Andrew Victor

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  1. Are better instruments really harder to play?

    I'd think the difference between a $4K and a $6K cello is the difference between a heads and tails in a coin flip. I've got 3 cellos: one, an 1877 Lowendall (German) came to me for free when I was just shy of 14, The other I bought 15 years later in 1964 for $350 (down from $500) and the third is a 2004 Jay-Haide for just under $5000 that I bought new. Within the past 10 years or so I have played a dozen or more new Italian cellos priced in the range of $15K to $30K in the traveling Cremona show that visits the US every year. The only ones I thought were better than mine were the couple of $30K ones made by Riccardo Bergonzi. So I feel pretty good about my own cellos. Unfortunately my cellos have of a "bit of a problem" in the 2nd and 3rd octave up the C string (some worse than others - and highly dependent on the bow I use) - but so did most of those that I have tried. The 2nd summer I played cello in the Easter Sierra Symphony our section principal (an LA pro) had just bought a new cello (on which she was making what she called "house payments") and it had similar problems. But back in 1963 a chamber cellist music friend (who had a far better cello than his skill warranted) asked me to babysit his cello for the summer while he and his wife were in Europe. This was a marvelous antique instrument that he said had been the cello in the Hollywood String Quartet. And it was truly marvelous; it was as easy to play at the top of the fingerboard as at the bottom -even on the C string. It had been a $10,000 instrument back in 1960 - God only knows what it might sell for today. I don't know who made it - if I asked, I have forgotten. It was so easy to play! In those 6 weeks I taught myself the Saint-Saens concerto - and then when my friend returned and I had to revert to my own cello, it was never the same - everything became so hard! So, no! great old instruments do not have to be hard to play. I also had the privilege to play on an ex-Olé Bull Stradivarius violin for a few minutes in that time frame (1963) - and it was as easy to play as cutting butter and unbelievable responsive - and absolutely glorious to hear-its response to vibrato was unbelievable - felt like it could carry me to heaven! At the time it was insured for $150,000.
  2. Beethoven, op. 130

    Hey Herman: Old! 56 is not old (or is it if it's as old as you get to be?). My younger daughter will be 56 next week. Maybe it is old if you are a deaf musician!
  3. Starting viola

    Thanks for the inputs. I will look into trying the suggestions. Primrose? Hmm! Must have worked OK - I just listened to Mozart's K516 Quintet with Primrose on Saturday! I found that going to a Peter Infeld Platinum E string did wonders for the G strings on 2 of my violins - may be the same principle (and the reason I tried the PI viola A first to fix my C string). EDIT-3 days later. Thanks again, MANFIO. My several thin A strings arrived this after noon and I'm trying the Dominant first because of nice tone on this viola with Dominants years go. An improvement in the C string was immediately apparent.
  4. Starting viola

    Deans - the vibrating string length on this viola is 376mm.
  5. Starting viola

    MANFIO-I'm hoping you can give me some advice on viola C strings. My main viola is a Charles Woods 1996 (California maker). It seems to generally have a big glorious tone (its G string is "to die for"). Over the more than 20 years I have owned it I have tried a number of string brands. Dominant strings were pretty good on it. Spirocore were terrible (although they are OK on my other viola). Evah Pirazzi Gold are much too "edgy." really horrible sounding under the chin. I'm currently using Pirastro Permanent strings and find these to be the best I've ever tried on this viola - but the C string is too edgy. I loosened the C string and found that the tone improved so I reasoned that a lower tension string might work. I tried a Thomastik Peter Infeld weich and got some improvement. I went to my luthier's store (Ifshin violins) and had the violist salesman play my viola (I had no idea it sounded so good from a distance - even the C string) and bought several lower tension C strings. Right now I'm using a Pirastro Passionne C string I bought there, which is an improvement. I've also got low-tension versions Obligato, Zyex and Dominant C strings I bought there waiting in my case. Have you any suggestions? Which should I try next.
  6. Starting viola

    Muswell, my experience was that doing the 1>3 and 3>1 "transposition" in your head gets you started in a hurry (my start went from bringing a new viola home for the first time and preparing for a performance of the Verdi Requiem shortly afterward - 43 years ago). Then virtually every time a new performance came up (about 7 times over 40 years) I had to go through the same process. But after doing the "Suzuki thing" I described earlier I was able to simply read alto clef every time I picked up a viola. I don't know what % of violinist/violists go that route - or can. This discussion indicates to me it's not that straightforward for everyone. For me the mind-body relationship seems strange. I've known for at least 60 years that if I hold an instrument like a cello I read clefs for cello playing and if I hold it under my chin I read clefs for violin playing --and for the past 3 years I can expand that to read for viola playing - but I have to pre-set my mind to do that.
  7. Starting viola

    I play violin (79 years), cello (69 years) and viola (43 years or 3 years - depending on your perspective). I've owned a viola for 43 years and until 3 years ago I had only played it about 100 hours including about 7 performances. On viola I use a low chinrest that provides me the same jaw to collarbone distance as my violin. I play a 16 inch viola and noticed early on that the finger-separation distances in 3rd position seem to be the same as violin distances in 1st position AND the left arm angle is the same in viola 3rd position as in violin 1st position. If you are used to playing all up and down the violin fingerboard you will have noticed the relationship between finger span and arm extension - playing viola is the same and this relationship extrapolates down to viola's 1st position. I seem to find it easier at my advanced age to vibrato on viola than violin. I do not use a shoulder rest with viola, but I often do with violin. I do find that my left-hand fingers can start to "buzz" (perhaps onset of "paralysis") playing viola passages that are too long and intense - but with the orchestra and chamber music parts I've played these past 3 years that does not happen too often and when it does I can shake it out during a long rest (in the music, that is!). I find using the viola bow easier (nowadays) for me than the violin bow - I like the 10 extra grams of mass. Sometimes I even use a viola bow on violin even though it doesn't sound quite as good as the right bow. When I finally got serious about viola playing in the more recent years I looked at the Suzuki viola books to see a good starting point for me and decided to start at book 4 because the lower number books were trivial at my level and the Suzuki viola and violin books had many pieces in common at that time so playing the (transposed) viola versions was a way to develop my alto-clef sight-reading ability fast. (I think I did one book a day through book 7). I had previously used the "play viola 1st position like reading violin in 3rd position and play viola 3rd position like reading violin 1st position one string higher" approach but I haven't had to do that these past 3 years. I do make sight reading mistakes on viola sometimes when things get really fast and my brain reverts to violin mode. Also fingering the different sharps and flats concepts is yet not as automatic as it is with the other instruments that I learned during childhood and youth - but there is always time to practice before the next rehearsal.
  8. viola string question

    Your red C string looks like a steel-core Spirocore (by Thomastik, I think). I agree the A,D,G strings look like PI, but could also be Jargar or even Super Sensitive-stellar that are not quite purple. Violas can be tricky at the bottom end and sometimes a different string brand altogether in a thin gauge can help the sound.
  9. Publishers and clefs

    I think you have to be a cellist to appreciate tenor clef. I have no idea what a bassoonist has to go through to read and play it. For cellists the bug-a-boo is having to read and play treble clef one octave down instead of tenor clef, which is just one note different - kind of scrambles the brain. What I wonder about is WHY the clef change occurs so often at the end of a line (who reads past the last note?). As a violist/violinist I wonder why alto clef isn't just a fifth below treble clef - making the transition as easy as bass-to-tenor is for cellists. Anybody have a good reference for The History of Clefs?
  10. A string trouble

    The Krentz Wolf Eliminators are the most effective wolf-suppression devices I have ever experienced - and wolf elimination has been a goal i have sought since starting to play cello in 1949. The Krentz device is also very effective for modifying some other tone-spoiling characteristics of instruments. The Krentz is made in different sizes for cello, viola, and violin and I have tried them all - some for wolf suppression and some just for tonal adjustment. Krentz will accept a return of the device and refund your money if it doesn't work for you. I have never returned one. I look back and think of the thousands of dollars I spent to eliminate cello wolves and other tonal problems with different strings, different bridges, different bows and different "wolf suppressors" and even different cellos. If the KRENTZ had been available I would still have all that money. At least I was able to sell some of those extra bows for a small profit and exchanged one of those cellos at no loss. EDIT addition: The Krentx is placed internally through an f-hole on the bass side of the instrument and held in place by magnets - small one on the outside and a larger one on the interior resonator part. Using the outer magnet as a guide one can move the interior mass/resonator all over the bass side of the instrument (except onto the bass bar, of course) - and I think if one were adventurous one could also move the Krentz over to the other side. I THINK the mass of Krentz is acting somewhat as a "re-graduation" of the upper plate and that accounts for its positive effect on tone. Whatever you do, be sure to read the insructions --TWICE!! Here is my experience with Krentz wolf eliminators: CELLO: on 2 German Strad-model cellos (1877 and 1960) both with F# wolves, the wolves they had since birth were effectively eliminated (finally after all those decades). also the 1960 one had a troublesome G string and that problem is also gone. On my Jay-Haide Rugieri model that had no wolf, the Krentz improved the lower frequency sound enough to make its purchase worthwhile. VIOLA: I had no wolf on this viola, but a Krentz reduced the edginess of the C string somewhat. VIOLIN: None of my 4 violins has a wolf. The tone of 2 of my violins is improved by a Krentz. However, the Krentz actually has a negative effect on the sound of my two best violins.
  11. Forgotten Viola repertoire

    AtlVcl, since the Arpeggione Sonata is "transcribed" for any instrument that plays it other than the arpeggione - it is transcribed for any instrument existing today (except for the very few 6-string arpeggiones that are around). What I meant is that it while that sonata is generally considered a virtuoso piece on cello (at least with current notation), on viola it falls within the technical level of such things as the Zelter, Telemann, Mendelssohn sonata or Mozart Sinfonia Concertante.
  12. Forgotten Viola repertoire

    FELEFAR - a good one! Schubert's Arpeggione Sonata is much better suited to viola than to cello on which it is more frequently heard. i would like to recommend the Zelter concerto (check out ) it is very nice and not difficult.
  13. I have been way for many years
  14. Stonger G string required

    You can check your G strings important characteristics the following ways: 1. Play a 2 octave scale on it - if it has problems in the 2nd octave consider something like Larsen Tzigane OR possibly trying a Thomastik Peter Infeld Platinum-plated E string, which I have found effective in changing the balance of string forces on the bridge in a way that corrected G strings that had failed tonally in the 2nd octave. 2. Detune your G string - if the growl or edge goes away when the string is tuned down to an F# you will likely do better with a lower tension G string, if it does better at G# (which I doubt), a higher tension string may help. 3. Have someone else play your violin and see if the growl projects or if it is only audible to the player. Decide as a listener. what you think of the tone of your instrument. OR-try playing your instrument in cello position and see what it sounds like to you that way.
  15. Violin Bow pernambuco

    Are older pernambuco bows dark in color because they are old, or is it because that's the way they were made? My F.N. Voirin, Albert Nürnberger, and Richard Weichold bows are all well over 100 years old and dark, but so are both of my Paul Martin Siefried bows and my Seifert bows- latter half of 20th and early 21st century. I've also got a dark viola bow stamped C. Bazin, but I'm pretty sure it's newish and probably Asian. The Morgan Anderson bows I've seen have been very light - are they going to go dark in another 60 - 80 years?