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oliverb

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  1. No, this is not a religious question, rather I am referring to the famous 1716 Stradivari violin in the Ashmolean museum at Oxford. The Hills, in their 1891 monograph on this instrument, say that the thicknesses of its front and back "are of his [Stradivari's] stoutest". Sacconi, in "The "Secrets" of Stradivari", indicates that the average thickness of Stradivari tables (away from the edges) is about 2.4mm, rising to about 2.7mm at the edges of the f-holes, with a small area about 3.2mm over the soundpost. There is a Strad magazine poster of the Messiah, issued in March 2011 in conjunction with an article on the violin by John Dilworth, which includes a thickness chart. The thicknesses over much of the table, though varying somewhat, are not inconsistent with Sacconi's average of 2.4mm. However, in the central table area (between the f-holes}, four thicknesses are given which are significantly thinner - 2.0mm centrally just in front of the bridge, and three others a little further back, each at 2.1mm. If this really is the Messiah's thickness all over the central table area, the violin is probably better off in a museum than having to stand up to the stresses of modern concert performance! Interestingly, John Dilworth refers in his article to the fact that Count Cozio recorded having a large square patch inserted inside the Messiah (front or back not specified), apparently by Guadagnini, but Dilworth notes that it is no longer there. Here I offer two speculative suggestions: 1) that this patch was inserted to thicken the thin central area of the table but that a later repairer (Vuillaume or Hill?) removed it; 2) that when fitting the patch Guadagnini actually thinned the table slightly himself, so that the later removal of the patch left an an even thinner central table area. However, I emphasise that apparently we do not know where inside the violin the large square patch was fitted. Do any of our resident experts have further thoughts on all this? Incidentally, in his article Mr Dilworth seems to raise the possibility that Stradivari's reason for never selling the Messiah was not that it was too perfect to sell, but perhaps that it didn't quite meet Stradivari's own criteria for violins he did wish to sell!
  2. Pirastro on their website specify a standard 4/4 string length of 325mm. They're German and surely have quite large hands!
  3. I have a nice Alfred Lanini 1954 Guarneri model violin which sounds good even though it appears to have an incipient soundpost crack running from about 2 centimetres in front of the treble foot of the bridge to about 5 centimetres behind (just under the tailpiece). It has been pretty stable like this for several years and the fiddle still plays very well. When I look inside with a dentist's mirror I can see no crack, so presumably the crack does not yet reach all the way through the wood - maybe the inside surface is acting as a sort of hinge and the crack above is reasonably "hairline". I wonder if our professional members might have some views on... (1) Given that the crack is apparently not fully open, would it be premature to ask a repairer here in Australia to do a full-scale repair with soundpost patch and/or cleats? (internally there seems to be no visible crack-line to patch or cleat). (2) Is anything to be gained by trying to rub in hot glue from the top? Even if I could persuade the glue to enter the hairline, would it be strong enough to hold the crack? (3) If indeed a soundpost patch is to be recommended, can someone suggest what a reasonable price might be? (beyond some price level it might be more economic just to sell the violin at Tarisio where a dealer might buy it with a view to repairing the crack economically and then on-selling the violin). Oliver
  4. Both examples (Tarisio and Bromptons) have various points of workmanship that are very un-Lucci, such as f-holes, head and scroll, varnish, edges etc. But a blindingly obvious mistake has been made in labelling, branding and dating these two violins. I won't say what the blindingly obvious mistake is, as I don't want to help the criminal faker if he or she is reading this. Fortunately Tarisio and Bromptons are no fools, which is why they do not claim these violins to be made by Lucci.
  5. Oh dear, I missed this exhibition, only a few miles from where I live!
  6. Apologies, I now see that there is a much later and longer discussion of this subject here on Maestronet: http://www.maestronet.com/forum/index.php?/topic/326955-luigi-salsedo-and-andreas-renisto/ My information on Jim Tait came from Martin Swan's website.
  7. Violins labelled Andreas Renisto, Luigi Salsedo and Marco Tassini "fecit Italia" (with year) were marketed in Britain in the 1920s and early 1930s by a gentleman named Jim Tait. He reportedly bought them in the white from Italy and then varnished them himself. Tait was also the sole agent for Guastalla violins, selling them at prices which now seem ludicrously low.
  8. The "Henley" encyclopedia (actually edited, enlarged and published by Cyril Woodcock, now passed on) also contains many entries on modern and semi modern Italian violin makers which are obviously translated from the Rene Vannes encyclopedia, probably by Cyril Woodcock or a collaborator, with some changed wording to try and disguise the fact.
  9. Can someone tell me whether tailpieces and pegs with a Parisian eye are a modern innovation, say in the last decade or two ? I know Parisian eyes have been used on bows for much of the last two centuries, but it seems only quite recently that they have put in an appearance on pegs and tailpieces being manufactured in large quantities in India and being fitted widely to Chinese violins. I ask because if I see a mint condition violin for sale supposedly made in say the 1960s to 1980s, but it has Parisian eye fittings, I tend to think it must be a more modern fake. Or was someone, say in Germany, making Parisian eye fittings back then? (I am aware of older German pegs with gold tips, or tailpieces with inlaid gold musical symbols, but not Parisian eyes).
  10. I use a Wittner tailpiece on my circa 1770 William Forster violin, complete with gut strings and original short neck, and it works fine ! However, I agree the old Thomastic style was not very beautiful, and its high profile made it more likely to foul the underside of a chinrest.
  11. Violins88 - I have a Paul Bailly copy of the Messiah, made in 1884 while both Bailly and the Messiah's then owner, Alard, were residing in Paris. The Bailly copy looks remarkably similar to the original (obviously intentionally so), and I think it has very good tone. However, it has a little more wood in the central table area than the 2.1mm shown in the Strad poster, so I doubt whether the two violins would sound the same. Captainhook - thank you for your note about obtaining a copy of the March Strad. I've now deleted my original post because my subscription copy has now come to light; my apologies to the Strad!
  12. Hi Violinbridges. Here is one example of Woodcock's updating (circa 1960) of Henley's earlier work with material from Rene Vannes: If you look at the "Henley" entry on Pellacani, every little bit of information in the Henley entry is drawn from the longer entry in the earlier Renee Vannes encyclopedia, such as P's year of birth, teachers (Bianchi - mistake for Blanchi in both cases - and Arrasich - wrongly transcribed as Arassi in Henley/Woodcock), and use of Guarnerius model. Regarding colour of varish, I translate the Vannes comment as "good thick varnish varying (literally "going") from yellow gold to brown red", while Woodcock /Henley says "varnish of thick consistency shaded from goldish yellow to brownish red". The Henley/Woodcock last sentence is a dead give-away. It says "Many quite popular in France and U.S.A.", while the Rene Vannes last sentence, again my translation, is "Many of them have been exported to France and America". I could find many other examples. I rest my case!
  13. I've noticed the comments regarding Cyril Wooodcock (deceased). I'm afraid he was notorious for the quality of his certificates. He sold me two violins in the 1970s, one supposedly a Postacchini and another supposedly by a similarly famous old Italian maker. Both violins turned out to have labels which were careful artist's copies apparently from the Rene Vannes violin encyclopedia (this was in the days before we had good photocopying machines), and at the time Wooodcock had an associate who was (he told me) an artist (!) Both labels and the certificates were pointed out to me by reputable London experts (famous auctioneers) to be incorrect, and they left me with little doubt as to Woodcock's reputation. Woodcock was also the "Managing Editor" of the famous Henley Encyclopedia of Violin Makers, published after Henley's death. Some if not many of the articles on non-British violin makers in that book, such as lesser modern Italians, appear to owe much to the Rene Vannes encyclopedia, sometimes with slightly eccentric apparent translations from the French. These were presumably makers with whom Henley himself was never familiar.
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