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Moennigs in Philadelphia

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I have just read in a a mailing list I participate that Moennigs in Philadelphia are closing their doors after 100 years on January 4. Their site is not working. If it`s true these are sad news. Do you know something about that?

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Oh, these are sad news...

Very sad news, indeed. It was my first big violin shop to visit and learned a heck of a lot about bows from Phillip Kass and Dick Donovan over the years. Loved their collection of the Tubbs 'Birthday' bows and in general everything they had. Also loved their typewritten invoices. I will sorely miss them.

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I have just read in a a mailing list I participate that Moennigs in Philadelphia are closing their doors after 100 years on January 4. Their site is not working. If it`s true these are sad news. Do you know something about that?

This is an extremely distressing development which caused me to loose a lot of sleep last night. Does anyone the answers to the following?

Was the Wm. Moennig firm still owned by the family ?

Did they close the doors as a result of bankruptcy ?

This seems to have been happening regularly over the last 40 years (Rembert Wurlitzer, W.E. Hill and Meisel Music, although not a fine violin firm, it was a 100 year old supplier of educational instruments and accessories) and one has to wonder if the business model for the fine violin business needs to be changed.

Could it be the presence of internert sales and on line auctions ??

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You can't run a business based on high-profile expertise without a high-profile expert. In your list, only Meisel didn't depend on expertise. I think the last shoe hasn't dropped yet in this category in the US.

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A friend of mine talked to someone there (Phillip Kass?) and was given the impression that the decision was not so much financial but more that the current generation of family was just not that interested in the business and wanted out. Take this with a grain of salt, but that's what I heard.

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A friend of mine talked to someone there (Phillip Kass?) and was given the impression that the decision was not so much financial but more that the current generation of family was just not that interested in the business and wanted out. Take this with a grain of salt, but that's what I heard.

If he talked to someone who was part of the firm, it was more likely Dick Donovan. Phil hasn't been part of the firm for years.

It is my understanding that it's not just one cause. The business model for shops has changed rather significantly over the last few decades, you have to have a passion to work with instruments for a living in the first place (especially to be flexible in a changing market), expertise is at a new-and-very-much-changing level, and people skills (or lack of them) can save you or sink you.

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It´s always very sad to see the end of a old and big shop like Moennigs, but if I try to be optimistic, we are lucky to live times with much more opportunity for a young (or less young!) competent restorer or expert. When I was at the beginning of my career the shadow of the big shop made impossible to work on important instruments (Strad....) today (I had never imagined, end of the seventies, my shop will survive to Emile and Jacques Fançais, Chardon, Hill & Sons, Witthers....) everything is much more open and is good for who is not son of violin maker or coming from a rich family and able to buy a famous workshop.

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Good observations, Christian. And welcome to Maestronet. May I ask what is that violin pictured in your avatar? Something you worked on or perhaps made?

Richard

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Good observations, Christian. And welcome to Maestronet. May I ask what is that violin pictured in your avatar? Something you worked on or perhaps made?

Richard

Unfortunatly I did´t make this violin (I would love to be able to!), it´s the "Portoghese", an Andréa Amati violin made for Charles IX, king of France, I found it in Lisbon 10 years ago. It belong now to Claude Lebet. This violin was in the Andréa Amati exhibition in Crémona (2007) and Roger Hargrave wrote an article in Strad Mag around the painting of this fiddle (and the other of this set)

It´s one of the first violins known.

aamatichix2.jpg

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You can't run a business based on high-profile expertise without a high-profile expert. In your list, only Meisel didn't depend on expertise. I think the last shoe hasn't dropped yet in this category in the US.

Which shoe will drop next without a high-profile expert? B & F - would that be a possibility?

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Unfortunatly I did´t make this violin (I would love to be able to!), it´s the "Portoghese", an Andréa Amati violin made for Charles IX, king of France, I found it in Lisbon 10 years ago. It belong now to Claude Lebet. This violin was in the Andréa Amati exhibition in Crémona (2007) and Roger Hargrave wrote an article in Strad Mag around the painting of this fiddle (and the other of this set)

It´s one of the first violins known.

aamatichix2.jpg

That looks amazing. May we see the full pic please?

Has anybody made a facsimile copy?

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It looks like Tarisio will be auctioning "The Moennig Collection" in June.

I visited Moennig's this summer and talked for a while with Dick. My impression was that this was not on the horizon at that time, though Dick did mention that they were finding it harder to compete with the auction houses. The late Wm Moennig used to ship higher end instruments to the violin making school in Salt Lake City for viewing by the students. What a loss for the Philadelphia and greater lutherie communities!

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I visited Moennig's this summer and talked for a while with Dick. My impression was that this was not on the horizon at that time, though Dick did mention that they were finding it harder to compete with the auction houses. The late Wm Moennig used to ship higher end instruments to the violin making school in Salt Lake City for viewing by the students. What a loss for the Philadelphia and greater lutherie communities!

It is truly sad. For everyone. I find it interesting that there a lot of discussions here regarding identifying instruments, central locations where one can gather experience of viewing a lot of instruments and bows. Yet, there are few that have cited Moennig's, if any. Where are the shops today that would offer the same integrity and expertise of an old, established firm in identifying instruments?

Besides the questions, I truly loved going there to just try whatever they had as a student, then as a teacher. Some of my students bought instruments and bows there, first under Mr. Kass, who was stand-offish at first, then as gracious as can be once it was established that I or my students knew what we wanted.

Then, Mr. Donovan would explain what to look for in bows, how he authenticates them. I had many questions for him and he was very gracious in answering them.

Truly sad,

Teo

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I also would like to know what they are going to do with all the autographed photos and the great cartoons/drawings they had in the reception room.

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It´s always very sad to see the end of a old and big shop like Moennigs, but if I try to be optimistic, we are lucky to live times with much more opportunity for a young (or less young!) competent restorer or expert. When I was at the beginning of my career the shadow of the big shop made impossible to work on important instruments (Strad....) today (I had never imagined, end of the seventies, my shop will survive to Emile and Jacques Fançais, Chardon, Hill & Sons, Witthers....) everything is much more open and is good for who is not son of violin maker or coming from a rich family and able to buy a famous workshop.

That is true, but without the big shops supporting big workshops of repairers and restorers, the chances to become intimately familier with a wide variety of important instruments is diminished. At one time, if you were lucky enough to work in one of these shops, you could count on seeing Strads and the like everyday, and you could eventually become an expert. But now the great and good instruments are much more widely distributed. That is good and bad. A restorer working on his own might be as talented a restorer as anything, and be perfectly capable of doing work on top instruments, but if he is only exposed to his one or two client's instruments, he will never develop the kind of eye and expertise that made these shops famous in the first place. And so the number of people who are qualified to identify this type of instruments will diminish- as it already it. Seeing pictures and STRAD posters is great, but it is no replacement for having a safe full of the real thing to look at!

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A friend of mine talked to someone there (Phillip Kass?) and was given the impression that the decision was not so much financial but more that the current generation of family was just not that interested in the business and wanted out. Take this with a grain of salt, but that's what I heard.

I just read This Article in my local paper, and came here figuring there'd be a discussion about it already. True it is, and the article does discuss some of the reasons. It does seem to be a paradigm-shift kind of thing, at least as far as the writer is concerned. I'm sure the auction will be much discussed here...

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