Best American Violin Maker

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Assuming that it takes about 50 years for a violin to reach tonal maturity, has any historical American maker produced violins of a quality acceptable to international soloists?

Leaving aside quality of workmanship and market value (not always a guide to performance characteristics) I'm curious to know if history has yet had time to assess the merits of American violins relative to European.

I believe that Menuhin owned and played a Peresson but how do makers such as A. White, I, White, Bryant, Squier, Reindahl, Gemunder, Becker stack up?

(Have I missed any contenders off the list?).

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I wasn't aware of du Pre's preference for a Peresson over a Strad! That's an incredible reference for Peresson.

I was trying to avoid the recent and the living because history has not had time to assess their merits.

There is also the niggling question of whether Sacconi, Degani and Gemunder count as truly American.

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Menuhini and and DuPre are certainly not the only ones to play a


I know Nadia Sonenberg plays her 1971 Peresson out on occasion. As

did Issac Stern.

Eugene Fodor too is a big fan.

Dylana Jensen plays a Zygmuntowicz and swears by it.

Question - what counts as American? Peresson lived in NJ, but he

also lived in Venezuela and was born in Italy.

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If an instrument made tomorrow has a tone worth notariety, then why would we have to assume that it'll take another 50 years to sound great? No disrespect here, but I'm not sure I understand why you would think that (well, yeah, I am sure... I don't understand that). I have to admit that I'm very unknowledgeable of these things, but I thought that there were a few contemporaries that are doing very well.

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Only time can be the ultimate judge of a violin's performance characteristics.

Things can be done to achieve immediate and impressive results; (Vuillaume destroyed hundreds of fine instruments by baking them. The short term effect was good but temporary). Acid treatments can also enhance the sound but ultimately destroys the wood fibers).

Peresson cut his plates very thin to achieve quick response and this resulted in delighted clients whose enthusiasm waned after a few, short years.

That's why I was asking about earlier makers whose results have endured.

But as Stefan points out, Peresson cannot be considered American. He was born in Udine and learned his craft in Italy.

That's why I was asking about American born and raised makers living and working in the 19th or early 20th century.

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i don't know about american makers but there's a lot of great

canadian makers out there too i have a viola by john newton

which was just made for me, and previous to that i had another john

newton for 12 years.  the former was a brescian style and the

newer one is a modern shape which has a number of implementations.

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Other nationalities get almost totally ingored as well -

When was the last time anyone raved about their Swiss, Danish, Swedish, Spanish or Portugese violin? The list goes on and on.

O.K. Back to the topic, I wasn't trying to hijack.

Many people maintain that Becker Sr. was the greatest "American" maker. And yet - Is there any well- known soloist who actually performs on one? Any soloist using a Sacconi?

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Hi all,

I think whoever has made it on the the "best" list has been judged and been supported

by a small group of people (great players and dealer, collectors, perhaps ). An average Joe (an ordinary player) on a street has no say on its outcomes. Joe belongs the big silent majority (99.9999%). It is

problematic, to say the least. How complete (fair) is the list? Why Mr. So-and-so is on the list?

Why he is not on the list? etc.... (tons of questions, with no end in sight)

I think it (the list) is more a perception of a few (0.0001%) than a meaningful ranking.

An average player may only know 10 violins intimately in his life time. A good player may know more.

How many more? The numbers of great violins that we are unaware of their exisyences is everybody's guess. To come up with a meaningful " best" list is an impossible task. ( I played a Becker for 5 min one time)

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As far as I know, the rumor about Peresson cutting his plates thin

was fabricated by a New York Dealer. Somehow it stuck through the

years. To the best of my knowledge, it was not really so.

I believe Michael Darnton has pointed out the Peressons he measured

were, if anything, thick.

I admit that I have a bias towards Peressons, as I own one.

As far as I can tell, it sounds better now than it did in 1981,

when I first got it as a brand new fiddle (and it ain't me, cause

I'm not as good as I was then)  

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Du Pre's Peresson cello is loaned to the Jerusalem Quartet by Daniel Barenboim. I doubt it can be as thin as the her Strad cello which avarages about 3mm over its front! The issue of 'how American' a maker or an instrument is, is an interesting one to define...Does the maker have to have been born and trained in the USA? Is it enough that the maker held a USA passport? Is it simply enough that the maker had residency rights and made the instrument in the USA? etc.....I tend to personaly feel that the loosest most encompassing definition is the most attractive & the USA should claim it's credit for good violins that immigrant makers chose to make their living with on its soil!....But I'm a Brit so guess this ain't entirely my business!

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"--Zygmuntowicz has been very successful. Lin and Bell have his violins. I think Vengerov does too. And Stern, of course. --"

Is there any CD recording with one of these violins?

I would love to hear the sound.

I would appreciate a link if any.


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I think, from the way this thread is developing, that it's safe to conclude there aren't any historical American makers of great merit.

The names that keep surfacing are either alive, recently deceased or not American.

Carl Becker Sr seems to be the most respected American maker from an earlier age.

Wilkanowski made nice looking violins but I have never heard anyone rave about their performance characteristics.

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Hi Glenn. Violin making in North America is relatevely new. Top makers are scarce everywhere, but it seem there is a great generation of American makers now.

Sacconi's arrival in the USA is a hallmark in American making, I think, since he trained a great number of makers and restorers. B

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George Gemunder, Sr. is my favorite non living American maker. I have played many Gemunder violins and think they are great. Several professional orchestra players play Gemunder violins. I have heard them called the "Poor man's Vuillaume".

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Originally posted by:

I think, from the way this thread is developing, that it's safe to conclude there aren't any historical American makers of great merit.

Well... you're working with some very limiting criteria. A lot of highly respected old Italians can't pass that test either. For example, I can't think offhand of any international soloist cellists who play a Grancino, but they're still highly respected cellos. For a time there about half the cellists of the Berlin Phil played Grancino cellos. You know how terrific that section sounds. I'd put makers like Becker, etc in a similar category. Their instruments are highly in demand among seasoned professionals and the prices just keep going up.

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Hi Glenn! I don't agree also that it takes 50 years for a violin to get it's maturity and being used as a concert instruments. I had one of my violas used as a concert instrument with a State Orchestra in Denmark. Boris Brovtsyn also said that one violin I made in 2005 was a soloist instrument, and it would be good for playing Shostakovich concertos.

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I think Erica made the telling comment. Top soloists have access to the top soloists instruments. Does anyone play something other than a Strad or Del Gesu?. The only one who comes to mind is Hilary Hahn who plays a Vuillaume. Soloists own a few violins but they aren't going to advertise what they are playing in a situation where they don't want to risk their expensive fiddle.

If you lower the criteria to top professionals, symphony players and chamber players, it gets more interesting. The old Italians may predominate but you'll find plenty of less expensive violins both old and new being used to earn a living and quite capable of holding their own. One problem of the older American makers mentioned is that expensive restoration of any condition issues can't be justified. No matter how good the instrument may be for its utility value, it isn't an expensive Italian violin.

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Hi Oldgeezer, Another who comes to mind is Cristian Tetzlaff who used to play a Stard but now extolls the virtues of his main concert instrument made by Greiner in and paste link for the first google entry I could find...Think Tetzlaff also talked about it in the Strad..Link.... good modern makers boast top players as clients but as you imply these players have several good instruments and normally they chose their old Cremonese for concerts!....and what counts is what they perform on. Tetzlaff performs on a modern violin and he is happy to talk about it from what I can gather. Rivka Golani is another player who comes to mind having built a career with a viola made by Otto Erdez. .....There must be other players whose primary concert choice is a modern as described by them rather than makers adverts & press releases ( any more anyone?) . One of my favourite recordings for sound is ex Liverpool Phil leader Malcolm Stewart playing a Scarampella violin.....Top players know that it is a special feeling for a big part of the audience that they are listening to a great player playing the work of a great composer...and extra special if it is played on a great instrument like a Strad or del Gesu....Part of the audience wants to eat out after the concert knowing they heard a Stradivarius!....It's quite a brave step for a soloist to proudly write on the program notes that they play a modern instrument....Some concert goers who value their dull ears and preconceptions over the raified taste of the performer might be disapointed.

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