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Modern makers.


stephen redrobe
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It's a bit misleading to say old Italin violins cost millions whereas the best of the contemporary makers' violins merely cost thousands. If you look at auction results of, say Sotheby's, you will find most 18th Italian violins fetch less than £30000. This compares with around £20000 for the best modern maker. True,the condition may not be first class in something 300 years old, but what drama, mystique and romance is to be had playing on something so very old. This is just another aspect I would draw your attention to in this discussion.

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A few months ago, there was something called the Cremona Violin Exhibit, where a number of modern Cremona instruments went to various violin shops for people to see and try out . I had a chance to play these violins, and I thought the violin which really stood out was the one by Ricardo Begonzi. The shop owners said many violin players expressed an interest in buying this violin. Did anyone else here have a chance to try it out?

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My daughter and I got to try out the Bergonzi, but frankly both of us thought that the Salvatore Luca's stole the show. But there were many, many good ones.

(A side note: daughter took her Demirdjian down to compare. Clearly, about 1/4 of the violins there were as good (or in the case of the Luca's, better. But twice, while she was playing hers side by side with the Cremonas, people came in from other rooms to ask what she was playing! Both times the Demirdjian -- she felt like the cat who ate the canary!) (since she'd paid between 1/8th and 1/10th of what the average instrument in the exhibit was going for. But, then, it doesn't come from Cremona -- Stepan needs to change his name. )

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I had a chance to briefly play two David Follands at the VSA - among the 200+ violins laid out to play a friend and I worked our way through from each end of the exhibition tables playing as we went. Folland's and Andrew Ryan's violin were among a few that really stood out (we didn't check labels until we had finished playing them all). Unfortunately we missed out on the silver and bronze winners as they were being demonstrated in another room. I would think 14,000 is quite reasonable for the quality of his instruments.

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Hi Stephen, I have a question for you... when you played your modern instruments in a performance venue, how did your listeners characterize their sounds as compared to your Guarnerius? Somehow I have the impression that well-made modern instruments have rich harmonics that sound well under the ear, but at a greater distance the maturity of the wood can significantly help with the projection, thus giving an edge to older instruments. Can someone comment on this? Thanks!

Stewart

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Ray Weaver, why Folland violins didn't win anything? I guess it depends a lot on who are the judges.

Stewart, a modern violin should also have strong high end output if the maker uses right kind of varnishing system.

In 19C, Vuillaume supposed the know the inside and outside of Strads and Guarneris. Yet in Hill's book, they mentioned that Vuillaumes sound like Vuillaumes (not Stradvari) because the missing link is in the varnish. In recent years, many people believe the "thing" is in the ground coating or treatment.

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Remember the judges have looked at many violins from previous shows they have judged in the U.S. and elsewhere and compare them not to just each other but the best that has been produced. Having talked to a judge or two they have always made clear they are comparing to the best. For example since Bellini was one of the judges I am sure he would have to mentally be aware of the several hundred Strad and del Gesu violins he has worked on during the years of his life.

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Hi David;

I believe Folland received medals in some past competitions...

As careful as the VSA judging is, the outcome still is a result of both the entry and the judging (the individual tastes of the judges to a greater or lesser degree; for both tone and workmanship)... I'm not sure I would agree that any maker's work wasn't up to standard based on one competition. Then, of course, one can argue that there was no award... so the instrument didn't shine in that particular competion. It might be interesting to see what two sets of judges did with the same test group of instruments. I'm sure there would be some agreement.... and some conflict.

My feeling (I was helping to move the instruments around during the competion, so there was opportunity to get a good look at many of them before the outcome was anounced) was that the quality level was very high... I happened to agree with the workmanship points on several of the better fiddles... and noted a few that I would have liked to see rated slightly higher. I would think that is to be expected.

It should probably be noted that a gold medal was not awarded to the violin or viola category last year.

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I went to the Portland stop on the tour. I wasn't all that impressed. None of the violins jumped up and down yelling buy me, buy me. Which was probably for the best as I had no intention of buying. I didn't play all of the instruments though so maybe I missed the one. I did like the Luca, just not $15,000 like.

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I must have missed you there! And I agree about the Cremona exhibition. I thought the two Lucas really stood out, but if this was an example of the best Cremona has to offer (at least in sound quality), the better Eastern European makers and Americans (David Gusset is my favorite) have absolutely nothing to worry about.

(I think I have to contact Stepan about another one, but last I heard he is backed up well over a year.)

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"but if this was an example of the best Cremona has to offer. . . ."

It's not. Unless I am mistaken, those traveling exhibitions typically do not include the work of the most established of the Cremonese makers -- Bissolotti, Conia the elder, etc.

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How much are Bissolotti's, Conia Sr.?

I also went to the Musafia exhibit---my favorite was the Gastaldi--

most knock out loud was the Dinko Dinev--

-though they may not have sounded particularly impressive under the ear---they didn't sound too bad from about 10ft.or so---some of them did take quite a few minutes of playing to warm up--also who knows if they soundposts are even set correctly or knocked out of place with all the moving they been through..I had my Demirdjian get new soundpost (a little bit longer--with "old" wood)--really cleaned up the upper positions (esp the Gstring) and increased the response..as well as the after rings of the other 3 strings.....

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