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A bit of help?


Niko
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"And the Mittenwald I got from auction records (I was trying to make sure I had a maker who actually made that size!)and this was how they had it listed, but I did not understand that it was only a place name, and I think I'd prefer a maker, so it looks like back to research for this one *sigh*. Thanks for that catch."

1/8 size violins aren't usually made by named violin makers. Violins in that size are usually made by factories or (at best) workshop operations of the sort that flourish (or used to) in Mittenwald.

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Well, in regards to the 1/8 size violin...I still think you should change it to 1/2 or at least 1/4. 1/8 is like a Xmas ornament practically. But...we could debate the little violin forever and it's just a souvenir of her childhood, right? I'm more interested in what she's playing now. Is she playing the full size violin she had when she was taking lessons as an advanced student? Did she sell that one and now has a different one? Is it some cheap rental from a local music store? Is it something pricey her dad bought for her?

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BillW: I understand now. That's very interesting, I might wind up using some of that info, thanks so much!

ConcertA: exactly, it's basically a toy given by an idiot who didn't know better, but had enough moolah to buy it without bothering to research it, so I actually quite like that it's nearly useless, it adds to her father's personality. What on earth should she be playing on? Hmm, she was from a very wealthy family, so she should have a good piece, but as she wasn't believed to have the sort of talent that warranted a tremendous expenditure, the violin she played, say, through college, should not have been terribly expensive. I would think that her father might have been willing to shell out between $5,000 to $50,000 under duress, if it were stressed that this was what she needed. Perhaps it could even have been a high school graduation gift. Any suggestions from anyone? Am I totally off-base with my price range?

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"I did quite a bit of research on music for that particular trio, and found all three of these, plus Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Boccherini, Copland, Corelli, Gershwin, Ginastera, Haydn, Levanon, Mascagni, Mendelssohn, Mouret, Pachelbel, Purcell, Schubert, Tartini, Telemann, Vivaldi, and Wagner. Would three others be more fitting than the ones I mentioned?"

Your trio of violin, flute and cello could play trio sonatas from the first half of the 18th century, which call for two soprano instruments (flutes or violins) and continuo. The continuo usually consists of a bass instrument (cello) and a keyboard instrument (harpsichord) to fill in the harmony. Most trio sonatas can be played without the keyboard instrument but that's a sort of compromise when the keyboard instrument isn't available. Trio sonatas would probably account for the Bach, Corelli, Pachelbel, Purcell, Tartini, Telemann, and Vivaldi works you found. Most of the rest are probably arrangements. I guess your group could get by with the trio sonata literature (omitting keyboard), Haydn, arrangements and a few original compositions by minor composers written for that combination. But violin, flute and cello is still a somewhat odd ensemble.

And Wagner arranged for violin, flute and cello sounds positively ludicrous! The Ride of the Valkyries? The Flying Dutchman Overture? Tristan?

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BillW: Thank you, great info across the board. The Wagner I found was just the Wedding March, so, unless they were playing a wedding I don't imagine they'd play it much And please, keep in mind that I am a musical idiot (which is why this is not the main plot of my book), definitely not trying to upset anyone or create a debate, I promise, am merely showing what I've found, so that you guys can set me straight so I don't look like such an idiot! Thank you again for the information, I am definitely learning a lot here.

ConcertA, wonderful, thank you for the link and for the hint about the auction page!

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I read on one of the violin forums of a teacher who gave nail clippers as Christmas gifts to her students. I don't know about anyone else but I need to clip both hands because the nail on the pinkie is in the way on the frogand the thumbnail gets in the way too. I keep clippers in my case too.

The character: If she's got a vane side you could have her looking in the mirror and bemoaning her "violin hickey".

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skiingfiddler: thank you for your luthier peeve. I don't believe that my character will have need of a violin maker, but toward the end of the book she might consider taking her tiny violin to be repaired. Will "luthier" fit in this context?


For my tastes, no. As I said, I've never met a skilled, professional violin maker or repairer who called him/herself a "luthier." I have met some amateur makers who like that title, maybe because it has more panache than "violin maker."

If someone of a professional stature were seriously talking about being a luthier, I'd assume they were a guitar maker.

Google "luthier" and see what the results are.

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BillW: I understand now. That's very interesting, I might wind up using some of that info, thanks so much!

ConcertA: exactly, it's basically a toy given by an idiot who didn't know better, but had enough moolah to buy it without bothering to research it, so I actually quite like that it's nearly useless, it adds to her father's personality. What on earth should she be playing on? Hmm, she was from a very wealthy family, so she should have a good piece, but as she wasn't believed to have the sort of talent that warranted a tremendous expenditure, the violin she played, say, through college, should not have been terribly expensive. I would think that her father might have been willing to shell out between $5,000 to $50,000 under duress, if it were stressed that this was what she needed. Perhaps it could even have been a high school graduation gift. Any suggestions from anyone? Am I totally off-base with my price range?


One shouldn't blame a parent for messing up a first purchase of a violin. They really have no way of knowing better. When my mother shopped for my first (also 1/8 size), she went to what was then the most prestigious dealer in NY, and asked what they had. She walked out that day with a French, handmade instrument (no name, of course) that had some age on it--- not a plywood job by any means--- and a bow that had a nice abalone insert on the frog. The whole thing cost something like $50 or $75, and she was convinced she was being taken.

A full-size instrument is a different story, and there are any number of stories one could tell with that. By this time in a violinist's life, he/she will be a much more informed consumer.

Was it a semi-famous name that had a lot of work done, and was hence lower priced? Was it the flavor-of-the-month modern maker being promoted by a dealer (@ maybe $20K)? Perhaps a shrewd purchase of something just above investment grade but not overpriced-- say, a Vuillaume, which is not so expensive as the Italian it is a copy of, but nevertheless quite nice at best? Those retail for around $100K. How wealthy is wealthy, and what conversation would she have had to get the new instrument bought and paid for? Remember, that any violin student's career is an endless series of trade-ups-- first in size, and then in quality, as possible.

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The auction prices aren't really very informative because they tell you nothing about condition, questions of authenticity, and other factors that may have affected prices at auction. Prices for string instruments have escalated dramatically over the past 30 years--more so than the inflation rate--and the values of various "schools" have changed in relation to one another over that period. You would have to know the time-frame in which the instrument was purchased if you felt it necessary to be specific about the maker and the price of your character's violin.

It's hard to see how playing in a violin/flute/cello trio would advance the cellist's career, especially if the group is playing mostly weddings or trio sonatas without keyboard. That smacks of amateurism or at best the bottom level of professional playing. Don't get me wrong: some very fine classical musicians play weddings from time to time, but they do so for cash, not to advance their careers.

Also, the cello part in trio sonatas is usually rather simple and doesn't give the cellist much opportunity to put his talents on display: the drama lies in the interaction between the two soprano instruments. The cello would not be the "leader" of such a group. With some exceptions, such as the trio sonata from The Musical Offering, the music is generally agreeable but frequently insipid and not of a quality that would enhance the performers' careers (especially if performed without keyboard).

The string trio (violin/viola/cello) literature includes some great and very difficult music (Mozart, Beethoven, Schoenberg) but there's probably not enough of it for career advancement.

The piano trio (violin/cello/piano) literature, in contrast, is rich in important works, with demanding, virtuoso cello parts, and playing this repertory could advance the cellist's career--but only if none of the musicians involved plays "lackadaisically." All three musicians would have to have undergone the rigors of a lengthy professional education on their instruments and would have to play with commitment as well as technical skill. (The idea that an individual could reach a certain level of attainment as a child on a 1/8 size violin, then drop the instrument until she reached 40, and then pick it up again and play professionally just doesn't ring true.)

The cellist would not be the leader of a piano trio--it would be a partnership among equals, with the piano, if anyone, perhaps playing the dominant role (although the strings might resent the pianist if s/he were to attempt to do so).

Also the dialogue you quoted doesn't ring quite true. Real musicians (Disclosure: I'm not one myself), in preparation for a performance, would be much more specific about what aspects of each piece needed work and would never be content with "I'm comfortable with the Haydn. God knows, we've done it enough."

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The auction prices aren't really very informative because they tell you nothing about condition, questions of authenticity, and other factors that may have affected prices at auction.


Good point. I was thinking less of price, etc...than helping Niko find different makers.

Also about her (does this character have a name yet?) violin...didn't the older sister play and was like the prodigy? (maybe i made that up, I can't remember and i don't want to read back through the posts.) Anyway, if that's true, her violin could be a cast off from the sister as she (the sister) moved up through violins to a prof. level fiddle.

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Evie: Ha! I love the violin hickey, thanks! Great detail on the pinkie,too, thank you so much.

skiingfiddler: Gotcha, thanks again.

Stephen: In fiction we blame the parent for everything I originally did research on Vuillaume and considered it for her current violin. Thanks, it sounds as though that might be the way to go.

BillW: I would definitely do more research than just the auction results, and thanks for pointing the pitfalls out. There was a recent article, along with Boston auction results, about escalating prices, which is where I got the Mittenwald from originally, that was so interesting. Alexander is leader by default, he recently left an orchestra rather suddenly, and is in a desperate moment in his career and life, hence the seemingly inconsequential trio, made up of his two best friends. The fact that the trio is unusual is the point. You're right, it's not perfect, fiction relies on getting out of jams, on fixing the imperfect, so this NEEDS to be a problem, it NEEDS to be imperfect. So I can fix them Thank you again for the in-depth information! All of this will certainly make these scenes richer, more developed and believable. I'm looking forward to getting back in there and tweaking!

ConcertA: Right now her name is Connie (Constance), and her sister is a genius, but she is a math genius. But were she a violin player that would have been a great tension builder, getting the castaways from the sister. You should write

I am heading out on vacation tomorrow (in the panhandle of Florida no less ), but please, if anyone thinks of anything else, please feel free to throw it out there. You've all been wonderful. I'll be back in two weeks and will check in then...

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"The fact that the trio is unusual is the point. You're right, it's not perfect, fiction relies on getting out of jams, on fixing the imperfect, so this NEEDS to be a problem, it NEEDS to be imperfect. So I can fix them."

Playing in this trio may be evidence of the precipitous collapse of Alexander's career (from a respectable orchestral musician to playing wedding music with amateurs) but it can't plausibly lead to any fix. Alexander might as well try to put his career back on track busking in the subway.

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I am heading out on vacation tomorrow (in the panhandle of Florida no less ), but please, if anyone thinks of anything else, please feel free to throw it out there. You've all been wonderful. I'll be back in two weeks and will check in then...


Wow, you'd rather drive into a hurricane than take more free advice from us!

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Evie...too funny!! Forgot all about that!

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...her sister is a genius, but she is a math genius. But were she a violin player that would have been a great tension builder, getting the castaways from the sister. You should write


Niko, aren't we ALL trying to write the Great American Novel??? Unfortunately, I have the terminal procrastination gene...

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