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The Violin Beautiful

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  1. Here’s an upper level JTL that has a brand:
  2. $4000 is not the highest end of the range for a good JTL. It might have been 10-20 years ago, but prices have been increasing. People are paying that for good Markneukirchen violins now, and the prices of French violins are anything but stagnant.
  3. To clarify: The opinion was that the violin was a 1960s Roth that had been backdated. As to the varnish, it was not accurate for a Roth from 1936. The existing varnish was tacky, and not only in the repaired areas. The comment about how the varnish shouldn’t be tacky applied to it being a 1960s Roth, although the same would apply if it were older. It was suggested that the varnish might not be its original, but at the least, it had been manipulated through extensive retouching and overcoating. The leading comment was that it was not old enough to be from 1936, not that its varnish was problematic (that was a secondary comment).
  4. Expert opinion. When an expert writes a paper for something, he has to be willing to stand behind it if there is reason to believe the opinion is wrong later. That’s worth quite a lot. Having solid evidence is of course a valuable thing, but it would be rather difficult to sell a fine violin without an expert’s opinion. A very high number of sales are contingent upon opinion. In the past it was not as unusual to sell something without a paper if it was a fairly easy instrument to identify and it wasn’t too expensive, but nowadays, having one is a standard part of a sale, even in the lower end of the market.
  5. Having had it in hand, I can say that it has certainly been overcoated, and the touchups are more visible. Fill was added to the area of the back center seam at the bottom that had come open, and the French polish can be seen. The stickiness is not from cleaning. I don’t know if the varnish underneath is original or not. It might be. If Occam’s Razor is being considered, it takes a lot more assumptions to believe that the violin is legitimate than to believe it’s not. In any case, the Razor is, while useful for theoretical examination, not scientifically or logically precise. There is solid evidence, but more importantly, there is the opinion of an expert, which outweighs all speculation.
  6. I think they’re Jargars as well. The ball is solid; Thomastik strings would have a hollow ball.
  7. There are some who use it for cleaning. It is a powerful degreaser, and it’s important to be careful using it or other similar products. I haven’t used it myself, in part because I saw someone who swore by it take varnish off a fine French violin while cleaning it, and in part because of the issue with gumming up.
  8. I’ve put on rib protectors for customers who had problems with corrosive sweat. It can be a good solution and isn’t too obvious. Nothing beats diligent care, but a barrier can add protection in more serious cases.
  9. I think if you look again, there is more information than you’re suggesting. The OP emailed Roth twice and sent the pictures he first posted. He copied and pasted from their responses, including a side-by-side comparison using those submitted photos and their offer to send a written “confirmation” for €170. The instrument was on trial and the OP was skeptical enough already that he wanted to ask online about its credibility. After reading the replies, he returned the violin to the shop. The expert who looked at the violin makes his living writing certificates and is well known in the violin community. He made his assessment as experts do—by holding the violin in his hands and examining it in order to be thorough. It’s not uncommon to start the process of identifying by sending photos, but that’s a way of weeding out the obvious fakes. In order to come to a conclusion, the instrument needs to be present. I related his comments about its workmanship, the issues with its label, and the varnish. Post-war Roths have features that distinguish them from pre-war ones. In sharing the update, I chose not to include the names of the shops, teacher, customer, and expert. I think it would be in violation of Maestronet policy to make those public. The violin was really the subject of the discussion, and I chose to add the information that confirmed that it was spurious. Whether or not it convinces those who thought it was correctly attributed, the shop that was selling it chose to take it back and even admitted that doing so was the right thing to do, even though it meant taking it back and selling it at a significantly lower price in the future.
  10. For those who followed the discussion about the violin the OP asked about, I thought it worth providing an update. It’s a wild ride. That instrument came into the shop recently after a different person bought it. A young player ended up with it, but sadly, according to her mother, the father bought it on his own without consulting his daughter, his wife, or the teacher. Both the student and teacher hated it, so the mother took it back to the shop to return it after 20 days. The shop refused to refund its purchase, only agreeing to consign it, giving the customer $2000 less if it sold. She was sent out of the shop with a pre-filled consignment contract and a warning that they’d take some kind of legal action against her if she tried to ask for a refund again. Out of desperation she brought it to us, hoping to trade for a violin she took out on trial. Right off the bat, it didn’t look right. The varnish had been either redone or it had been heavily retouched and overcoated. The original photos don’t make it obvious, but there were two sizeable top cracks and the back center seam had been open and repaired. The filler varnish had already started to sink in the repaired areas, and all the varnish was soft enough that it was taking impressions from the case. The cleats inside were clearly done recently. For those who pointed out that it didn’t look like a Roth from the date on its label, that was exactly what we thought when it came in. But since a decent amount of money was riding on this, and the customer wanted to trade, we decided to get an expert to weigh in. We shipped it with a note asking the expert to look at it and see if it checked out. Upon seeing it, he called and said exactly what we thought: it’s a 1960s Roth that’s been doctored. He said that the varnish was wrong for the period and that no Roth of its age should have tacky varnish. The workmanship and style does not match the period it purports to be from. Those of you who pointed this out before were spot on. The shop that sold it ended up agreeing to take the violin back after initially trying to put up a fight once they’d heard the expert’s verdict (calling the whole family and the teacher liars, claiming state law didn’t allow them to take the violin back(?), etc.), so the customer thankfully ended up getting the violin she actually liked. Once the possibility of legal action came up, and especially that of the teacher telling other people about it, the tone changed. Since the violin is going back on the market, I think it’s important that this information be passed along in case the violin appears here again.
  11. It’s tough to deal with problems of corrosive sweat. I agree that you can try diet changes, but it may not solve the issue. Absolutely agree that hand washing before playing is a good practice. I was never allowed to touch a violin without washing my hands, and I consider that a big factor in my instruments avoiding wear problems. Smoking and drinking coffee can make sweat especially damaging. The luthier’s advice to always clean off the violin after practicing was good. It does take vigilance, but it makes a difference, especially if you’re finding your sweat is extra potent.
  12. I would suggest the Romberg flat is less sought after now partly because of the improvements in string technology (as expressed previously) and partly because of advances in setup work. I think there were great luthiers who did great setup work, but they were far fewer, and many cello fingerboards were made without proper consideration of scoop. The Romberg flat could potentially alleviate clearance issues.
  13. The best thing to do to conserve a violin is not to drop it! Once there’s been major trauma, it’s necessary to do more substantial work to return the instrument to good and reliable order. A good glue joint with strong glue and a fresh crack may hold forever, so it’s not impossible to do a repair without a patch, but in many cases there are enough conditions that it’s better for the instruments’ longevity to put in patches. I don’t like to remove original wood if I can help it, but sometimes there isn’t a good way to avoid it.
  14. I would definitively want to clean out the dirt in that crack. Given its appearance, I wouldn’t be willing to trust the repair to last, especially without a patch. It’s easy to say a crack repair has held for a long time, but a customer isn’t going to care how long it lasted if it opens up after they’ve bought it. For me, it comes down to making sure anything that leaves my shop is solid. I don’t want to send anything out that I can’t trust to last. I think a patch is a good idea for several reasons. First, the crack is right by the post, so it’s right in a high stress area. Second, the wood has been contaminated. Proper cleaning should improve the gluing surface, but there’s always a chance that some contaminants will remain and weaken the glue joint. Third, your glue joint may be strong (maybe even strong enough that you can karate chop it or break wood around it over your knee or drive a small vehicle over it for effect!), but the glue, unless treated with certain chemicals, will still be water-soluble. Elevated moisture in the air could cause it to reopen. Without something to reinforce the damaged area, the situation could become dire in very short order.
  15. We had a “genius” like Nagyvary in my hometown when I was growing up. He actually did have a scientific background too and a career as an engineer and computer programmer. He claimed he could take any violin and make it sound not only like a Strad or Guarneri, but like any specific violin you wanted. He asked me to pick a violin, so I think I picked Oistrakh’s Strad. He claimed that by placing beeswax in certain spots he could control the character of the sound. Once he’d placed all the globs of beeswax and recreated the desired sound, he’d replace the beeswax with UV-curing resin. Lo and behold, on the day he came to visit with the Chinese violin he’d adjusted for me, he showed up without anything. He made some excuses about having lent out all the violins he’d been using and needing to get a better one to use as a starting point. He spent some time looking at my instruments and spent a good deal of time talking about how successful his process had been previously (to this day, I’ve never met anyone who’s even seen one of his violins). He asked for another example to use so he could show two different sounds at our next meeting. I picked out a violin, played it, and asked him to reproduce its sound. I never heard from him again.
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