Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Cremonese Violins - Which part of its beauty has been matched?


pigcat
 Share

Recommended Posts

don't fog et ya'll, it takes an experienced great player to

bring any fiddle to "life".

Even a great fiddle in the hands of an 'unqualified' player, will

sound quite "under whelming".

I have played a great many fiddles old and new. Still the

 appeal of a great Strad or Del Gesu  is  very much

NOT a myth but reality.

I do have an interesting story.

One day in 1980's (when I was living in NYC), a friend of mine

whose mom worked at the Russian bear Restaurant told me about a

fiddle player that worked there and that I had to go hear him. I

accepted the invite and so we went. 

Upon hearing the "old timer", he sounded quite unique. The

repertoire covered mainly eastern European Gypsy music, as well as

some Kreisler & Heifetz encores. The fiddle he was playing

really drew me in (to his performance) and I was determined to try

it before the evenings end.

An opportunity arose when this fiddler took a  (boy's room)

break.

When I walked up to the fiddle which he left on top of an upright

piano next to a very large melted candle, I picked it up and played

a few notes. The few notes that I played, convinced me right there

and then that this was no ordinary fiddle. I tried to look inside,

but the very dim  atmosphere in the place did not shed

 any light through the  f-holes. Could hardly see the

label let alone what it said on it.

What I could see is that this poor fiddle had seen better days. The

edges were badly bashed off and many surface scratches etc. were

obvious even in such bad  light. That experience stayed with

me, and actually came back in vivid memory when I opened up the

paper (The NY Times) and read that  the "Huberman" Strad was

recovered and the whole story was disclosed (Altman and the theft

etc.).

Later, I was glad to see this great instrument restored and to

know that it went to such worthy hands  as that of Joshua

Bell's.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 68
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

quote:


Originally posted by:
falstaff
Joe. There's been a

misunderstanding. When I say "mine," I -- sadly -- do not mean one

that I made. Just an 18th c FrankenFiddle I inherited that has some

lovely qualities (much lovelier when played by my accomplished

friend.) I guess if there's one quality that seems to be present

when a Strad is played - even in a small room - that I've never

felt listening to modern or contemporary or 19thc fiddles -- has to

do with "omnidirectionality" -- that it's hard to pinpoint where

the sound comes from.

Gasp!!! you play an old violin!! Perhaps I can interest you in a

modern Christian

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:


Originally posted by:
Erika

I doubt anyone could devise a definitive test. When it comes down to it, you're evaluating art, which by its nature is subjective.


Hmm... would it be it possible to have that one printed as an ad banner above this page Jeffrey? It is not my intention to try to stop an interesting debate, but that's how I really think it is. You can quantify volume and harmonics, but you can't quantify beauty and translate it into science, it is too complicated for that.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

(The 1988 story) was an isolated impression. A lot of good instruments would have the same effect

to you or to me. The same instrument could sound so much better, because the mere

fact that it was played by an outstanding violinist. I have heard Heifetz's Strad played by a

violinist after his deadth, with our great expectation, it sounded just ordinary. (I think it was not played to its full potential. Nothing to diminsh our respect to the great instrument. Be careful what I I meant)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yuen,

I think you are missing the point. This great instrument went

un-noticed  since 1930's.

When I picked it up, I had no idea what it was, since it was too

dark in the place  to see.

It was also played for that long by more or less an amateur

violinist, nevertheless it never lost its "soul".

Consider also that it did not see any great Luthier for that long

either (for set ups and maintenance) , since Altman had to be

careful that it would stay hidden from knowledgeable

 eyes.

For all I knew (at the time), it could have been any fiddle.

I had no preconceived notions about it (its worth, its status

etc.). All I know is, I liked what I heard in it and that turned me

on to it

Obviously when the whole story unfolded, I was happy to know that

it turned out the way it did, and to know that at least I was able

to recognize a great fiddle just by its sound characteristics.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:


Originally posted by:
Gennady Filimonov
Yuen, I

think you are missing the point. This great instrument went

un-noticed  since 1930's. When I picked it up, I had no idea

what it was, since it was too dark in the place  to see. It

was also played for that long by more or less an amateur violinist,

nevertheless it never lost its "soul". Consider also that it did

not see any great Luthier for that long either (for set ups and

maintenance) , since Altman had to be careful that it would stay

hidden from knowledgeable  eyes. For all I knew (at the time),

it could have been any fiddle. I had no preconceived notions about

it (its worth, its status etc.). All I know is, I liked what I

heard in it and that turned me on to it

Obviously when the whole story unfolded, I was happy to know that

it turned out the way it did, and to know that at least I was able

to recognize a great fiddle just by its sound

characteristics.

I forgot to mention, that I have also heard some of the great

instruments played by very mediocre individuals, and unfortunately

the instrument does not play itself (if you know what I mean?).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:


Originally posted by:
jbythesea

Wmeng, you say that you can not make any conclusions and I admire

your honesty. I am puzzled how it is that you answer yes.


If you read the original question of #5, you'll see that I was referring to the fact that I prefer not to make conclusions about violins from MY OWN PLAYING - I much prefer to hear a good player whose playing I am familiar with, to make any meaningful comparison.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, some who have responded have had limited experiences with some great fiddles, listening tests, etc. One or two of the participants have the capacity to actually exploit these instruments capacities. Some have heard a good many in concert settings. One or two have had no contact with great instruments.

I've been lucky... I've seen, heard, and/or played a great many fine fiddles, both old and contemporary. I believe that at least one, two and possibly three other Maestronet board participants may have seen more than I, in one one category or the other... but they were not among those who responded to my questions.

On another thread, Craig wrote:

quote:


There are people for whom this question isn't a matter of which faith based belief system to embrace, but it is instead, a simple decision to own and play the *best* available instrument. Nothing more. There are people who have dedicated their entire lives to mastering the violin, individuals whose talent is almost beyond understanding, for someone who does not possess it's like - I know, I've stood mere feet from Sir Menhuin and listened for hours, whose technical playing and tonal production seemed beyond human ability. That's when I realized that I would never completely understand some things about the violin at a gut level, ever. What an advantage it is to realize that you don't have to know everything.

In fact it really simplifies matters to accept that there are things that you don't know, can't know, and most likely, will never really know, even if you dedicate yourself to intense continual study - beyond an attempt to get the basic concepts correct. As a maker, there are things you will learn that non-makers will not ever really understand. The more and longer you make, the more esoteric such knowledge becomes.

Perhaps such a musician will choose a contemporary instrument. It happens, and there is no arguing or second guessing such a choice. In that case, it is the better sounding instrument.

Perhaps, they will choose an antique Italian instrument, and again, there is no arguing with such a choice. Either way, it is not our decision to make, is it? It is in fact, a decision we are most likely not qualified to make. (I KNOW I'm not)


I have to say that I was very impressed with Craig's post. I thought it was honest and thoughtful... so I've taken the liberty of posting it here on this thread.

The following is my own viewpoint:

I'd like to point out that I don't know a single maker who won't go out of their way, with some excitement, to examine a great old concert fiddle they haven't seen before. Most walk away from the experience with praise of the piece in one sense or another... the finish, the model, the sound, the workmanship, etc. This is telling. It shows me that although there is much discussion of innovation and advances in making, these same makers are bound to the past in many ways... and for the most part wish to learn from it and emulate it. Do you think I'm being unfair?

If one bases their goals and ideals of a work, or works, of the past, by default, their works cannot surpass them in all ways. They may be able to come close, or even match, their ideals in some aspects... but I think it unlikely they can do so in all. Again, is this unfair?

My own experience has been that when I've heard certain great old fiddles played, either by their owners or another good player, they have really moved me. While I don't rank myself as a good player, when I've played these same fiddles, I've felt the potential they offer... even if I can't master them. I haven't had quite the same experience with new instruments (at least to that extent), but that doesn't mean than there's not some out there that would do the trick.

Are some contemporary instruments as good as or possibly even "better" than some good, expensive older ones (if one can control the parameters of use/beauty, etc.)? For my tastes, I certainly think so. Can't see why this wouldn't be true. Again, it comes down to which contemporary, which old one, and which player.

Other stuff:

Acoustic testing was mentioned... and there appears to be some differences in frequency response of older vs. newer instruments... and I'm sure there's differences between older instruments and other older instruments... or newer vs. other newer. Sample size is relatively small and available data is growing. We'll see if there's something more to learn with time.

It's funny, but I don't get the impression that many who test these old fiddles are trying to prove or disprove anything... I do get the impression they are trying to see if there is some testable data to show what many claim to hear. This in itself may lead to some conclusion, but on the other hand, may not.

Can everyone tell the difference? I would think "no". Visually and sonically, I believe where one stands on this whole debate depends, in no small part, on what ones experiences have been... and the tastes they've acquired in the process. This is one reason for my series of questions.

A couple more questions... and I've included my own answers:

1) Do you think the demands/sound required of string instruments has changed over time?

My answer is "yes", within certain parameters. I'd say it's changed during my own lifetime as well as evolved over the past 300 or so years. Changes to the equipment (modern neck lengths, bass bars, strings , etc.) and bows (Baroque, transitional, modern) illustrate this point. Changes to wind instruments even over the last couple of decades require strings to change approaches in order to blend/compete. What do you all think?

2) Do you think this debate has even a chance of being resolved?

My answer is: no. I think that, if one narrows the criteria to specific and focused areas, there can be winners and losers... but that's true of about anything... and question # 1 above illustrates the scope of the problem... things keep changing... but taken in the context of art (musical or visual), Erika's comment is an accurate one.

3) Do you I think that taking all this time to write this will calm the debate on Maestronet?

No. I expect that at any given time a thread will pop up... I'm a student of history. That's probably just fine, though... as I mentioned, it shows there is certainly a very healthy interest in good instruments.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Jeffrey,

Thoughtful and balanced as usual. You might be interested in how some acoustical testing has been evoloving over the last couple of years.

In a new modal alaysis program written by violinmaker George Stoppani he has included some interesting parameters. In one display the octave notes are highlighted, in another the harmonic sequences are grouped together and in a third he's set it up so the tester can display any particular group of frequencies and compare to another group of frequencies. The default setting of this display are the parameters 'discovered' by Duenwalt (sp?) who examined several thousand (!) instruments and concluded that the 'old Italian' sound had a particular resonant 'fingerprint'. The point is that researchers are now expanding beyond the basics and begining to explore not only the instrument's sounds but also how those sounds affect the brain and the ear. (psychoacoustics)

Oded

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Jeffrey,

I am not sure I made a clear picture of my experience.

I've also been lucky... I've seen, heard, and  played a great

many very  Fine Fiddles, both old and new.

A great instrument also needs a great player to show its true

self.

And like I mentioned before, a great instrument in the hands of a

mediocre player, will fizzle into mediocrity for the time it is

being played (by that individual). It can only recover when it

passes into worthy hands.

So the moral of the story in my opinion is that  a  great

player will may anything sound terrific (even a shoe box).

But a great instrument can take that talented player to new heights

and show him/her what they have been missing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:


Originally posted by:
Gennady Filimonov
Jeffrey, I

am not sure I made a clear picture of my experience. I've also been

lucky... I've seen, heard, and  played a great many very

 Fine Fiddles, both old and new. A great instrument also needs

a great player to show its true self. And like I mentioned before,

a great instrument in the hands of a mediocre player, will fizzle

into mediocrity for the time it is being played (by that

individual). It can only recover when it passes into worthy hands.

So the moral of the story in my opinion is that  a  great

player will may anything sound terrific (even a shoe box). But a

great instrument can take that talented player to new heights and

show him/her what they have been missing.

correction:

So the moral of the story in my opinion is that a great player will

make anything sound terrific (even a shoe box).But a great

instrument can take that talented player to new heights and show

him/her what they have been

missing..

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Some instruments are more accessible to a wide range of bowing styles. In a recent experience a friend, who is a much stronger player than I, played on a great Strad which took him about 20 minutes to figure out. My bowing style suited the instrument's acosutics much better and therefore I produced a terriffic sound immidiately. On the other hand he was able to make a Del Gesu violin sound wonderful from the first bow stroke, while I never quite felt happy playing on it-though listeners kept saying it sounded good to them.

I've witnessed several exellent players never 'get' a great instrument because their bowing technique was inflexible and they never adapted the bow to the needs of the instrument. The best players I've known match their bowing to the instrument within a few notes. The most amazing player in this regard was Steve Kates (cellist) who was able to analyze an instrument's stregths and weaknesses within a few seconds of playing.

Oded Kishony

Link to comment
Share on other sites

quote:


Originally posted by:
Gennady Filimonov

I am not sure I made a clear picture of my experience.

I've also been lucky... I've seen, heard, and  played a great

many very  Fine Fiddles, both old and new.


I figured you were one of the lucky ones, Gennady... and now you live rather close to a collection of very, very fine fiddles no?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1) Do you think the demands/sound required of string instruments has changed over time?

Emphatically yes. Especially when it comes to violas, it is astounding what is now expected of the viola and the violist compared to 300+ years ago! It really is no wonder that there are only a relative handful of great violas from the 1700's.

2) Do you think this debate has even a chance of being resolved?

No, but that does not mean we should not share our opinions.

3) Do you I think that taking all this time to write this will calm the debate on Maestronet?

Fortunately, no. :-)

Marilyn Wallin

Boston

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's my best and honest approach to Jeffrey's survey:

1) 1 Strad, 1 Storioni

2) Several modern Italians, that I do not recall the name (unconcerned at the time)

3) See #1 and 2

4) Yes.

5) Absolutely. Given more time I would have been more apt to try more "exploitation."

6) I've heard many top fiddles played, Bell, Hahn, Perlman, Zukerman, Lin, Arzweski, Steiner, Rafferty, McDuffie, Chang, Guzman, Midori, and a few I know I'm forgetting.

7) See #6

8) Yes. Granted, my focus at the time was more on the interpretation, but the tonal qualities and projection are always compared.

This being said, I have played many many fiddles. Good bad and otherwise. Each violin I pick up I can hear a difference in and the origin of it is secondary to the feel and sound it produces under my ear. I have been blessed with great fiddles - expensive or not, and this has been agreed upon by those with longer and fancier resumes than mine will ever be. I trust my ears and my interaction with whatever is in my hands to guide me to an experientially based decision on what is a "good" instrument.

Would I like to have a great Italian instrument? Sure, why not - when the price drops below an apartment in downtown NY, let me know. As far as the masses are concerned, a great sounding modern violin is a Ferrari engine in a VW chassis. I'm ok with that.

I can tell you that one of (the two, inexperience noted) the great fiddles I played was Ferrari with a Yugo engine. That's a much more difficult mistake to swallow.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.



×
×
  • Create New...