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fiddleinparis

Advice on antique Mirecourt violins

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I live in Paris and I'm in the market for a new violin.  I'm currently playing on a student level Chinese Violin.  My teacher has told me that Chinese violins in my price range (about 1500 euros which is about $1900 - everything is inexpensive in France so I know this won't get as much as it would in the USA) are a good value and that antique Mirecourt violins are more expensive.  My daughters'  teacher isn't too keen on Chinese violins and she recommended I get a Mirecourt.

 

So I visited several luthiers in Paris.  The Mirecourt violins at 1500 euros were slightly better than mine but I was surprised that I didn't find them that much better.  however at 2000 euros it gets interesting.  And one I tried that was 2800 euros was awesome but that's way out of my budget.

 

When I ask about the violins the luthiers just say they're about 100 years old, and were made in Mirecourt.  It seems we don't know that much about these violins. 

 

I'm wondering if, for my budget, if I should get a Mirecourt or a Chinese.  From what I've seen so far I prefer the Mirecourt, but I wouldn't get one for 1500, instead I'd go for the ones at 2000.  in talking with the luthiers it seems the prices are pretty fixed, there are lots of luthiers in Paris (most of them on the same street!) and the price is determined by the quality.  I don't think there are any great deals to be had, but at the same time there is some competition so probably no way overpriced violins either.

 

Would an antique Mirecourt hold its value better than a Chinese?  I doubt my next violin will be my last so that's an important point.  If I pay 2000 euros but at some point I can get most of that back, then it doesn't cost me that much in the long run to buy a better violin right?  I know the luthiers charge 20% commission for consignment sales, so for example if I play mine for several years and sell it for 1600 then i've only paid 400 for the use of the violin right? 

 

Any info about this would be very helpful to me.  BTW I've been playing for 2 years now so I'm still a beginner, but I do play other instruments since my childhood so I learn fast. 

 

Thanks

 

 

 

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Hi,

In fact we know pretty much everything there is to know about these Mirecourt violins. However, for a luthier in the Rue de Rome it's hardly worth their time talking to you if you're only spending E2000. So I suppose the reaction to your eager questions was "Bof ...!"

If you'd like some general historical information about Mirecourt violins, nowhere better than Roland Terrier's wonderful site http://www.luthiers-mirecourt.com/

You will find that he is not so snobbish.

Lower end Mirecourt violins represent fantastic value for money, and their tone almost always has more personality and appeal than a similarly priced Chinese violin. However, there's no relationship between the price of a specific model and the quality of sound - there are plenty of very humble Medio Finos which can sound better than Leclerc or Fournier models costing 4 times as much. 

You need to try them with your eyes closed!

As for value, yes I would say that a 100 year old Mirecourt violin will hold its value, whereas a new Chinese violin will be worth half as much the moment you have bought it.

If you've only been playing for a couple of years, I recommend you find a shop who will give you a 100% trade in if you decide to upgrade with them.

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Fiddleinparis, Martin Swan's advice is excellent, and I agree with him 100%. I don't buy and sell violins of this type, but if you would like any advice about an instrument you're looking at or which shops you could try, feel free to send me a PM via this forum.

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Hi Martin, thank you for your reply.

 

So far I've been lucky in that the luthiers I've visited have been very patient and friendly.  I went into a store just to get some information and they offered to let me try them out in practice room and the guy was bringing violins in and out, it was a lot of fun and that's how we got up to 2800 euros. ;)   Another handed me a violin and went back to working on an instrument, leaving me free to play it as I wish without any sales pressure.  I appreciated that too.  It's been a fun and pleasant experience.  It's also good for me because I'm not used to playing in front of anyone but my teacher and family. :)

 

Thanks for the link to luthiers-mirecourt.com.  I read many pages there this morning and it makes me want to visit the city.

 

It's good to know that lower end Mirecourt violins are good value.  And I'm also glad you have the same opinion that I do, in that their tone is more appealing.  Some people have told me that one couldn't hear the difference between a student chinese violin and a Mirecourt, but that's not my experience.

 

For trade-in value, the standard policy here seems to be 2/3 the price is credited towards the next purchase, and that's before tax.  So for a 1500 euro violin, without tax it's 1254 and 2/3 is 836 which in the end, ends up being 55%.  From what I've read in the US one can get 100% or close to it, but I haven't seen that in France.  I personally wouldn't give back my violin for 55% of what I paid for it, I'd prefer a consignment and give 20% in commission.

 

For the pricing, do you think 2000 euros is the right amount to spend?  if I could find one for 1500 that would be even better but so far I haven't liked the ones selling for 1500.

 

Thanks again,

Michael

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In fact we know pretty much everything there is to know about these Mirecourt violins.

 

BTW, when I said we didn't know much about them, I meant for the several that I tried.  Next time I will ask for more information that's on the label and start keeping notes so I can research them a bit.

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In your price category you should be selecting on sound and structural integrety. If you find an old(er) violin in a good state (not too many cracks, no deformation of the table, proper projection etc etc) then that is fine. If you select for its tone and you find it is worth the investment, because it has a good tone and no problems, then you can be quite sure you will also find someone who will think likewise when you are selling. (that is, unless you have a really unusual taste what violin tone is concerned)

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Just a little note on attitudes here in France. When one mentions "Mirecourt," most violinists and luthiers crinkle their noses, and look disdainfully on the lower end Mirecourt stuff as it is the equivalent here of the Mark:Schon mass-produced stuff in the USA. Of course, that doesn't keep some luthiers from offering an unusually nice Medio-Fino as a Neapolitan school instrument as has been recounted on the violoncelle.org forum recently, but the reaction of the potential buyer was typical: she was in love with the sound until she found out it was a Mirecourt. I agree with Martin that there are nice fiddles among them and bargains can be found, but I wouldn't necessarily recommend going out "looking" for one. As Baroquecello said above, at this price point, (at most price points below 10k for that matter) condition and sound should be the main criteria, not necessarily origin.

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It's funny you mention that thread because I stumbled up it myself while searching "Medio-Fino".  I found it odd that she picked the Mirecourt over the more expensive instruments but when she found out it was Mirecourt she didn't want it at that price.  If it was truly better than the others maybe it was worth it?  That doesn't justify any alleged dishonesty from the luthier.

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Absolutely! It is unfortunately something that one sees all too often. Although it is often a case of pure cynicism, in all fairness, i do think sometimes it's the result of over optimism on the part of the luthier, who wants to see something better than what he actually has. I wrote an article about this many years ago for the l'Amirésol association newsletter. there's a copy of it on my website if you want to google it.

 

An experience I had with this sort of thing: many years ago, I got a "hankering" for a Turin school violin, and a dealer on the rue de Rome showed me an interesting violin with a Rocca label that looked good and sounded like what I was looking for. The price was also good for a Turin school violin, but before making a decision, I took it around for outside opinions, and the verdict came down: not Turin, but probably a maker from Lyon who may have used white violins from Turin, but in anycase who's work can resemble Turin school violins: Elophe Poirson. The only problem with the violin was that the price was maybe 30% lower than a Marchetti or a Rinaldi, but still 75-100% higher than a Poirson ought to have been. I went back to the seller offering a good price for a Poirson, and he balked, because he had bought it thinking sincerely that it was a Turin school violin and he had paid too much. He wound up returning the violin to the wholesaler who had taken him. At the next Paris auction a few weeks later, there was a very nice Poirson, and when the bidding came down to two people, I realized I was up against this dealer! We had both "learned a lesson" from what had happened! I let him win, went right over to see him and made an offer for the violin that allowed him a decent profit. I wound up with a healthy, good sounding violin at less than half of the asking price of the original violin.

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