O.H. Bryant Violins?


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Hello,

There is an O.H. Bryant violin for sale on eBay with some pretty extravagant claims made for its sound quality. I don't play much myself, but have two sons who are both quite talented. I especially enjoy listening to them practice -- it makes me feel like royalty from three hundred years ago to have a private concert in my own house every evening! I'm just learning about violins, but have a very sensitive ear.

I've designed home stereo equipment professionally for the last 25 years, which is very much like building violins (or making wine) in that there are few (if any) measurements one can make that will tell you how something will sound. Instead, one must learn how to build good sounding equipment via a combination of trial-and-error, intuition, and spending a lot of time listening. The main difference is that with a stereo there is an objective goal we are trying to reacch -- recreating the sound of a live orchestra in your living room. I don't know that such a sstrict standard exists for the sound of violins, but clearly there is a widespread general agreement about which violins sound "good" versus which fiddlles don't sound so "good".

Back to the Bryant. From my online research it seemed up until about the turn of the millennium that the American fiddles sold quite cheaply. But over the last dozen years, the prices have climbed steeply. In 2000 one sold at a Skinner auction for around $2000 or so. By 2005 one needing major repairs sold for $6500, again at a Skinner auction. And now there is a fine violin shop in Boston that has three Bryants ranging from $14,000 to $18,500. (These may have come from a collector who sold his entire collection, primarily of American instruments to this music shop in 2009.)

One of my sons is currently playing a Victor Dubois, who apparently studied under Bryant. This is wonderful sounding instrument, so my curiosity is piqued by this Bryant on eBay. Does anyone here have any experience with them? Are they really as good as the seller would have us believe? (He basically claims that they are the pinnacle of American violin making, and equal to anything made in the last hundred or more years, anywhere in the world.)

Unfortunately I can no longer travel overnight after being paralyzed in an accident several years ago. So my chances to listening to a wide variety of fiddles is farily limited. (I did get to hear Hilary Hahn play her Vuillaume at a very nice local hall last year.) I can always purchase and return it if it's not right for us, but I'd like to hear the opinions of people on this forum who have actually played (or heard) a Bryant. If so, please let me know of your personal opinion. (I realize that not every fiddle from any given maker will sound \the same, but I'm just trying to get a general idea.)

Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.

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I had one Bryant in for repairs years ago, and it was absolutely wonderful. I never forgot it and only became aware of his importance as an American maker later on. If the violin is authentic and in good condition, it would certainly be worth considering.

I hope you or someone can post pictures here so you can get some educated comments on the specific instrument. I personally hesitate to buy anything on line.

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Bryant is indeed an important figure of the Bostonian school. Well crafted instruments with a varnish I quite like. I am quite certain I know the 3 Bryant instruments you've mentioned in Boston (or rather, a small suburb of) as I have an affiliation with the shop...they are nice examples.

The seller of this ebay violin is well known to some members of MN here. I do believe that if the authenticity of the instrument were to ever (beyond the ebay return date) come into question by a qualified authority, the seller would take the instrument back. Please don't quote me on that but I have a hunch :) If I've misspoken about that, I'm guessing the seller has already read this topic post and will correct me.

The ebay fiddle looks good :)

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I had one Bryant in for repairs years ago, and it was absolutely wonderful. I never forgot it and only became aware of his importance as an American maker later on. If the violin is authentic and in good condition, it would certainly be worth considering.

I hope you or someone can post pictures here so you can get some educated comments on the specific instrument. I personally hesitate to buy anything on line.

Thanks very much, Will. This is exactly the sort of information I am looking for. Here are some photos of the fiddle:

Label: Bryantlabel.jpg

Front and Back: BryantFrong-Rear.jpg

Right Scroll: BryantScrollRight.jpg

Front Scroll: BryantScrollFront.jpg

End Pin: BryantEndPin.jpg

Profile: BryantProfile.jpg

The instrument has one repaired crack to the top, just to the right of the tailpiece: Bryantcrack.jpg

Unusually, it also comes with a matching bow from the same maker: Bryantbow1.jpg

Bryantbow4.jpg

As far as buying on-line, it is difficult for me to dow anything else. There is only one violin shop within driving distance from here, and I can no longer drive myself. This particular seller offers a two-week trial, and I have purchased several other instruments from him before and have always been very satisfied. In fact, that is where I bought the V. Dubois, which as I noted before I have found to be exceptional. I always takethe instruments to my sons' teacher for approval, and she is very discrimnating and helpful, so I don't feel that I am just buying a "pig in the poke". While I don't think she is an expert in identification of authenticity or collector's value, she does have a good feel for the value of an instrument simply in terms of its sound quality and playability.

I don't have any reason to doubt the instrument's authenticity, but all of you are free to comment on this aspect. I am not a collector, so I wouldn't be nearly as interested in the collectibility value, but rather the sound quality and playability of the instrument. Of course, at some point, the two start to converge and it is difficult to separate them. But to me it is interesting that a violin you repaired perhaps a decade ago was so memorable that it still stays in your memory today. Thank you for you comments, and please feel free to comment on the photos (including the crack).

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Bryant is indeed an important figure of the Bostonian school. Well crafted instruments with a varnish I quite like. I am quite certain I know the 3 Bryant instruments you've mentioned in Boston (or rather, a small suburb of) as I have an affiliation with the shop...they are nice examples.

The seller of this ebay violin is well known to some members of MN here. I do believe that if the authenticity of the instrument were to ever (beyond the ebay return date) come into question by a qualified authority, the seller would take the instrument back. Please don't quote me on that but I have a hunch :) If I've misspoken about that, I'm guessing the seller has already read this topic post and will correct me.

The ebay fiddle looks good :)

Hello Gerald,

Thank you for our reply. The shop with three Bryants is Johnson String Instruments, although another Boston area shop, Rutman's Violins, also has a very nice looking example for sale. Photos of all instruments are online at the store's websites. Bryant didn't have a very high output himself, fewer than 200 during his lifetime, so I suppose that he may have spent much of his career training other luthiers or performing repeairs.

I agree that the eBay fiddle looks good, although it does lack the spectacular flamed back of some of the other Bryant's for sale at the fine instrument shops in Boston. I have a couple of questions regarding your post, if you have the time for a reply (or anyone else who would like to offer their opinion!).

One is regarding the repaired crack. Is this something to be concerned with? Or is it just something that occasionally happens and is no big deal?

The other is that you referred to Bryant as an "important figure of the Bostonian school". I apologize if this is a naive question, but what makes someone an "important figure"? Is it that they were considered to make consistently fine quality instruments? Or that they were influential among other Boston-area luthiers (he apparenty was the mentor of many fine Boston-area luthiers)? Or that he influenced American violin-making by copying the works of the great masters (he was head repairer of the BSO and had access to many, many Cremonese masterpieces, and apparently was very meticulous in measuring and analyzing their construction)?

I suppose that any (or perhaps all) of these could be true to make someone an "important figure", but as a player (or more crrectly, the father of two players), I am more interested in the first possibility than in any of the others. Specifically, I am much more interested in purchasing a violin that would sound as good as one costing several time more than in the collectability of an instrument for its historical importance. Thank you again for your thoughts and perspective on these questions.

And yes, I have purchased several violins from this seller before and found him to be very easy to deal with and very concerned to make sure that I was happy with my purchase. One time when I wasn't quite sure about a fiddle I had won in an auction and he gave me the choice of either a refund or sending three others ones to try and keep the one I liked best! I found out about him from our teacher, who plays in a baroque orchestra. She was in need of a period instrument and bought two for a good price thinking that she would keep the one she liked best due to his liberal refund policy. But when she received them, she liked them both so well that she ended up keeping them both!

Cheers,

Charles

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Pahdah, really ! Magical overtones? Bottomless power? At least I searched the page and didn't find mint anywhere :D Oh, well, IMHO it must sound pretty impressive or he wouldn't be carrying on like that. Pity it's waaay over my budget.

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it seems like 75% of the auction scroll threads are devoted to pahdah hounds violins, if this isnt advertising on the forum, i dont know what is, how about focusing on some bargains on ebay, rather than one of the most expensive sellers.

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Chansen... to my eye - did he make the fittings as well?

Very lovely instrument. Ive come across one O.H. Bryant violin in Arlington, Tx once which was outstanding in my opinion. It was not in this fine condition and had been repaired quite a bit.

I had no idea he made bows.

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it seems like 75% of the auction scroll threads are devoted to pahdah hounds violins, if this isnt advertising on the forum, i dont know what is, how about focusing on some bargains on ebay, rather than one of the most expensive sellers.

Hello Lyndon,

Thanks for posting. As far as bargains go, I believe it was you who posted that a genuine 1929 Roth in perfect condition would be worth around $12,000. Since it was proven in large part by your correspondece with the Roth firm that Pahdah's Roth was in fact a 1929 instrument, and the violin sold for somewthing less than $7,500, wouldn't that qualify as a "bargain"?

I'm new to these forums, having "tuned in" just a few weeks ago.. I've found that every forum has its own set of rules, some explicit and some not so explicit. In the home page for the forums it says that the Auction Scoll is "a great place to discuss current eBay listings".

I am truly interested in a genuine O.H. Bryant fiddle and wanted to discuss it with others more knowledgeable than myself (although it may end up out of my price range, particularly if it has a great collector's value). If you or anyone else feels that my post has broken any rules, explicit or othewise, please feel free to let me know. It is not my intent to ""rock the boat" or create any controversy. I am simply trying to learn more about Bryant violins and would like to hear from people who have first-hand experience with them.

I've no reason to doubt its authenticity, although that has already been confirmed by several posters. Please feel free to let me know if my posting has broken any rules or is in any way inappropriate.

Thanks,

Charles

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my question is did he make the violin, or did he import it from germany?? it actually doesnt look a whole lot different from a factory made EH Roth from the 30s, the varnish is obviously different, but i dont see a lot of "hand made american" screaming at me, maybe thats what a quality american fiddle is, something that looks just like a german production violin......

of course its hard to tell if somethings hand made or not from pictures, the scroll looks more hand made, ive got a hand made american violin for sale, and you can see the hand work in the carving of the arching, just like a couple 20th century Italians ive had through the shop, thats what i like about Italian violins, they dont try to be perfect but show the makers hand, to me a lot of the expensive american makers ive seen advertised by pahdah have more in common with production german work, than hand made by one maker Italian work

the varnish is quite nice, though

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Chansen... to my eye - did he make the fittings as well?

Very lovely instrument. Ive come across one O.H. Bryant violin in Arlington, Tx once which was outstanding in my opinion. It was not in this fine condition and had been repaired quite a bit.

I had no idea he made bows.

Hello Andrew,

Thanks for sharing your experience with a Bryant. A consensus seems to be developing!

Regarding the fittings, I don't know. Of the four Bryant fiddles I have found posted on the websites of fine violin shops, all four had rather plain ebony pegs, and three of the four appear to also have ebony tailpieces. The fourth one had a tailpiece of a medium brown wood that is unfamiliar to me, and much more similar to the fiddle listed on eBay. The pegs on the eBay fiddle almost appear to be made of two pieces of wood. I will ask the seller if he knows if they are original.

Again I am rather new to the world of violins, but it seems quite rare for a luthier to also make bows. But in my online research I did find another bow by O.H. Bryant -- it sold in auction in 2005 for $264! It seems that the value of these fiddles (and bows?) have climbed rapidly in the last dozen years or so.

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Lyndon its my policy not to comment or give my advice on instruments or authenticate them especially on auctions that are live.

However, I can say that Ole was a fine maker. Spent a nice cup of coffee this morning before getting busy downstairs browsing through archives and reading up on his work and his small violin making school. He serviced the Boston symphony for many years and this violin was made during the last 4 years he was alive.

Lyndon you could purchase an archive subscription to Tarisio and look at the past archives of Ole and see three instruments of his. That would give you a better idea I think and you could compare some tool marks and look at details and see if things match to get an idea. Nothing compares to seeing it in person though.

Anyways - Its a lovely instrument nonetheless.

My apologies Chansen, I misread earlier - you can ignore my first post about the fittings... But it almost looks like the fittings and chinrest were made by hand and I'm curious if they are original to the instrument.

Cheers - will be a nice auction. I'm off to my bench.

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sorry, andrew, i was being a bit cheeky, the only fine american violin ive had through my shop was a george gemunder, after his stroke, ive seen plenty of hand made american violins and they all look, well-hand made to a greater extent than european violins, i know for a fact that many of the not hand made looking american makers were importing instruments from germany, usually graduating them to their individual scheme, and then varnishing them. so pardon me for being sceptical about any american maker that looks "to good to be true"

however im probably way off on Bryant as his violins seem to be almost as valuable and respected as george gemunders, however my gemunder did look decidedly more hand made to me than this one, but again were only going from pictures, actually my first impression of the gemunder was it looked french and indeed he had apprenticed in France.

what i can say, is given past issues, and the potential of this Bryant to be worth $15,000 cant we at least have an appraisal from a recognized expert, like Mr Reuning, i think weve learned some important lessons about the fallibility of amateur appraisers, and it will only help prices go higher for pahdah if he has a certificate, etc, certainly his 1929 Roth would have gone thousands of dollars higher if he had payed for Mr Roths evaluation before, not after the auction had ended.

im just saying if i saw this violin going cheap on ebay, I wouldnt touch it because the hand signed numbers on the label look quite recent and more like a felt pen than a fountain pen, not to say thats its not impossible that 70 year old ink wouldnt fade,but ink usually fades, we need to know a lot more about the instrument and the maker to make a serious judgement, and the idea that an instrument has to be real because it came from a famous respected collector is utter rubbish, famous collectors or often the most likely to be conned by unscrupulous dealers

show us the appraisal pahdah......for your good and ours, how could your auction not benefit from having a real appraisal, the only way it wont benefit is if its a fake.

and please dont tell me youve compared pictures and they look the same, thats just the way forgers think, find something it looks just like and insert a reproduction of the other makers label.

i doubt this is a fraud, But what if on the off chance it is and even pahdah and his collector friend were deceived, this is up to $15,000 were talking about, im jusy saying pahdah owes us a lot more than his opinion and anonymous benefactors, a serious appraisal will help the buyer and the seller

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the label could have been added 20 years ago, or be original, the point is no matter what the final price(its already over $4000 with a week left) pahdah is selling you a supposedly guaranteed $15,000 violin even if you only pay $7000 for it, except how the hell are you going to in the 14 day return period find an expert that can authenticate this violin(if you dont live in Boston) and you cant possibly accept any appraisal from any expert that is not at least very familiar with this makers work. pahdah being the nicest, greatest guy isnt going to guarantee the violin is worth $15,000, an appraisal and hopefully a certificate will, use some common sense here folks

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what i can say, is given past issues, and the potential of this Bryant to be worth $15,000 cant we at least have an appraisal from a recognized expert, like Mr Reuning, i think weve learned some important lessons about the fallibility of amateur appraisers, and it will only help prices go higher for pahdah if he has a certificate, etc, certainly his 1929 Roth would have gone thousands of dollars higher if he had payed for Mr Roths evaluation before, not after the auction had ended.

im just saying if i saw this violin going cheap on ebay, I wouldnt touch it because the hand signed numbers on the label look quite recent and more like a felt pen than a fountain pen, not to say thats its not impossible that 70 year old ink wouldnt fade,but ink usually fades, we need to know a lot more about the instrument and the maker to make a serious judgement, and the idea that an instrument has to be real because it came from a famous respected collector is utter rubbish, famous collectors or often the most likely to be conned by unscrupulous dealers

show us the appraisal pahdah......for your good and ours, how could your auction not benefit from having a real appraisal, the only way it wont benefit is if its a fake.

So, Lyndon, I take it that you think I am not getting enough for my violins? My consignors seem to be satisfied, for the most part. I think the buyers like saving a little money too.

That is why I have so many happy customers. The fact is, unlike most ebay sellers I don't really need an appraisal or a certificate. And if I leave a few grand on the table, here and there, so what?

I actually asked the consignor if I should get a cert for the Bryant before I listed it. His answer was that "anyone who is going to pay what this one is worth, knows what he is buying. Its obvious that it is right."

You wrote, "im just saying if i saw this violin going cheap on ebay," Don't worry, you won't.

If anyone wants to contact Mr Reuning about this fiddle, be my guest. He knows me, and he knows the person well who owned this violin, and has likely seen the fiddle already at some point. He might not even have to look at it but if he wants to see it, I'll be happy to run it into town, from my hilltop hovel in New Hampshire, to show him and report back.

Isn't this deja vu all over again?

If I had a Guadagnini or even a Bisiach or Scarampella, I would get a certificate. I would say that the minimum value for me to bother Chris for a cert would be about $50,000. He might write them for lesser instruments but I don't think he is as enthusiastic about certifying a Roth or even a nice Bryant. Although I am sure he would write a cert for a Bryant, this one doesn't need one to do what it needs to do.

Jesse

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sorry, andrew, i was being a bit cheeky, the only fine american violin ive had through my shop was a george gemunder, after his stroke, ive seen plenty of hand made american violins and they all look, well-hand made to a greater extent than european violins, i know for a fact that many of the not hand made looking american makers were importing instruments from germany, usually graduating them to their individual scheme, and then varnishing them. so pardon me for being sceptical about any american maker that looks "to good to be true"

Lyndon, I'm not trying to pick a fight with you, but by your own admission you have not had your hands on many American violins, particularly Boston school violins.

In the Northeast, where I am, we see MANY Boston school violins (and New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Mass. in general). They range from obviously rustic/folk to nearly perfect in every way.

There were many violin makers from this area that were very skilled and more than capable of making a pristine, beautiful violin without having to import them from Germany.

O.H. Bryant was one such maker. This violin looks spot on to me, having held quite a few Bryants.

John Gould, although originally from England, made some of the more beautiful violins I've seen, and would easily hold up against violins of any region.

Violin making in the Northeast at this time was easily on par with Germany and Eastern Europe, if not in quantity, certainly in quality.

Go team Northeast! :)

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