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The best 20th/21st Century Violin Maker


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Maybe it’s Sam Z because of the big bucks at auction for the one he made for Isaac Stern. Carl Becker is old and his violins continue to be appreciated. We don’t know and won’t know until the makers are all long dead and the instruments are still popular with players. I wouldn’t expect any surprises but some makers may not be as popular and some respected but less popular makers may become more widely appreciated.

If you buy a new one from a respected maker because you like the way it sounds and plays you might be the first owner of a violin that will be widely appreciated after we are all dead. If nobody much likes your violin after you are dead you will have enjoyed playing it anyway.

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Unfortunately for me, I haven't played around with what's out there right now. I hear people mentioned Stefano Scarampella and Sergio Peresson, though. Scarampella made instruments around 1890-1920 or so, and a real one in good condition can fetch around $75k. I think Peresson's sell for somewhere in the mid-30k's.

Zyg's do appear to be in demand, though keep in mind the one that fetched an unheard-of price (for a living maker) was the one and only ex-Stern Zygmuntowicz. (Either that, or it was one of two ex-Stern's in the world.)

Curtin, Alf, Harrild, and Borman seem to have lots of big-name endorsements.

When I grow up, get a job, and hunt for a new violin, I'd like to try some of the following makers' works (in no particular order). After that, we'll see about a car or house.

Samuel Zygmuntowicz

David Palm

Gregg Alf

Joseph Curtin

Jamie Lazzara

Sergio Peresson

Stefano Scarampella

Phillip Injeian

Stephen Demirdjian

Paul Harrild

Terry Michael Borman

Tetsuo Matsuda

Jennifer Becker

David Folland

Andrew Ryan

David Gusset

I can't remember where I heard of those last three, but they're on my master list, and the Palm Pilot never lies.

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No, that's not the one. Alas, I can't find it. I couldn't even find your thread by searching, even though you just posted to it.

I remember that Michael Darnton thought the winner had to be the Beckers, for their prodigious output, consistently excellent quality. I would also add their influence on other makers, such as Sam Z.

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I've found my post about Del Gesù and ressurected it in the Pegbox. In that post I point out that Del Gesù violins would be hardly accepted in the market today.

I agree with Michael, the output and consistency in quality is really important.

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That's one of the better discussions, but that's not it either. There's still another one somewhere.


I couldn't agree more, although I might add that a maker with a track record is a safer bet than the guy who just blew through town. (In fact, one did just blow through town recently .)

It wasn't my intention to endorse one particular maker or family. Michael also mentioned that there are some lesser known makers who make instruments that are highly sought by professionals, but they don't receive a lot of PR and public notice on the Internet.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have tried some violins of well known makers like Bulfari, Conia, Alf, Curtin, R.Hargrave, and someone who not so much famous like D.Palm (Ca), Kretzschmann(Germany)...In my opinion Kretzschmann's a very good violin maker and his price is unbelievable ( for his ability ). For 6000$-7000$ you can get a exact copy of the Kreisler or Cremonese .v.v. of the highest quality. Example, I think his violins are better than most of Buifari's violins now. The violins ( since 1999 ) of Bulfari look always fine, but have a dead red vanish that I coundn't like. They sounds strong, very intensive, brilliant but I find they are too hard.

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  • 10 years later...

I'm looking at a Bulfari now - 1993 - and found this topic through google.  there's not much on the web about his violins though one gets a sort of 'reluctant respect'.  The one I have is typical: dark red - but starting to age as intended with the gold base varnish showing through in patches.  The reason I write is that while it is still strong - I want it for solo work with an orchestra - I would not describe it as hard, perhaps a little strident, but not hard.


I'm wondering if this mean the Bulfaris are toning down with time.  By the way, this one is $21K (Canadian).  I hope its not dreadfully overpriced.

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Don't fall in love with a specific maker. Fall in love with a specific violin. In other words, judge violins by the violin itself, not by the maker.


Very well said and I could not agree more, HOWEVER I do have a list of makers who consistently please the hell out of me lol


I have a serious man crush on Ben Connover's work as I have yet to find a single flaw or detail which displeases me in his work, I absolutely am itching to have one commissioned for myself as soon as I rake up enough cash to have it done. If Number one sells well, I'll begin with number two and so forth until I have enough funding to book a vacation to Ireland LOL 


There are some contemporary Boston makers who I absolutely loved and I can't get over the quality of some Mirecourt workshop violins I've come across. There's actually a wide range of offerings which make me happy from both modern and semi modern makers. It's hard to choose.

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What a strange place.  I post a queery about an italien lutier (Bulfari) in one of the few topics that mention him (but that's been dormant since 2003) - and stimulate a non-sequiteur response to the original ancient topic - followed by correspondence from a lost soul who seems to have got stuck in Alice's rabbit hole...


Curiouser and curiouser.  Next up: the mad hatter as fiddle maker....


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I don't remember seeing this topic originally.  Of course the question can hardly be answered definitively with any sense of authority, since no one is likely to have seen all of even just the contemporary makers, much less all the makers from 1901 on.


One thing I CAN say from personal experience is of all the modern violins I have tried to make work, only one by a well known maker has actually developed to the extent that I believe it WILL become a fine violin in keeping with those of Strad and Guarneri.  I am not going to say who made it to avoid anger, arguments ,and repercussions.  :) I have been very disappointed by a lot of expensive violins by living makers and known makers such as Scarampella and Poggi (just to give a couple of examples).  But I certainly haven't seen every violin by some of our most honored contemporary makers.

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One thing I CAN say from personal experience is of all the modern violins I have tried to make work, only one by a well known maker has actually developed to the extent that I believe it WILL become a fine violin in keeping with those of Strad and Guarneri.  I am not going to say who made it to avoid anger, arguments ,and repercussions.  :)  



David is not around...  :lol:

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David is not around...   :lol:



I don't always express myself as perfectly as I would like, and post #20 is a good example.  When we try out a new violin, I believe we will have a basic triage situation:  We will either like it, dislike it, or be unsure.  If we keep the violin, it will grow on us, or not, or we will remain unsure.  Over time, new violins usually go through a lot of changes; not all of them pleasant.  We are either able to put up with those, or have the violin adjusted some way that makes the violin acceptable to play.  If not, we have to discard that violin, or suffer with it, or as many players do we might put it aside in a closet.  I have seen many violins somehow continue to change and improve even just resting in a case.  But they usually remain unrewarding in one way or another. 


The one violin I am talking about was a decent violin to start, but it was almost nondescript in its effect.  Most other new violins have something about them that seems to stand out.  This one didn't have that.  But with 12 years of age, it is developing.  "Developing" is the key word.  Most of my other violins that seemed to have more character initially, became irritating and in spite of plenty of adjustments weren't enjoyable to play anymore.  This one is coming into its own very slowly, but steadily.  It never seems to go backwards.  It's the only new violin like that that I have owned.


All of a sudden, one day, I realized that I was sensing things about it that I've only felt on some of the great fiddles. 


I have absolutely NO idea what this all means, if anything.  I have a feeling there ought to be a conclusion that could be drawn, but I'm not smart enough to figure it out.  


I do remember a violinist trying out a Gagliano once, and she commented that it had a great A-string.  Her colleague said, "Oh, that's not a good thing!"  She asked him why.  And he explained that if one thing jumps out at you as being good, that means that all the other things are not keeping up.  So while there may be a strength in some areas, there are also weaknesses in others.


Harry Duffy once spoke of the "Cessole" Strad.  He considered it to be the best Strad he had played.  He said that when you first play it, nothing stands out; nothing jumps out as being special.  Then, as you continue to play it, you find more and more and more to like.   


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