Secrets of the classic archetiers?


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I've read many theories about the superiority of violins by the old masters -- theories that explain the great price differences between those instruments and modern ones. These theories include: superior materials, special wood preparation, natural aging, secret varnish, superior craftsmanship, etc.

Does a separate set of theories explain why classic violin bows bring such high prices? Has that been discussed on Maestronet, and can anyone point me to that discussion?

Thanks in advance for suggestions.

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I've read many theories about the superiority of violins by the old masters -- theories that explain the great price differences between those instruments and modern ones. These theories include: superior materials, special wood preparation, natural aging, secret varnish, superior craftsmanship, etc.

Does a separate set of theories explain why classic violin bows bring such high prices? Has that been discussed on Maestronet, and can anyone point me to that discussion?

Thanks in advance for suggestions.

It's all about supply and demand. Strad and Sartory are no longer making any more instruments and bows, yet more people want to own one so the people with the most resources buy they driving up the cost/value of these items.

No conspiracy here, just simple market forces in a capitalist system.

Oded

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Most players don't look at the bow much when they're playing.

If you're not a player, it's something you won't understand exactly, it's called 'feel'.

After 17 years of not playing much I'm pretty sure I could tell a Sartory from a Tubbs, blindfolded and drunk.

There are quite a few modern makers who's work is up there.

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Oded and Ben: thanks for quick reply. Has anyone tried a "blind" testing of bows to see if violinists can really tell the difference between a Sartory and a modern bow?

The difference is there but it is more complex than a Sartory vs the rest.

Not only does the player choose a bow which feels best for him but he is looking for a good pairing with a particular instrument. A bow which works well with one violin may not produce the best sound with a different violin.

Furthermore, a bow maker, modern or otherwise, can make several bow apparently identical but one will perform better than the rest.

So, for a player, it is a long quest to find the perfect bow to match one's skills and the violin in question.

Glenn

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I still think theres a few modern makers who still have good pernambuco that they hold on to like gold dust.

The question is a bit difficult. It depends on what model the modern maker is using. and how close to a previous makers work it is .A good modern Sartory copy will hopefully play like the makers model its trying to replicate.Though there are some modern bows which are a style of their own or a mixture of styles. I dont particularly like Sartorys ,i prefer a more flexible bow. Theres a big different between a Sartory and say a Peccatte or Pajeot or Simon etc...without even mentioning modern bows. If a bow fits the player then its good for them. The rest is antique/collector value and some old bows are just spectacular in both workmanship,playability and materials. It is difficult sometimes though to justify some of the prices for something that can be so easily broken.

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Glenn,

I read that Christian Tetzlaff sometimes uses an Arcus bow (non-pernambuco) in concert. Have other concert players found bows by modern makers that work well with their instrument?

David

David,

I haven't heard of any soloists have abandoned pernambuco although many have embraced modern makers.

My favorite bowmaker in China insists that the best bow will be made of a billet with a Lucchi reading of 600 but he has very few pieces and I don't think I quality for such a stick.

I have seen several mint condition antique sticks worth a king's ransome but they are not played; too valuable.

Glenn

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The French used many woods Pernambuco, Hakia/IPe, Ironwood of various types, Abeille wood, Snakewood both figured and unfigured which is called Amourette along with one they call `Bois de Iles`, which could describe any type of suitable tropical hardwood found in the colonies or elsewhere.

I ve seen some fine extremely expensive early French bows by top regarded makers which are described as pernambuco as a matter of course(probably for many reasons especially monetary, or simply plain ignorance or lack of knowledge of wood types) but i believe they arent and i bet if they were tested somehow i would be proved right.

Glenn, i assume youve missed a zero ,6000? :)

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I believe that the foundation of good bowmaking, as with violinmaking, is a deep education in the trade.

Then constant practice, day after day, making the things.

This was the lot of the old French bowmaker. With the quite strict routine, and working technique, most of them produced good bows, and those with an exceptional gift produced great bows.

The same applies today, and I think that some of our modern makers are as good as any. Funny, I rarely see the 'looseness' in modern bows that I often see in the older makers. Perhaps it's because the modern maker doesn't sell his bows by the dozen to the trade, as the old guys did.

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I think violin makers can and do. In fact the nicest and easiest to sell violins are relaxed and spontaneous.

But bowmaking seems to be a little different somehow.

The 'Loose work' I mean, is not something that I would regard as inferior, or something that you 'get away with'.I mean the fluent lelaxed style of the man who is completely in control of the work.

I don't mean work by a man who's hands won't do what his head tells them to, or a man who doesn't have the education to know what to do in the first place.

There is of course a great cultural difference between violin and bow making, but I wonder if there was a little more room for this 'looseness' (I can't think of a better word), in the past.

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Yes i suppose so,if you have a good reputation and if the buyer is a bit more knowledgable than the average. Otherwise often seen as sloppy amateurish ,again by the average not too informed buyer. A good varnish job helps alot otherwise they can look a mess. The same with bows, if you left large file marks all over the place like you see on many older bows ,many would think this is sloppy but even Peccattes etc... have these. I entirely agree that spontaneous assured workmanship certainly is more pleasing to my eye. But some modern makers work i find irritating to look at. Such as some modern violins that can be fully varnished perfect workmanship but have large toolmarks in perhaps one place on the scroll or a tiny bit of antiquing and wear in a couple of places only. Just my view.

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Yes i suppose so,if you have a good reputation and if the buyer is a bit more knowledgable than the average. Otherwise often seen as sloppy amateurish ,again by the average not too informed buyer. A good varnish job helps alot otherwise they can look a mess. The same with bows, if you left large file marks all over the place like you see on many older bows ,many would think this is sloppy but even Peccattes etc... have these. I entirely agree that spontaneous assured workmanship certainly is more pleasing to my eye. But some modern makers work i find irritating to look at. Such as some modern violins that can be fully varnished perfect workmanship but have large toolmarks in perhaps one place on the scroll or a tiny bit of antiquing and wear in a couple of places only. Just my view.

I agree.

Contrived toolmarks can look contrived. Nothing worse. And I think quite outside the cultures that gave rise to the great violins ond bows.

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6000 is quite high for a stick and likely to be very pricey, most available now are in the 5200 - 5800. Not that a great bow cant be made with lucchi readings on the lower side. The price rockets as you go up the scale.Many makers believe at least 5500 is required for a very good bow.But some dont take much notice of the readings and go by feel, which is essential anyway .A stick can easily be messed up during working it regardless of how good it is,

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