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Who is your fav dead maker ?


~ Ben Conover
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The lists so far seem lacking in German makers,other than M. Doetsch. There are some instruments from the Roth and Heberlein firms which

are clearly a "step above" and are coming of age. And at the last Skinner sale there was likewise a very nice Paul Knorr which compared very

favorably with some of the more esteemed names.

A couple of makers also working in England who I think are notable were CF Langonet and G. Gaida, as well as George Wulme-Hudson.

Yes, I must admit to not having a great grasp of the 20th century German school. Just don't know the makers... and don't see them often enough. When I have seen instruments of the type Dario used to call "city German" (on the lines of Doetsch and Fiorini), they've impressed me... I clearly recall opening a nice "Pedrazzini" violin owned by a client many, many moons ago to find a German maker's signature on the top block. Wish I knew the "who" of those makers a bit better.

To add to the British list of possibilities, though I'm stretching the date slightly, Chanot had a pretty respectable output... and employed some very good makers (including Oddone for a time). Some George Wulme-Hudsons can be very nice.

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Great observation: one that I took note of myself...another reason why I enjoyed the process of making the list. The Sacconi was actually two. Both are great copies...one owned by Yung Chin and the other Charles Beare. The Sannino is a Guad copy I sold 10 years ago.

I agree with you about those American makers. For me, I had about 20 American makers on my very good list, but they didn't quite make the leap into the top group. I happen to like the Boston school also...Baltzerson, Bryant, Gould are my top makers from here. I also like some California makers...did you see the great early Lanini which sold at one of the recent London Auctions?

I didn't see that Lanini, but remember one from a long time ago that I was very impressed by. The few others that I've seen haven't matched up to

how I remember that one, so either it was one of the "special" ones or my memories improve with time! Just goes to show that there are individual instruments by some makers which really stand out far above their normal output.

One of the interesting things for me is how copies sometimes elevate our opinion of a maker,(oh oh, I know this is going into often debated territory!) I haven't seen so many Sacconi's, but I may prefer the instruments made not as a copy but as a "straight" instrument. I don't know either of the Sacconi's you mentioned, but the one I'm most familiar with, a copy of the MacDonald Strad viola I believe, while great in it's attention to detail, missed a certain warmth & charm which I've felt in one or two other non copies. I guess I admire the copies as sort of "academic exercises", but aesthetically often prefer straight instruments.

From Chris's top six I'd keep; G. Scarampella- for originality, spontaneity, varnish

and add; A. Poggi- appreciating his consistancy, craftsmanship & interesting varnish

G. Ornati- "" "" ""

G. Oddone, E. Guerra, E. Rocca

Of course, tomorrow will bring another fiddle and the list will change.....

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I didn't see that Lanini, but remember one from a long time ago that I was very impressed by. The few others that I've seen haven't matched up to

how I remember that one, so either it was one of the "special" ones or my memories improve with time! Just goes to show that there are individual instruments by some makers which really stand out far above their normal output.

One of the interesting things for me is how copies sometimes elevate our opinion of a maker,(oh oh, I know this is going into often debated territory!) I haven't seen so many Sacconi's, but I may prefer the instruments made not as a copy but as a "straight" instrument. I don't know either of the Sacconi's you mentioned, but the one I'm most familiar with, a copy of the MacDonald Strad viola I believe, while great in it's attention to detail, missed a certain warmth & charm which I've felt in one or two other non copies. I guess I admire the copies as sort of "academic exercises", but aesthetically often prefer straight instruments.

From Chris's top six I'd keep; G. Scarampella- for originality, spontaneity, varnish

and add; A. Poggi- appreciating his consistancy, craftsmanship & interesting varnish

G. Ornati- "" "" ""

G. Oddone, E. Guerra, E. Rocca

Of course, tomorrow will bring another fiddle and the list will change.....

Great response, thanks Erocca.

I completely agree with you about the copies and with Sacconi's straight work. Though I remember a straight Strad cello I saw some years ago made while he was still in Italy in the wake of him just seeing the Steinlein. It was gorgeous and still had some very slight traces of his teachers (Rossi) influence.

All things being equal, I would also prefer a "straight" violin...it is just that I have not seen a 20th century maker who measures up to the great classical school (okay, call me harsh)

The Lanini was a Alfred and was very early. His later work developed some quirky mannerisms and I think the quality of varnish declined.

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...it is just that I have not seen a 20th century maker who measures up to the great classical school

This is exactly why I didn't want to get into this discussion, myself. I've only seen one maker named who more than once gave me the same sensual experience that's common with classical Cremonese makers, and that's Ornati.

When I started, Bob Bein advised that I take Stradivari as my standard, because he had solved all the problems in the most attractive and subtle ways, and that once I understood his making, everything else would be relative to that. Strads are so subtle and beautiful that it seems a shame to be talking about the "goodness" of makers who don't appear to understand anything about classical making or Stradivari at all. And it's not like they didn't know who he was, which makes it even worse. As a class, I *think* that some of the dead Hungarian makers of the 20th century understood beauty and subtle making much better than the Italians of the same time, but I don't have extensive enough experience with them to be sure which ones I'd cite.

When I look at a Scarampella, for instance, I'm not convinced there's anything at all good going on--it's more like he's reinvented the violin, and done a relatively poor job of it, compared with the people who did it first, of whom he certainly must have been aware, and could have learned something from if he hadn't been either ignorant or headstrong. Perhaps some would give him points for being bold, but to my eye it's not a good style, it's just a strong one. Gadda falls off the list for copying Scarampella. If you run through the list like that, you're left with the same situation Chris gave for not mentioning Americans (certainly no one will blame me for taking Chris' stance and broadening it to another country, right? or is stepping on sacred Italian toes off-limits?): why bother? The modern Italians of the early 20th century just fall too short of the mark for me to take them seriously, except in the commercial sense. If you walked into a shop as a new maker now with a Sgarbi-like violin that you'd made today, and Sgarbi hadn't existed, you wouldn't get the time of day--they certainly wouldn't offer to sell it for you. Manfio likes to mention how many of those makers were amateurs, and perhaps that's part of the problem.

I'm not against modernity. There are now makers who do make really luscious things (one of the sweetest post-1750 instruments I've ever seen was a Ravatin cello). It might be more interesting to sort them out, but politically difficult.

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This is exactly why I didn't want to get into this discussion, myself. I've only seen one maker named who more than once gave me the same sensual experience that's common with classical Cremonese makers, and that's Ornati.

When I started, Bob Bein advised that I take Stradivari as my standard, because he had solved all the problems in the most attractive and subtle ways, and that once I understood his making, everything else would be relative to that. Strads are so subtle and beautiful that it seems a shame to be talking about the "goodness" of makers who don't appear to understand anything about classical making or Stradivari at all. And it's not like they didn't know who he was, which makes it even worse.

When I look at a Scarampella, for instance, I'm not convinced there's anything at all good going on--it's more like he's reinvented the violin, and done a relatively poor job of it, compared with the people who did it first, of whom he certainly must have been aware, and could have learned something from if he hadn't been either ignorant or headstrong. Gadda falls off the list for copying Scarampella. If you run through the list like that, you're left with the same situation Chris gave for not mentioning Americans (certainly no one will blame me for taking Chris' stance and broadening it to another country, right? or is stepping on sacred Italian toes off-limits?): why bother? The modern Italians of the early 20th century just fall too short of the mark for me to take them seriously, except in the commercial sense. If you walked into a shop as a new maker now with a Sgarbi-like violin that you'd made today, and Sgarbi hadn't existed, you wouldn't get the time of day--they certainly wouldn't offer to sell it for you.

There are now makers who do make really luscious things (one of the sweetest post-1750 instruments I've ever seen was a Ravatin cello). It might be more interesting to sort them out, but politically difficult.

Thanks, Michael...I appreciate the thoughtful posting. I am in complete agreement with your 1st paragraph and your thoughts on Stradivari. Nevertheless, I think it is still possible to sort out one's favorite makers from the 20th century on other levels.

On the subject of Scarampella, I agree his work does not exhibit any of the Cremonese fundamentals except for a good varnish. I have always thought that being an original maker within a Cremonese framework is the ideal I would follow if I were making full time (I have not made a violin for 5 years). In this regard, the Bergonzi exhibit demonstrated to me a refreshing perspective that is especially useful to a new maker. Originality, however, is a slippery slope. Who and what accounts for taste in our tradition bound field? When does one cross the line into wierdness (like Sgarbi) and when is it attractive (like Scarampella is to me). I stated my reasons for liking Scarampella in an earlier post, but it really comes down to personal taste.

What I have noticed about Italians that still holds true today, is that they really value originality and they also respect tradition. Their tradition, however is regional. Just as you would never expect a Cremonese person to accept a Mostarda from Piacenza as equal to their own, you would expect Scarampella to prefer Balestrieri to Stradivari.

What do you think about Gasparo and Maggini? What makers (even modern)do you like who use original models?

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This is exactly why I didn't want to get into this discussion, myself. I've only seen one maker named who more than once gave me the same sensual experience that's common with classical Cremonese makers, and that's Ornati.

Ornati was a very fine maker but has been somewhat penalized for his poor acoustic performance (mostly for the violins - the violas and cellos are better). However, both Ornati and Garimberti it seems were vying to outdo each other in workmanship. In the end Ornati instruments are softer and more rounded than Garimberti. Acoustically at that same time many of the Italians were making quite thick instruments that always had to be "tweaked" when they arrived in the States. Ornati, Garimberti, Sgarabotto (both Gaetano and even more so Pietro), Sesto Rocchi, Raffaele Vaccari among others.

The most successful and most higly sought after makers, of that period, here in Italy today are Giuseppe Fiorini, Ansaldo Poggi, Marino Capicchioni, Augusto Pollastri, Vincenzo Postiglione, Vincenzo Sannino, Giovanni Pistucci and Giuseppe Pedrazzini, followed by the rest. These are usually instruments that work well right out of the box. In my rush I've probably left a lot off the list.

We had an instrument in the shop not too long ago that was a very good copy of a Pressenda but we couldn't figure out who had made it. All kinds of hypotheses were put forth without any really standing the test but the majority of opinions I heard was a "bench copy of a Pressenda, certainly Italian, probably from Turin". Who? Oddone, Guerra, Marchetti and Fagnola made copies but it was not their work. Upon examining the instrument a little more carefully in reflected light I saw a miniscule brand mark under the fingerboard. I had to take the fingerboard off to read it; "M.DÖTSCH-BERLIN". I just about fell off my chair! I had seen several of his instruments before, mostly Stradivari copies and one Guadagnini, but this was a real surprise. I reconfirmed the find with some of my German colleagues who know this maker much better than I do. The biggest surprise was to the owner who had always been convinced that he had a fine Italian copy of a Pressenda.

Bruce

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Chris, I like da Salo better than Maggini, mainly on points of elegance. I don't think they're equivalent to the Cremonese, though.

The thing that started the conversation with Bob was my liking mid-period Guads. He said I was just latching onto the appeal of the oddities, without understanding what fundamentals were missing, and he was right. I think this is a common problem, and know a lot of people develop their preferences on violin simply based on this type of thing, kind of like magpies going for the bright shiny things. :-) Now, much later, those Guads don't appeal to me as much as the late Turin ones, where, perhaps under Cozio's influence, he had a much better understanding of Cremonese style, and then synthesized a new model that reflected that without copying it. so I would call those late Guads as examples of later making that walked a new path while still understanding a lot about what went before. And many of them do have that essential buzz that comes from a work which is honest and coherent.

Bruce, I understand the tonal problems of small Ornatis, but I sold a cello to a member of the Cleveland Orchestra (perhaps the cello of the head that Jeff pictured?) that was an incredible instrument on all counts, and superior to every other modern Italian cello I've seen. And it had all the tasty workmanship, too.

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Bruce, I understand the tonal problems of small Ornatis, but I sold a cello to a member of the Cleveland Orchestra (perhaps the cello of the head that Jeff pictured?) that was an incredible instrument on all counts, and superior to every other modern Italian cello I've seen. And it had all the tasty workmanship, too.

I excluded the violas and the cellos. Anyone who has one is hanging onto it for dear life. The Fiorinis and Poggis are excellent too but try to find one!

Bruce

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Bruce, I understand the tonal problems of small Ornatis, but I sold a cello to a member of the Cleveland Orchestra (perhaps the cello of the head that Jeff pictured?) that was an incredible instrument on all counts, and superior to every other modern Italian cello I've seen. And it had all the tasty workmanship, too.

Good eye, Michael. :)

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Bruce, I understand the tonal problems of small Ornatis, but I sold a cello to a member of the Cleveland Orchestra (perhaps the cello of the head that Jeff pictured?) that was an incredible instrument on all counts, and superior to every other modern Italian cello I've seen. And it had all the tasty workmanship, too.

Here's an Ornati violin from 1920 for those who haven't had the opportunity to see one.

Bruce

post-29446-001814900 1288120195_thumb.jpg post-29446-077775600 1288120185_thumb.jpg post-29446-056301600 1288120089_thumb.jpg

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At great personal risk, I also will admit that I do feel that those who have spent time to study many makers work have a better grasp of contribution/quality than those who have not... though they may also be subject to personal tastes and prejudices... and certainly have something to learn if willing to have an open mind.

Jeffrey- I agree with this whole-heartedly. To take it a step further, those who have spent time to study the work of many makers, are likely to choose a different 'favorite maker' than would someone, like myself, who is not familiar with the work of multiple makers. I understand, too, that their 'favorite' would probably be selected for better technical reasons than mine, but I feel that should not lessen the importance of my selection.

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Interesting questions. I think the answers depend on your goals.

Try looking at it this way:

Is a violin student better served by sticking with prior personal playing choices, or by exploring input from Perlman or Hilary Hahn?

Personally, if I was offered input by Christopher, Jeffrey, Bruce, or "Erocca" (a few posts back), I'd be paying close attention, and considering whether my opinions could benefit from some tweaking. I routinely ask Jeffrey for input. Earlier this year, I asked Bruce for input on my making. The suggestions he made don't happen to fit with my normal making routine and methodology, but I'm still thinking about how they might be successfully incorporated, and experimenting a little with it. Like I said though, it depends on your goals.

David- I know what you're saying regarding bettering oneself & paying close attention to those you listed (and many others who freguent this forum as well). I enjoy participating in maestronet and feel I do learn much here, but it is impossible to acquire the kind of intimate knowledge that dealers and repairers/restorers can in the course of conducting their business. Honestly, my goals are not to improve my opinions or to be able to make "better " personal favorite maker choices. I guess I'm kind of stuck where I'm at, but I do heed & respect the expertise and opinions of others.

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This should be a great discussion, but for a Jock like me, no pictures = telephone directory stuff.

I could tell you about 'balanitis', but without a photo you would probably not be interested.

Bruce realised that many folks were being left on the curb as the TGV sped past - thanks for the photos.

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On the subject of Reindahl's work, you have been riding that horse for some time now and you have managed to successfully draw mine and other's attention to the maker. I wouldn't call it insolent...just persistent! :) I must admit I wonder why you are so enamored specifically by Reindahl...this is not meant as criticism.

Chris- Thank you for not saying "beating that horse"! :-) And no, I don't take it as criticism- rather, a compliment or an indication of some degree of success- thank you. To me, when I look at a Reindahl instrument, I see so much 'character', while so many others seem to be so 'static'. Also, I like the look & feel of his varnish- so many instruments seem to have a hard and lifeless 'chipppy' varnish. Least desirable, for me, is some of the antiqueing on his instruments. Although he is known for his artistic carved and decorated instruments, these were mainly made quite early in his career, and total maybe 5% of his output- collectible, but probably not as accoustically desirable. I grew-up a few blocks from the Reindahl home in Madison, attended grade school with his grandchildren, and was acquainted with one of his daughters (not the one in the avatar). These are my excuses for being enamored with him. I feel he was an excellent maker and that he will become further recognized in time.

... but again...is there anyone else on your list other than Reindahl?

I love old Italian instruments, but as you might expect, tending toward Amati, Guarneri, etc., and away from Stradivari. Incidental to my research of Reindahl, I am acquiring information regarding makers that he learned from.

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Wow.. this is all fascinating stuff. Thanks for the photos Bruce. Is there something going on with the varnish on the scroll of the Garimberti? The part near the neck is opaque.

Taking a break from the Italians, I have three favourite Australian C20th makers, none of which are Smith. They are:

-Guy Aubrey-Griffin

-Lloyd Adams

-Cedric Clarke

I have seen some very early examples of Griffin and Adams, both made within their first year, and besides the obvious mishaps they have extremely fine workmanship and a beautiful sound.

Looking at later works you can see clear development in Griffin's work, particularly in sound, and Lloyd Adams style Americanized.

What I like about these three makers is their distinctive style and attention to detail. I also think of the deceased Australian makers these three displayed the best (and most consistent)workmanship.

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Wow.. this is all fascinating stuff. Thanks for the photos Bruce. Is there something going on with the varnish on the scroll of the Garimberti? The part near the neck is opaque.

Taking a break from the Italians, I have three favourite Australian C20th makers, none of which are Smith. They are:

-Guy Aubrey-Griffin

-Lloyd Adams

-Cedric Clarke

I have seen some very early examples of Griffin and Adams, both made within their first year, and besides the obvious mishaps they have extremely fine workmanship and a beautiful sound.

Looking at later works you can see clear development in Griffin's work, particularly in sound, and Lloyd Adams style Americanized.

What I like about these three makers is their distinctive style and attention to detail. I also think of the deceased Australian makers these three displayed the best (and most consistent)workmanship.

David,

Thanks for this information. I know Lloyd Adams later moved here to Boston and set up shop as agent of Rembert Wurlitzer. His shop suffered a fire and some important instruments were lost. I have only seen on Smith and was very impressed but never the other two makers you listed. Can you post any pictures?

Chris

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