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Cremonese verus the rest


Argon55
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Falstaff, I basically agree. I love old Cremonese instruments in

all aspects over all else...BUT....Instruments do exist in a social

historical context. Strads and especially Del Gesus were worth less

than Amatis or Stainers before music styles changes and Viotti and

Paganini championed these instruments...........The process by

which instruments become valuable is an interesting one and worth

examining. Instruments by a maker become valuable an estimed for

many reasons. There must first be some intrinsic qualities to start

the process but once started it can become an almost self

fulfilling prophesy.....Valuable violins get the best attention re

set up because the value makes expert attention financially

expedient. Take for instance a dealer or collector who owns a 1910

'modern Italian with a Market retail value of $70,000...as it

happens this violin is in pristine condition but does not play as

good as it should at this price.....to be honest the maker

occasionally was a bit crude re neck set, bassbars and graduations

.....They want to put it on the market at a premium price. It does

not play well but they know a man who can fix that!....It goes up

for sale sounding great. Now this makers instruments are selling at

a premium price they all start to sound great...and so on...OK I'm

really talking in broad brush strokes here but Argonn 55 feels

there is some kind of pscycho-social dimension here and I'd have to

say it plays a part???

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As a ex-scientist-type person I can understand what argon55 is trying to ask... almost everyone seems to agree that Cremonese instruments sound better, so can we design a test to validate this? It's just the standard way a scientist would go about proving a hypothesis.

In fact almost all blind listening tests so far have ended up showing no clear differences and the "old-Italian" camp invariably cry foul and say it wasn't a fair test for any number of reasons (which could well be the case, since most of the tests I have heard about seem very un-scientific). And then there is the old fall-back argument: "well if you can't hear the difference then you must have cloth ears!"

I am intrigued by the wine analogy because they sorted things out a long time ago. They have a very clear structure in place for evaluating wine - starting with the absolute requisite for blind tasting, by people who are rigorously trained and qualified, using a standardised sytem of judging and scoring. This system occasionaly throws up an amazing cheapie and sometimes embarrasses some of the bigger names. And of course you won't find any of the great wines entered for judging - they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose.

There is one other analogy that I find interesting as well - I think that only a relatively small percentage of people can really appreciate the subtle complexities of a great wine... but there are an awful lot of people out there who like to pretend they can!

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"can we design a test to validate this?"

No.

"It's just the standard way a scientist would go about proving a hypothesis."

And if the scientist found that the number of variables were too many or could not be controlled, then he would have to admit that the hypothesis could not be tested.

I think each of the qualities that Michael listed as components of a great fiddle can be detected. I do not see how they can be consistently quantified in such a way that they would be accessible to objective testing.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Alan_Coggins
Are there more

variables in the sound of a violin compared to the taste of a

wine?

Probably not, but if set-up can be compared to wine storage and

temperature, and the choice of bow compared to the choice of wine

glass, it's a lot easier to compare wines than to compare violins.

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"--The fact that any given player can wring a good sound from an substandard instrument HAS NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH THE QUESTION OF WHETHER OR NOT A CREMONESE INSTRUMENT IS, OBJECTIVELY, BETTER. --"

Right, not related to the original question but related an other question why the millions of dollars are paid to a strad since some extra effort and talent will resolve the issue. I think this is a normal question, simple but very normal question that needed to asked.

Strad compared to new instruments were discussed in this or other forums several times. I expressed what I thought in "lower case" letters. For me It is not that hard to hear and feel how Joshua Bell is forcing the bow to get some some more power in his CD his recordings and I am sure his multi million dollar strad is taking the acoustic advantage of studio recording. On the other hand, I can give names of recordings where the power is erupting from new instruments.

Ok, power is not every thing, or sound is personal choice,

or recording is not reliable, but gives some idea at least more than subjective words do.

Melving and Mauricio,

I think I understand what you are trying to underline. Ease of playing is a part of tonal quality and It is as important as the sound itself to a player. As long as I am given chance to know what is wrong I think the rest is easy. I am just trying to understand.

Apologize for offending any one, If any happened.

Thanks for response.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Argon55

To use this analogy with violins, then I come back to my

thesis which is that there is no significant objective difference

in sound quality between a Strad and a violin from the
best

makers in subsequent centuries.


Which Strad? Which example of the "best" later maker? Which player? What venue? Which day?

How do you define what's "best" in terms of sound quality? Power? Presence? Sensitivity? Resistance? Depth? Warmth? Brightness? Clarity? Texture? Flexibility? All of the above? Sounds like a description of Strad's varnish that Michael posted once (What was that from, Michael? The Woodcock book?).

To go back to your experience with wine: Wine tasting is more or less an internal experience. Sharing only goes as far as the bottle and the conversation. Concensus (or not) of what is good results from comparison of individual internal experiences. You can't borrow your buddy's taste buds.

A concert is a shared experience. While you can't borrow your buddy's eardrums, the concert performer DOES know what they are playing. The feedback they gain (or don't) from the instrument effects the performance. That experience is shared with the listener.

On to a different reality; I can think of relatively few participants on this board who have held a dozen or more Strads and/or Guarneri's, much less played them. Am I correct? I wonder how many here have even heard more than a dozen "in person"? The reason I mention that is because a sampling of one or two really doesn't tell you much more than "This is different." or "I like this." or "What's the big deal?"... depending on which one or two you have access to and your capacity to hear/play/understand them. It can still be a great and possibly even educational experience, but it's not enough on which to base a far reaching conclusion.

Each great instrument I've played was different... some more "out of the ordinary" (amazing) than others. While I am not a concert performer by any means, I very much liked playing a great many and haven't cared for few (which may certainly be due to not knowing how to get them to work properly in some cases, illustrated by the fact that the owners could get them going very well), but nearly all were a thrill to one of my senses or another.

I think it might be wise to play a number of great fiddles before suggesting a thesis... and/or (better yet), talk to some top players to find out why they bother to bear the strain of owning multi-million dollar instruments. I think you'd probably start to discover that there are a number of factors that add up to the designation of "great", and that some factors are common to the group while others are not.

While it's interesting to discuss what is false perception and what is reality, experience and discussion (with those who actually know) may change the conclusions one comes to... and may re-shape the questions one asks.

I really have little else to say on the subject... as it kind of gets "done to death" (I'm not criticizing, it just does), which shows me that, at the very least, there is some real interest, curiosity and passion concerning the great fiddles. Not a bad thing, I think.

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It isn't the number, but the complexity and unpredictablility of the variables. Take climate, for instance. Isn't it the case than any given instrument, on any given day, with a given humidity will react differently than another instrument? And sound different the following day?

I can appreciate the impulse to seek a replicable "scientific-method" to address this question. But I would argue that a) some things are not (or at least not easily and consistently) accessible to such tests and :) there are other markers of "truth" than pure scientific proof. Surely there is some heft to the fact that the vast majority of soloists since Viotti and Paganini have played strads and del gesus (and before that Amati and Stainer). Is it likely that this is due to dealers or phychological bias? Isn't it more likely that it means something about the instruments?

Of course this is not to say that there are no great modern (or 19thc) violins. No one in this thread has contended that there were no great makers other than Strad. I was in a room the other night with a fabulous Vuillaume played by a wonderful player. It was a terrific sound -- controlled and brilliant without being overly bright. But in the same room was a Strad -- and there was a clear, a very clear difference. The Vuillaume was lovely. And you couldn't imagine, while you were listening, that it could get any better. And then the Strad. I would argue the quality that was most striking in comparision is what Michael called Presence. The Strad took up more space, filled the room differently.

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"It isn't the number, but the complexity and unpredictablility of the variables."

Yes, now that I think about it I would have to agree with you Falstaff. But still, it would be nice to see a little bit more of a standardised approach to the whole business of describing and judging sound. I think that even defining a standard set of terms to describe sound (as the wine people have for taste) would be a great step forward.

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Ordinarily I would avoid this kind of discussion-- this time it seems appropriate to speak.

Argon-- I could say the same sorts of things you are saying, but I don't-- the reason is simple-- I know that my ears are not trained to hear the differences-- I have sat and listened while one tiny adjustment after another was made to a new violin...virtually every player in the room was superior to me, and virtually all of them could appreciate the tiny differences made with every adjustment-- I not only could not tell the difference when I played it, I could not tell the difference when THEY played it--until about five such changes had been made. Then I began to perceive that something had changed--and it kept getting better.

In June, I got to play a 1714 Strad-- the first time I had ever even seen one, let alone touched or played one-- and when I played it it sounded awful--know why? Because (a) I am a lousy player, and (:) I had no idea how to manage that particular very fine violin. After about five minutes of listening to me desecrate that poor Strad, Sam Compton suggested we trade-- he was playing a 1742 del Gesu. As soon as I tried the del Gesu, things smoothed out. I had no further squeaks and squawks. Evidently my rather heavy-handed playing was more suited to the del Gesu-- it still didn't sound great, but, again, the problem was me-- and even then, the problem continues to be my ears. I am aware that I have hearing loss in some frequency ranges-- but the biggest problem is a lack of experience.

Wines? they all taste like spoiled grape juice to me. Should I come out on a wine-connoisseur forum and state that there is no difference between a ten-dollar bottle and a $200 (or more) bottle? What kind of folly would that be? Truly, I cannot taste the difference, but the problem is ME, not the others who know the difference.

Argon, in all honesty, and meaning no disrespect; you are doing just that. If you can't hear the difference, admit your lack of discernment-- don't accuse everyone else of being foolish or dishonest. There are many things we have no objective means to measure-- yet everyone recognizes they exist. And anyone trying to prove otherwise, based on the ineffective measuring capabilities would only expose their own obstinate folly...nothing else.

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Isn't there a consensus regarding certain terms describing sound?

Dark

Bright

Strident

Even

Full

Thin

True, these are very flexible and subjective terms. But I think we all know what is meant when someone says a violin is thin. Or harsh. "Dark with clear overtones." "Dark but with no depth." "Too bright."

I dunno. I guess they could be more standardized. But hey, don't wine connoisseurs use just such poetic phrases? "Strong at the start yet kind at the finish. With a touch of aggression in the middle."

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""Ripe, rich and round, with lots of spicy, earth-scented black cherry and berry flavors, hinting deliciously at chocolate on the smooth finish."

"Expansive bouquet of blackberries, blueberries and red currants. There are also flower pedal and white pepper aromas with layers of oak that are seamlessly balanced with the fruit. In the mouth there are classic merlot nuances of cherries and blackberries all rapped around a spicy youthful core. This is a rich, ripe and vibrant wine that will age well."

"Distinctive black ruby color, with nose of sweet tar, concentrated black fruits, toasty oak, cassis and pencil snap. There is also plum brandy and an attractive sweet molasses nuance. A very ripe and concentrated vintage. Expansive in the mouth with plums cassis, blackberries, and Asian spice. Finish is extreme Look for this wine to develop well into its 15th birthday."

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Very interesting discussions here... I'm late here but I do have

something to say about this...

I've never played any really good violins out there, not even a

$10k modern Italian. But what I can tell is, let alone the

projection/power, is the Strads and Del Gesu can somewhat "project"

their tone character, which is missing in many modern instruments

that I've heard. I've been to lots of concert of my local orchestra

and they're *really* good players with good instruments. The

problem is, the hall is so nice that seems every instruments can be

heard when played solo without any comparison with other

instruments. I do remember how they sound, but really, I haven't

heard violins that can sound so "magnetic" that found on those

Strads and Del Gesu! Perhaps, just like Melving said, it sounded

almost like an electric violin, IMO it's the complexity and very

"magnetic" tone of the Strads!

I've been to many violin makers/shops websites, some compared

their instruments with a real Strad by comparing 2 audio

clips/recording. Still, I can tell a great difference between the 2

instruments, the new violin sounded very "round" in tone, it is

nice, warm, and brilliant (ringing), but no complexity at all.

While the Strad has the special magnetic sound, something like,

buzz kind of beautiful sound! If I want to describe it in words, I

can only say this kind of sound is *best* when playing bumble bee,

it really sounds like a bee!

I've watched an old video clip of Perlman with their fellow friends

playing "The Trout". Even with old recording of that time dated

around 10~20 years ago which I'm not sure, the sound of Perlman's

violin is really awesome! Anyone can immediately hear the very

complex yet beautiful tone of his violin, like I've said many

times, very magnetic kind of sound! Being the smallest instrument

in the setup, its sound is somewhat the loudest among others! Ok,

still, I never played the best modern Italian violin, so it's

just my personal opinions based on mostly recordings. But one thing

for sure, I'm still yet to hear any other violin sounds like the

Strads and Del Gesu!

Just my 2 cents...

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Michael Darnton

I never call the same violins "dark" that everyone else does. I still don't know what that word means.

So in the interest of triangulating: what do you call what other people call dark? And what do other people call a violin that you do call dark?

Do you have the same relation to "Bright?"

What terms do you find useful?

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So my problem with most double-blind or blind tests is that most people can't listen worth beans.

Many people, however, *can* pick out a difference in sound once you point it out them. But in order to do that, you have to be able to pick out specific passages and repeat them over and over again until you isolate a difference that's fairly audible and then point out that difference to another listener. Using that approach, I've been able to demonstrate differences in receivers, speakers, and even interconnect cables to fairly uneducated listeners. They may not think the differences are worth paying for but I can show them that those differences exist.

Most studies that I've seen aren't set up that way. Instead, they throw long passages at random listeners and give them no chance to learn the differences between the what's being tested.

As someone said earlier, that results in the double-deaf leading the double-blind.

Worse yet, when it comes to violins, listeners simply aren't going to be able to hear the difference between a violin that responds lightning quick and one that doesn't. A good violin player will make them both speak so that the audience won't tell the difference but I guarantee you that the player will be able to tell the difference.

As a player, the first thing I look for in a violin is response. If the violin is slow, I want nothing to do with it. The same applies to bows.

- Ray

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hi pigcat,

By playing a violin one can better judge the merit of an instrument. I would not use sound

recordings, photos, which only partially represents the real object, sometime unfairly..

Are Cremonese violins that good? Or over-priced ?

I am glad you have courage to ask. It is a good question.

But there is a market out there. I think "good" or "bad" it boils down to "Like" or "dislike"

Someone buys a Cremonese violin because the person likes it and the person can afford it.

( I am just an ordinary folk, not an expert)

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Alan_Coggins

As a ex-scientist-type person I can understand what argon55 is trying to ask... almost everyone seems to agree that Cremonese instruments sound better, so can we design a test to validate this? It's just the standard way a scientist would go about proving a hypothesis.

In fact almost all blind listening tests so far have ended up showing no clear differences and the "old-Italian" camp invariably cry foul and say it wasn't a fair test for any number of reasons (which could well be the case, since most of the tests I have heard about seem very un-scientific). And then there is the old fall-back argument: "well if you can't hear the difference then you must have cloth ears!"

I am intrigued by the wine analogy because they sorted things out a long time ago. They have a very clear structure in place for evaluating wine - starting with the absolute requisite for blind tasting, by people who are rigorously trained and qualified, using a standardised sytem of judging and scoring. This system occasionaly throws up an amazing cheapie and sometimes embarrasses some of the bigger names. And of course you won't find any of the great wines entered for judging - they have nothing to gain and a lot to lose.

There is one other analogy that I find interesting as well - I think that only a relatively small percentage of people can really appreciate the subtle complexities of a great wine... but there are an awful lot of people out there who like to pretend they can!

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quote:


Originally posted by:
falstaff

quote:


Originally posted by:
Michael Darnton

I never call the same violins "dark" that everyone else does. I still don't know what that word means.

So in the interest of triangulating: what do you call what other people call dark? And what do other people call a violin that you do call dark?

I tend to think in terms of the frequencies I hear, rather than the descriptive words, since there seems to be not enough precision in the words.

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Hi Michael,

I find myself also starting to speak of frequencies instead of using descriptive words . Often it comes to the balance of frequencies. Too much in the 'nasal region' etc.. But what is the 'nasal region'? I've seen a range from 800Khz to 1500 Khz. Have you narrowed this down for yourself? BTW this qulity of 'presence' that you mentioned is readily (though not easily) measureable. Using an array of microphones in an anechoic chamber a picture of sound radiation can be generated. From the player's perspective it's a feeling that various and mutiple frequencies are coming from different parts of the instruments. Sometimes even the illusion that the sound is originating from somewhere else.

It's been my experience that in a lively concert hall the vast majority of listeners, even very discerning experienced listeners, cannot distinguish between instruments. Even using wine tasting techniques such as the A/B/X method. Where one listens to violin A then B, followed by X which is either A or B.

However players don't seem to have any trouble discerning which instrument they are playing.

For a concert artist, the concert, which lasts only an hour or two, represents many many hours and years of preparation. Having to play on a difficult, unpleasant instrument would make that time torture.

Oded Kishony

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