather, and the last player, change the sound of a violin. An interesting thought, which I spent some time thinking about. Much as I enjoy reading the conversation here, I hesitate to comment I've never really worked out what violin makers are trying to achieve, apart from happy customers. There is no doubt that some instruments made with conventional materials and dimensions resonate more freely than others. largely but not wholly due to setup.
  10. Anyone claiming to sell tonal copies will find willing buyers among violinists. And why not? With this particular Strad copy I was not offered anything so wonderful. The maker even admitted to not following Signor Stradivari's model, or error (if the Holy Father is fallible) in making the belly slightly thicker on the treble side.
  11. For most players, yes. Finger vibrato originates in the arm. Roth said what he called "impulse vibrato" originates in the arm--pretty much the kind of vibrato Perlman, like many older gen. players, tends to favour, only Perlman uses the term "finger vibrato".
  12. Why did I buy it? I don't shop around. I agreed to buy it before it was complete & have a DG copy by the same maker. I aspire to make the sound, whereas some (not all) players far better than me are looking for sounds in their violin and bow. A violin made of good materials, executed with great hands, eye and heart by an experienced maker who does not charge a "big name" premium, and without the headaches of a valuable antique, and I am 100% satisfied, as I am with the Stagg & Clutterbuck bows I bought unseen at auction (the Nurnburger was a bit of a miss, but still a decent stick for the price). Having said that, I do love the instrument's sound. It would be nice to fix the wolf. I've ordered an Oliv stiff gut/silver/gold gut G (expensive!) which might help. The orginal, the ex-Gibson/Hubermann, may well have a wolf there. The copy, whilst it would not fool an expert, is pretty close. Not sure which piece to listen to to answer that question? Moses Fantasy opening maybe, but I am not sure Mr. Bell has recorded it since buying that violin. Beare's would know if that Strad has a wolf on C.
  13. I struggle with a terrible wolf on high C and to lesser extent on high B on G string (Strad 1713 copy). This thread got me experimenting with a small bulldog clip on the G in the peg box, and below the bridge. It tames the wolf a little in the peg box and a lot below the bridge, but it also "tames" the violin in a bad way. I wondered about asking the local violin shop, or the man who made it for me, to rectify this fault. But I fear they might do something which diminishes the instrument in other ways. Is that fear misplaced?
  14. https://www.sjss.org.uk/events/ukrainian-cultural-association-uk I am not involved in this, I just happen to know the organizer who tells me the funds raised will go to a deposit on an ambulance for a Childrens' Hospital in Ukraine. The musicians she works with from Ukraine and neighbouring countries are usually very good. St Johns, Smith Square, London, 17 June, 7:30pm.
  15. Young people have different skills. On the whole the exams we took in Maths or French were harder back in the 1970s--but far fewer took them. Many left school at 16. However, your comments sound like a more generalized disatisfaction with the developing breakdown of Western society. There are not enough jobs to go round. The jobs which exist are not enough to live on. Young people who once would have taken blue collar jobs now go to university or conservatory, for steeply rising fees. Then what? I grew up in a world where we had never heard of a billionaire. Neither could we imagine that a hard-working skilled carpenter in the London area would be paid too little to buy an adequate house and garden for his wife and children. I won't say the world was better. It was less nutty, less distorted, less focussed on funnelling wealth upwards. Complex distortions in the money system (which started when Nixon divorced USD from gold in August 1971) have created very odd paradoxes, of which I see the lack of jobs for the too many skilled young musicians as just one manifestation. So it all seems to go beyond the world of stringed instruments. Though the price of Strads is another oddity...
  16. During the 1600s, Mersenne, theologian and physicist, studied overtones. He studied bells in detail, including the materials they were made of, and apparently tried but failed to come up with a scientific theory for why different metal sounds different. He discovered the mathematical formula for the fundamental pitch of a stretched string. He probably talked to instrument makers and bell founders. The Grassmayer bell museum's exhibition implies that bell founders were looking at theoretical scientific treatises to make their bells more musical, as well as using and attempting to refine inherited knowledge. Contrary to what I wrote before about secrets being passed down, Wikipedia says that some of the trade secrets for making the best sounding bells were forgotten. The museum also suggests that whilst a notch could be cut to supposedly improve the sound of a bell, generally experiments with different shapes involved starting over with a new mold. Stainer frequented nearby Innsbruck which had two or three well-known bell founderies (of which Grassmayer who run the museum is the only one to survive). He also went to prision for reading books on theological ideas coming out of France. This makes me think that it is entirely credible that he, and probably other early violin makers, had enough intellectual curiosity to read scientific books and talk to scientists in an attempt to improve their products. A reading of early acoustic treatises such as that of Mersenne may still yield new insights into the thinking of early bell founders, and makers of stringed instruments. If one had time! Not sure whether it is available in English. There is a Latin version and an early French translation.
  17. On the question of state funding of arts, I expressed a view. But on the question of the number of excellent players with performance qualifications who don't make living performing, I only have a lot of half-formed questions which arose from looking at those excellent musicians on Fiverr. How should students on a performance rather than teaching track think about their investment? What should teachers and conservatories be saying to the young, hard-working students who rely on their advice? Is there a better way? In an age of streaming, should we think about most live music as an amateur pursuit where often performers end up paying rather than being paid? Or is there a different model? Here I have no answers. I value the opera, and I usually go to Covent Garden when I am back in London, and it is usually excellent and always well-funded. Only went in Paris once, and it was also great (will never forget it, Netrebko in L'Elisir). Frankly the Met in NY though I have never been live, is at least on a par with both Paris and London, no doubt thanks to private donors. Smaller towns in parts of Western Europe are ahead of UK, and far ahead of USA, in public funding of arts. But it does worry me that a few elite institutions are superbly well funded, and a percentage of that money is being poured into ridiculous salaries for star singers and conductors, when many fantastic musicians in classical and jazz can make little or nothing by performing. For any given society, the extent of this contrast may mirror the divide between rich and poor more generally?
  18. The question is probably too political for this board. Some see everything as an entitlement, from cancer treatment for centenarians to gender reassignment for six-year olds, both of which are in principle state-funded in UK. Some, particularly in USA, assume we should do everything for ourselves. I appreciate state support of the arts in much of western Europe, especially the Germaninc countries, and hope it continues and even spreads. I enjoyed the Red Ken Livingstone time in London with many state-funded concerts. On the other hand, those who use the language of "entitlement", even entitlement to basic income, may overlook that printing up more money to fund our needs for energy, COVID "stimmies", distant wars, and community arts, has proved inflationary, to the surprise of the experts, so paradoxically impoverishes those who can least afford it. So yes, funding of the arts is a public good, much to be encouraged. However calling at an "entitlement" is an attempt to turn what they want to happen into a political or quasi-legal compulsion, which to me feels dishonest. And ultimtely self-destructive, because if it were accepted that artists are entitled funding, then some artists would argue about what counts, and people producing all sorts of cacophony which passes for music, and old urinals which pass for art, would say they are as entitled, if not more so, as those who have learned these crafts. If that thinking takes hold for a while during a left-leaning period, there will be a public backlash. In short, I would like to see states and municipalities create wealth diligently, steward it carefully, and distribute it humanely, not forgetting the arts; whilst bearing in mind that there is nothing humane about burdening future generations--and perhaps no longer so far in the future--with the results of excessive debt and freely printed money to meet "entitlements". One probably needs to know what you do to see the relevance of this. I have been wanting to start a thread on something related: a Two Set video drew attention to the high quality of the violinists on Fiverr, performing for very low fees. And it was not only in the pandemic time. I am not a fan of a lot of modern playing, but the fact is that these mostly young people can nail a lot of the technical feats required for virtuoso repetoire, and produce a decent sound by modern standards, and play with spirit and accuracy. The Two Set video, or a self-guided perusual of violinists on Fiverr, is somehow extremely impressive for the quality of playing, and depressive for the fact that such performers are driven to offer their skills for so little. Jacobson, "Lost Secrets of Master Musicians", who was at Curtis in the Galamian time, practically calls conservatories a scam for quietly failing to point out that the chances of a job are vanishingly small, and the chances of a non-orchestra job about as good as the chance being struck by lightening.
  19. References to bells puts me in mind of the bell museum in Innsbruck. The lesson is that at the same time violins were evolving, bell founders were thinking about the tonal effects of choice of material, arching and graduation. There was competition, because a town could support more than one foundry, and there was a gradual evolution, no doubt from empirical development of trade secrets. Bells remained expensive one-off objects and familiy businesses survived through centuries, so the knowledge was handed down privately but not lost. National variations may survive. The extent to which knowledge in lutherie was really forgotten in late 18th and early 19th cent. would be interesting to expand on. It is fair to assume that ideas about tonewood had a long and international history (just as bell technology developed in part in China), implying that ideas which are older than the famous Cremonese violins may provide interesting pointers.
  20. I am ejoying Albert Berr, Geigengeschichten on your recommendation. A rattling good read about the violin trade. Just read the part where he suggests that the "secret" was not the Strad or Guarnerius model, or the varnish, but a traditional understanding of wood selection. He says that Del Gesu only used one log for his tops, and others used only a few during their career (?true), implying they somehow knew how to pick a suitable tree. He mentions Kessler among those who used very old wood from church beams, and whose violins sounded good at first then lost their quality.
  21. I've been re-reading the 2006 thread "Cremona versus the rest". The Strads which practically play themselves, the DG Cannone which few players can make sound good. All doubtless fantastic violins. Then there are good but lesser violins which practically play themselves but with limited colour potential. Which are you tapping for? As someone who has handed over cash for a new violin not very long ago, I am asking different questions. Is the wood thick enough and stable enough that the arch will not sink, the plates will not crack, and less seriously, there is a low risk of seams opening? Is the instrument at once robust, yet light and balanced and alive in the hand, and quite floaty under the chin even without a shoulder rest (think Milstein videos). You have to feel comfortable with it, in so far a violin is ever comfortable. Does it look nice? If it is copy, does the grain look like the original? Certainly there are sonic properties to the box, as well as the setup and the bow, but no single criterion. So I am not sure what makers are looking for when they tap?
  22. Of course a violin is magic.
  23. Concerning the Cremona maker, I saw in the small ads in London a "master" violin by the owner of a Romanian workshop for about half the expected price. I found an email address, and he "maker's" son told me that the date on the label was enough to show it could not be genuine. On the other hand I did buy a violin with undoubted provenance from a living maker for about half price because the owner who had it from new wanted to sell quickly, and his usual shop offered a ridiculously low price. (Perhaps they perfer to sell on consignment.) I bought a bow in the March Brompton's general sale, and noticed that items with name recognition sold, though with a few exceptions around the bottom of somewhat optimistic estimates, and many cheaper items remained unsold. Inflation is a tool to cause the rich to turn cash into enduring assets (and get richer) and the poor to cut expenditure in an attempt to cover the cost of food and shelter (and get poorer). So it would not be surprising to find violins which appeal to the wealthy reach eye-watering prices, while items towards the bottom of the market fall, and present nice opportunities for someone who does not need a big name violin and bow to play their best.
  24. For me it is about getting the note started. I think it is mainly about need for bow weight. For example, if you start a scale on the G string and change to D string without an open string between, you want a relatively even sound and for the first note on the D to start sounding immediately and without a scratch. As well as preparing the left hand finger to stop the string, the plane of the bow has to change, and maybe make the sounding point a bit closer to the bridge, and even more challenging to do without scratching, you may need to increase bow weight to get the sound started. In a fast scale it has to happen fast. Some instruments are quite forgiving and the note will ring out immediately, cleanly, without scratching, at the touch of the bow. By contrast, all this can be challenging on a badly made violin which does not sound freely, or even on a well-made violin with a thick bare gut D string, where the smooth continuous sound only works if the factors are precisely controlled.
  25. Agreed, I suppose I meant I am not sure that searching for more responsiveness from strings is necessary. I do think a badly made violin (or bow) which does not respond well can hold one back.
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