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"Modern" Italian Violin Makers - Pick of the Litter


Dwight Brown
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I have been reading some threads and other material about "Modern" (late 19th Century to present) Italian violin makers. Some of the instruments can be quite expensive. We have many of the best makers, Scholars, and dealers right here on Maestronet who are very long suffering with questions from duffers like me. Who do folks think the most bankable makers are in this category? I wish I could fast forward about 2 or 3 centuries and hear people talk about our leading lights and how they outshine all those 17th Century so and so's :-)

Best,

Dwight

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Maybe the answer is rooted in something similar to why American steel string guitars are generally considered peerless, why Spanish flamenco guitars are the most prized, and why Japanese knives are thought to have no equal. A country that's widely considered to be the birthplace of something, is more often than not still considered to produce the best examples of that thing, whatever it may be. I'm not saying I necessarily subscribe to this nationality-hinged school of thought, but I believe there's some underlying psychology behind it all.

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Dwight.. you speaking economics ($)?

No not really,

I have to admit I was hoping you among others would answer. I am thinking in terms of workmanship and playability. On the other hand it would be good to know which makers command the marketplace. I think most of us know that Dollars does not always equal quality, but it is good to have as much information as possible.

Thanks,

Dwight

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No not really,

I have to admit I was hoping you among others would answer. I am thinking in terms of workmanship and playability. On the other hand it would be good to know which makers command the marketplace. I think most of us know that Dollars does not always equal quality, but it is good to have as much information as possible.

Thanks,

Dwight

Dwight... not too long ago, there was a thread that discussed favorite violin makers from the 19th century (Italian and non-Italian). I'm in the middle of getting ready for Oberlin, so I don't have time to search for it, but I believe it contains information that would be interesting to you. Seems to me Lyndon started it... I think I remember something about Gemunder... but not sure I trust my memory tonight so excuse me if I'm mistaken.

As for the economics, I'm afraid my hindsight is more effective than my crystal ball, but if trends are an indication of future activity I think one can make decent guesses. :) May have more to add on this in a few days if time allows...

people who sell stradivaris command the marketplace, i dont think that will ever change

Lyndon: Dealers who sell high end certainly have an significant influence on the marketplace, as do individuals that purchase high end, but I'm not quite sure how you are applying it to Dwight's question. I can think of ways I might apply it, but would rather not respond to your statement while assuming your meaning. Want to clarify?

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as i dont think any maker or makers will or have surpassed stradivari, on tone maybe sometimes, but never on the complete genius of his whole output, he didnt just make 1 "stradivari" he made over a thousand all differing slightly and developing, with a consumate perfectionism very few even try to copy, so if a 300 yr old one is worth 5 million what will that be worth in 100yrs, 200yrs, more than a darton or burgess i dare say will be worth then, as to modern makers some will be appreciated more in 100yrs, and some i think considerably less than they are appreciated today, not all wood treatments and varnishes improve with age, strads did though

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In terms of late 19th, early 20th century Italians whose names come up again and again, one would have to include Annibale Fagnola. I've never held or played one, but he seems to have a lot of prestige, maybe because his Pressenda copies get mistaken for originals.

The Scarampella brothers, Giuseppe and Stefano, have reputations as concert worthy instruments. The late Sergui Luca, if I'm remembering correctly, played on a Scarampella.

One of my favorites, and this is, unfortunately, strictly from photos, is Ferdinando Garimberti. Take a look at the one Jeffrey posted in the following thread: Garimberti

Click on the Fagnola and the Garimberti at David Kerr's site: David Kerr's recent sales.

Maybe it's supposed to be a Stradivari model, but Kerr's Garimberti reminds me of Nicolo Amati with its elegant, yet simple corners and flowing outline.

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The Scarampella brothers, Giuseppe and Stefano, have reputations as concert worthy instruments. The late Sergui Luca, if I'm remembering correctly, played on a Scarampella.

Sergui Luca rang me years ago, He had bought himself a violin that sounded better than anything that he had had before. It was a Meinrad Frank (Linz). He said that nobody in the states could tell him anything about it, he had rung the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna to ask and that they had given him my number. I said, if he came round, I could find him other examples to compare it with, thinking that that would be the end of the matter. He called my bluff by saying “Great I have a concert in Vienna in the middle of May, I’ll drop in”. I then had to contact everybody I knew who had a Frank violin, and invited them to lunch one Friday. We all (8 of us) had a really enjoyable meeting with Luca & his entourage, compared and listened to all 8 Franks, in my workshop and then went for lunch.

Years later he rang to say that he had bought a Nikolaus Sawicki (Vienna) which sounded even better.

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That would suggests that, time given, another violin from unknown origin (modern or nt, professional or not) would turn out to be even better, and so on. But there is a limit to how good a violin or an instrument sounds. There is also the "novelty" instrument factor. If you play the same instrument for years you might at one point start to feel tired or used to it. Then another one comes and ....

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That would suggests that, time given, another violin from unknown origin (modern or nt, professional or not) would turn out to be even better, and so on. But there is a limit to how good a violin or an instrument sounds. There is also the "novelty" instrument factor. If you play the same instrument for years you might at one point start to feel tired or used to it. Then another one comes and ....

Just incase I have misunderstood: Both Frank and Sawicki are eminently “professional” and from thoroughly known origin. Sawicki, for instance was the vm. that made the fingerboard that was (until recently) on Paganini’s DG. There is a manuscript thank-you letter from Paganini to Sawicki in the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna to prove it.

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Yes there is a slight misunderstanding. When I said unknown origin I only meant to say that when someone looks for a new violin (in the sense that there want to change their present instrument) they have a limited amount of time to find it. So they can't test so many violins and will most likely start with known makers. But there are thousands of good professional/semi profesional makers unknown who might have in their shop a gem that will remain there until someone pick it by chance just to find out that it is "better sounding" than anything they have played till then. But of course this story repeats itself infinitely.

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Yes there is a slight misunderstanding. When I said unknown origin I only meant to say that when someone looks for a new violin (in the sense that there want to change their present instrument) they have a limited amount of time to find it. So they can't test so many violins and will most likely start with known makers. But there are thousands of good professional/semi profesional makers unknown who might have in their shop a gem that will remain there until someone pick it by chance just to find out that it is "better sounding" than anything they have played till then. But of course this story repeats itself infinitely.

There really is a misunderstanding!

I realize that English isn’t you’re first language, but you still can’t call Sawicki “unknown” or “Semi-professional” just because you have never heard of him. To Paganini, who had his DG serviced there, he was a kind of 19th, C. Michael Darnton. Paganini knew him, Luca knew him, you don’t. This solely constitutes a simple knowledge deficit on you’re part, which is worlds away from being “unknown” or “Semi-professional”.

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Again you're misunderstanding what I did write. All I said is that there might be makers we don't know about, professional ones or not, who probably made very good violins that would appeal to players if they were only found. I certainly don't dispute the reputation or the skill of Sawicki, someone indeed I don't know.

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Roberto, I got it.

In time, the Strads and Guarnaris of today could be instruments that eventually have had all their parts replaced except perhaps a portion of the back with the label. They are, after all, neither indestructible, nor impervious to decomposition.

If we can go beyond Italian makers -- Not mentioned as a modern maker whose instruments may eventually reach the levels of pretige that Strads enjoy today, and that is American maker Sam Zygmuntowicz. It seems I've read that his instruments are in the hands of the likes of Joshua Bell.

But this is all speculation, but fun to think about. Like Roberto indicates -- who knows given a hundred or more years to age, which violins will hold up and which won't, and some obscure 19th or 20th century maker might rise to the top.

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Roberto, I got it.

In time, the Strads and Guarnaris of today could be instruments that eventually have had all their parts replaced except perhaps a portion of the back with the label. They are, after all, neither indestructible, nor impervious to decomposition.

If we can go beyond Italian makers -- Not mentioned as a modern maker whose instruments may eventually reach the levels of pretige that Strads enjoy today, and that is American maker Sam Zygmuntowicz. It seems I've read that his instruments are in the hands of the likes of Joshua Bell.

But this is all speculation, but fun to think about. Like Roberto indicates -- who knows given a hundred or more years to age, which violins will hold up and which won't, and some obscure 19th or 20th century maker might rise to the top.

Yup, and let's hope that the 'newly' designed tailpiece goes a long way towards eliminating the squawk emanating from 99.9% of the modern day marvels made by the 90 day wonder boys (and girls) who still haven't a clue how to make a decent sounding fiddle.

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This discussion on V.com is interesting from many different angles:

http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=7909

This is the tread that got me going, I was sort of amazed with the thought that the tops needed so much work. On the other hand I don't know all the circumstances involved. I do love to learn about violins and violin makers.

Thanks Everyone,

Dwight

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In terms of late 19th, early 20th century Italians whose names come up again and again, one would have to include Annibale Fagnola. I've never held or played one, but he seems to have a lot of prestige, maybe because his Pressenda copies get mistaken for originals.

The Scarampella brothers, Giuseppe and Stefano, have reputations as concert worthy instruments. The late Sergui Luca, if I'm remembering correctly, played on a Scarampella.

One of my favorites, and this is, unfortunately, strictly from photos, is Ferdinando Garimberti. Take a look at the one Jeffrey posted in the following thread: Garimberti

Click on the Fagnola and the Garimberti at David Kerr's site: David Kerr's recent sales.

Maybe it's supposed to be a Stradivari model, but Kerr's Garimberti reminds me of Nicolo Amati with its elegant, yet simple corners and flowing outline.

Mr. Luca was a fan of Scarampella but he didn't use one himself for performances. He owned a few that he sold or allowed students to use. He played on a Strad and a Steiner for his Baroque concerts.

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Mr. Luca was a fan of Scarampella but he didn't use one himself for performances. He owned a few that he sold or allowed students to use. He played on a Strad and a Steiner for his Baroque concerts.

Actually, I saw him perform on one of his Scarampellas. He had a Serafin as well if memory serves me, as well as a Geissenhof and a Forster viola with it's original neck.

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Actually, I saw him perform on one of his Scarampellas. He had a Serafin as well if memory serves me, as well as a Geissenhof and a Forster viola with it's original neck.

I'm sure he had many violins in his (too brief) life. I am stating a fact from when I was his student (1986-88)

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Roberto, I got it.

In time, the Strads and Guarnaris of today could be instruments that eventually have had all their parts replaced except perhaps a portion of the back with the label. They are, after all, neither indestructible, nor impervious to decomposition.

If we can go beyond Italian makers -- Not mentioned as a modern maker whose instruments may eventually reach the levels of pretige that Strads enjoy today, and that is American maker Sam Zygmuntowicz. It seems I've read that his instruments are in the hands of the likes of Joshua Bell.

But this is all speculation, but fun to think about. Like Roberto indicates -- who knows given a hundred or more years to age, which violins will hold up and which won't, and some obscure 19th or 20th century maker might rise to the top.

Let's say that if a top sounding (I only talk about sound not craftmanshift) violin is the result of a good arching/matching graduations/good wood and let's add a good ground and varnish, then statistically there is a good chance that at least 1 violin was made over the last 20-30 years (few millions violins were probably made during this time?) that sounds absolutely gorgeous. Simply this violin might be looking like a dog and might have been made in some remote part of the world and will never be played by someone who could bring out the whole potential. :(

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In terms of late 19th, early 20th century Italians whose names come up again and again, one would have to include Annibale Fagnola. I've never held or played one, but he seems to have a lot of prestige, maybe because his Pressenda copies get mistaken for originals.

The Scarampella brothers, Giuseppe and Stefano, have reputations as concert worthy instruments. The late Sergui Luca, if I'm remembering correctly, played on a Scarampella.

One of my favorites, and this is, unfortunately, strictly from photos, is Ferdinando Garimberti. Take a look at the one Jeffrey posted in the following thread: Garimberti

Click on the Fagnola and the Garimberti at David Kerr's site: David Kerr's recent sales.

Maybe it's supposed to be a Stradivari model, but Kerr's Garimberti reminds me of Nicolo Amati with its elegant, yet simple corners and flowing outline.

I am fan of Giuseppe Ornati. I hope they are hard to copy. ;)

Cheers,

T.

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How about the controversial one like Romedio Muncher? I know the fact he worked for Claudio Monteverdi and other workshops have probably compromised his luthier worthy status. But how about his own hand-made instruments? Was he only worthy of an average maker as some suggested or a very good maker as other books commented?

And Aldo Capelli just passed away not long ago. His works seem to be very good. How is his works compared to other modern Italian makers and worthy of buying in?

Any input will be welcome!

CF

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I've tried a couple of Romedio Muncher violins - they sounded dreadful.

Ettore Soffriti is the only 20th century maker who ever got 3 stars from me, though I confess to having rather particular tastes. The Ornati in tarisiofever's clip sounds great, I've never played one so I can't confirm or deny. I've played a few Bisiachs and a Fagnola, and while they were consistently good, they weren't any better than a good EH Roth.

Martin Swan Violins Tone Evaluations

As a general rule modern Italian violins seem to be massively overpriced, and while the craftsmanship is often very good, there's no intrinsic tonal quality that can be relied on. It's my opinion that Italian violins command a premium for no good reason whatsoever. I think it's to do with the fact that the names often end in "i" ....

Post 1920 I would go for an English maker - Arthur Richardson, Alfred Vincent and William Robinson all made fantastic sounding violins. I don't have any experience of contemporary American makers, but in Scotland Peter Goodfellow, Paul Bowers and Colin Adamson have all produced instruments which are way ahead of any contemporary Italian instruments I've played (talking purely about tone and response).

Don't believe the hype!

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