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Vuillaume a Paris: Any good violin?


miles
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I would think it's dependent on what level you define a soloist and what level the orchestra is as well?

 

For example, If you are talking about using it to play the tchaik/sibelius with a full orchestra, then the question is, will it be powerful enough to out play that orchestra? If that orchestra is an A-grade orchestra with several fine violins in it's midst, then the answer would probably be no. 

If you are referring to recitals with a piano then I don't see why not :) 

I've never played on a mass-produced Vuillaume before but I would probably assume it'd be no higher in the ranks than a Gand?

 

for a reference, I've played the Sibelius with a full orchestra and found that my instrument (upwards of 40k) wasn't enough and this was a university level orchestra, so I had to borrow my teachers Lupot and still found it a struggle... 

Just my 2 cents as a player. 

I hope this helps... :unsure:

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8 hours ago, miles said:

I understand that violins labeled Vuillaume a Paris
Rue Croix Des Petits Champs 46 were mass produced.  Can a mass-produced violin be good enough to be used as a soloist instrument?  Thanks.

What is your definition of "soloist instrument"?

Let's assume that you mean a Laberte or Cousenon Mirecourt trade violin from the early 1900s.

If you are talking about volume/projection, then if you find the right one then it's possible. If you are talking about quality of tone then if you find the right one it's possible. Put the two together and you are looking for a bit of a needle in a haystack.

If you are talking about a violin that would meet with the approval of conservatoire teachers, orchestral colleagues, conductors or people conducting "blind" auditions then the answer is emphatically no.

A "soloist violin" is, as the last poster hints, far more than its quality of sound ... it's a whole world of prejudice and mythology.

 

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Thank you all very much.  I saw this listing on eBay: 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Fine-Old-French-Labeled-Violin-Vuillaume-A-Paris-3-4-Size-in-Case-NR/263537974584?hash=item3d5c165d38:g:ctIAAOSwSz1aoLgk

It looks so pretty and I tempted to get it.  What stopped me from doing so is it was mass produced.  Your expert comments just save me a few bucks!  Thank you!

 

 

 

 

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Uh, Miles.  What should have stopped you was that it is clearly identified as a 3/4-sized instrument.  I am pretty certain that there isn't a 3/4-sized instrument on the planet that could do a decent job as a soloist instrument.  Because you missed that, my advice would be--don't buy a violin from eBay under any circumstances!

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The fact that it is "mass produced" is also somewhat irrelevant  given the price.

At this price point I assume you want a playable instrument. Any thing else (good looks) would be a bonus.

I should ask though: what do you want a violin for?

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On ‎13‎/‎03‎/‎2018 at 4:09 AM, miles said:

I understand that violins labeled Vuillaume a Paris
Rue Croix Des Petits Champs 46 were mass produced.  Can a mass-produced violin be good enough to be used as a soloist instrument?  Thanks.

I don't think the time it took to make, or the price are relevant to how good it will sound or whether it has the tone/projection you require. Yes, I'm the antithesis of a violin snob in that regard.

To generalize I think a 'soloist' instrument will be quite light in weight, which should give more volume if it's well made, and a tone that cuts through i.e. a certain brightness more than darkness in the tone.

So you will have to play it to find out if it has those qualities.

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On 3/13/2018 at 8:42 PM, Rue said:

The fact that it is "mass produced" is also somewhat irrelevant  given the price.

It is an auction, and the market determines the price.  No?  I remember years back some people thought Jess's violins were expensive although they were auctioned on eBay (I think the statement was meant to be complimentary).

Rue, I am looking for a good fractional violin, but the term, mass production, confuses me.  I don't know whether the meaning of "mass production" back in the old days is the same as "mass production" today.  Is mass production is the same in the old days the same as workshop or factory.  I have not followed the violin world for a while, and in dire need of educational information.

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On 3/13/2018 at 8:34 PM, palousian said:

Uh, Miles.  What should have stopped you was that it is clearly identified as a 3/4-sized instrument.  I am pretty certain that there isn't a 3/4-sized instrument on the planet that could do a decent job as a soloist instrument.  Because you missed that, my advice would be--don't buy a violin from eBay under any circumstances!

Hi palousian, I actually did not miss the size, which is I was looking for.  Conceptually, I can understand your statement, "I am pretty certain that there isn't a 3/4-sized instrument on the planet that could do a decent job as a soloist instrument."  On the other hand, I am wondering what size of violins those prodigies were playing when they played with world-class orchestras.  That is, there must be some darn good fractional violins out there that can be used to perform with symphony orchestras.  Yes, I know the chances to find such instruments on eBay are as good as winning a lottery.

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2 hours ago, Ben Hebbert said:

I think a slightly more pertinent question would be to ask what the OP defines as a "soloist instrument" ... 

Josh, Martin and sospiri touched upon the topic.  Martin's answer is exactly what I was looking for when I posed this question.  

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5 hours ago, miles said:

Hi palousian, I actually did not miss the size, which is I was looking for.  Conceptually, I can understand your statement, "I am pretty certain that there isn't a 3/4-sized instrument on the planet that could do a decent job as a soloist instrument."  On the other hand, I am wondering what size of violins those prodigies were playing when they played with world-class orchestras.  That is, there must be some darn good fractional violins out there that can be used to perform with symphony orchestras.  Yes, I know the chances to find such instruments on eBay are as good as winning a lottery.

There are a handful of 3/4 sized instruments from good makers that some of those prodigies manage to get a hold of, but honestly, a lot of those kids sound that good because...they ARE that good and would probably do OK with a cigar box.  I guarantee that their parents did not purchase the instrument off of eBay.  You liked Martin's answer, but he was assuming you were talking about full-sized violins, and he is absolutely correct.  You didn't spring the 3/4 thing on us until later (why did you do that?  Why not start with--"I'm looking for a great 3/4-sized violin..."?).  If the pool of mass-produced full-sized violins that somehow have what it takes to stand out over an orchestra is small, the infinitesimally-tiny pool of 3/4-sized instruments with a real voice is...well, seriously, don't waste your time on eBay.  You would do better buying lottery tickets.  If you are buying this for yourself, the mystery is why you would want a 3/4-sized instrument; if it's for your kid--go. to. a. real. violin. shop.  Or try again with a better question.

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"Mass produced" has a lot of connotations which do not necessarily apply when talking about quantity-produced 19th. Century antique violins (or even some of the handmade stuff currently coming from China, etc.), any more than they apply to quantity-produced handicrafts in metal, wood, and textiles still made in parts of East Asia and Oceania using traditional techniques.  The things usually come out of a workshop, cottage industry, or a combination of the two where individually produced semifinished pieces are gathered, assembled, and finished in a large workshop.  Workshops/factories using traditional techniques may have hundreds of workers without having much of what an industrial engineer would consider either process flow or mechanization.  Maybe one person carves, then someone else varnishes, or different people forge and file, but the conveyor-belt interchangeable-part assembly line so dominant in full industrialization doesn't exist, nor does some engineer sit in a control room watching monitors and pushing buttons while the machines do it all, and a handful of technicians wait for setups and breakdowns.

Stentor violin factory in China YouTube

Bolo production on Bohol Island, Philippines YouTube (Don't let the YT title fool you--It's the whole process)

In this sort of production environment, the questions to ask are not how many are made and how fast, but how well the craftsperson performs their job, and what level of performance they are held to.  In the case of antique "trade" violins on eBay, this is highly variable for two reasons.  First, what were originally violins intentionally made to different levels of quality and sold for different prices are now lumped together into a single market.  The people who sold them through catalogs had sorted and "cherry-picked" them into categories, but Chronos and Fortuna have since randomized them most thoroughly.  Second, being handcrafted out of wood, no two are ever totally alike even within a given design and quality class.  Since fewer great pieces are made than mediocre ones, and more shoddy examples than mediocre, you can see how the deck is stacked.  Statistically, there have to be some trade fiddles that rival Strads, but good luck finding them.  Simply finding really good violins runs around one-in-ten from my experience, acceptable student orchestra fiddles, about 30%, and 50-60% stuff you'll have to partially or completely regraduate.  The last brings up another problem.  These fiddles are old and used.  Every antique violin I ever bought needed repairs.  How good are you with a chisel and a gluepot?

The bottom line is that, yes, you can find great violins in this market, but you won't do it with a photograph, a guess, and a Ouija board.  The "average" violin buyer is better off going to local sellers and trying out violins, and leaving eBay "rubbish" to weird people like me, who have at least some skills and expertise, as well as the resources to approach the statistical problem by buying in quantity.

I'm not even going close to "solo violin".  That's a whole 'nuther area of controversy. :lol:

 

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At the lower end of the price range ($ 4 800) one could make a good stand with stuff like this

https://tarisio.com/auctions/auction/lot/?csid=2198716416&cpid=3424059392&filter_key=470d447781352d0a7a15c35deaca4aa8

OTOH, there are more than a few 17th century Cremonese of a size regarded as 3/4. On stage you could take a chinese copy as replacement, possibly nobody would notice.

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Young prodigies playing concertos on fractional instruments can cut through an orchestra for two reasons. First, they're often playing with an orchestra that is sensitive enough to balance issues that they cut way back on their volume, and possibly cut down the size of the string sections as well to reduce volume further. Second, they're often playing works that are more lightly orchestrated in the first place (a kid is much more likely to play Haydn or Mozart or even Paganini, than they are to play Brahms). Third, they have sound-production technique that maximizes their projection.

My youth symphony once accompanied a pint-size Tai Murray on what must have been a quarter-size or half-size instrument, in Haydn G major. I remember no issues hearing her clearly in rehearsal, and for that matter there was no problem hearing her in the large venue of Chicago's Orchestra Hall.

Anyone seeking a fine instrument for a child should be looking for responsiveness over projection. And not expecting to find it on eBay.

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Thank you all very much, Violadamore, Blank Face, Martin and lwl, in particular, for invaluable insights and advice.  It clears up my confusions greatly. 

 

Rue,

Recently, my daughter was selected from her YO to play in their chamber music.  Since her ensemble is of full symphony orchestra, most of the string players are in high school (in fact, my daughter is the youngest, a 3rd grader) playing full size violins.  She plays the first violin in the chamber music with a larger 1/4 violin, and has to work hard to be heard clearly.  So we upgraded her to a 1/2 violin.  Since she seems to be quite aspired to be a CM (who often has to play solo parts in their pieces), I thought I might as well start looking now and raking up, at least, some back up violins in the process. 

 

palousian

Sorry for the failure to mention it was for a 3/4 violin as I posted another thread asking for advice about 3/4 violins.  In my head, when I posted this thread, I was skeptical about the seller's claim the titled violin was a soloist or concert material.  My apologize.  I did not mean to trick you or play "cute"; I was simply confused and quite in disbelief of the seller's claim.  Maybe if there is a demo video, I would be in a better position to judge as sospiri suggested.

As always, thank you very much for your expert feedback.  This forum never fails to help and educate me.

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21 hours ago, miles said:

Thank you all very much, Violadamore, Blank Face, Martin and lwl, in particular, for invaluable insights and advice.  It clears up my confusions greatly. 

Rue,

Recently, my daughter was selected from her YO to play in their chamber music.  Since her ensemble is of full symphony orchestra, most of the string players are in high school (in fact, my daughter is the youngest, a 3rd grader) playing full size violins.  She plays the first violin in the chamber music with a larger 1/4 violin, and has to work hard to be heard clearly.  So we upgraded her to a 1/2 violin.  Since she seems to be quite aspired to be a CM (who often has to play solo parts in their pieces), I thought I might as well start looking now and raking up, at least, some back up violins in the process. 

...

Yes!  Thanks to Vda for explaining the issue with 'mass production' so well! :)

And congrats to your daughter!  That's something to be very proud of - both to have the ability to play the instrument and to be developing leadership skills!

Because she is playing at this level already, and has aspirations to move forward, I would really REALLY advise that you DO NOT buy an unknown off of eBay or other auction site.  She needs a violin that is fully responsive and that won't hold her back for the next little while.

Go to higher end violin shops, where you can try them out.  See what your local Suzuki or other youth program has in their 'for sale/trade' section.  If you had to buy on-line - and in some parts of the world that's really the only go-to, then buy a new instrument from a respected commercial operation (with a return policy).  Shar has many options from a number of sources.  The Eastman company has a good reputation and some upper-level options, etc.  There are several other good options to check out as well...such as Fiddlerman, etc.

Whatever new violin you may get - it will likely have to be tweaked for her - but if it is new, at least it won't need repair in addition.

If you do find an antique violin locally, it will have to be tweaked and possibly repaired, which is fine.  Just be prepared for some extra costs.

AND - make sure her bow is of decent quality as well.

 

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On ‎13‎/‎03‎/‎2018 at 10:58 PM, miles said:

Thank you all very much.  I saw this listing on eBay: 

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Fine-Old-French-Labeled-Violin-Vuillaume-A-Paris-3-4-Size-in-Case-NR/263537974584?hash=item3d5c165d38:g:ctIAAOSwSz1aoLgk

It looks so pretty and I tempted to get it.  What stopped me from doing so is it was mass produced.  Your expert comments just save me a few bucks!  Thank you!

Yes, it's a nice looking instrument. Not massed produced, because the makers took a lot of time to make it and had lots of skill and experience, but it is not an expensive intstrument either. It is a decent quality probably German immitation of a Mirecourt style violin of around the 1930s to 50s. It has a very hard wearing varnish which is very protective but chokes the tone somewhat.

The price this violin will sell for is due partly to the Vuillaume name, which has nothing to do with the famous J.B. Vuillaume who died in 1875 other than the address, which was where he had his business in Paris, and partly due to the salesperson's spiel, which is somewhat hyperbolic.

 

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23 hours ago, miles said:

Thank you all very much, Violadamore, Blank Face, Martin and lwl, in particular, for invaluable insights and advice.  It clears up my confusions greatly. 

 

Rue,

Recently, my daughter was selected from her YO to play in their chamber music.  Since her ensemble is of full symphony orchestra, most of the string players are in high school (in fact, my daughter is the youngest, a 3rd grader) playing full size violins.  She plays the first violin in the chamber music with a larger 1/4 violin, and has to work hard to be heard clearly.  So we upgraded her to a 1/2 violin.  Since she seems to be quite aspired to be a CM (who often has to play solo parts in their pieces), I thought I might as well start looking now and raking up, at least, some back up violins in the process. 

 

palousian

Sorry for the failure to mention it was for a 3/4 violin as I posted another thread asking for advice about 3/4 violins.  In my head, when I posted this thread, I was skeptical about the seller's claim the titled violin was a soloist or concert material.  My apologize.  I did not mean to trick you or play "cute"; I was simply confused and quite in disbelief of the seller's claim.  Maybe if there is a demo video, I would be in a better position to judge as sospiri suggested.

As always, thank you very much for your expert feedback.  This forum never fails to help and educate me.

Miles, I'd like to add a comment after reading this however, before I do, may I ask if you had a price range in mind? With your case in mind, the fact that you are looking at possibly buying a smaller instrument and other various points to consider, having an idea on how much you are willing to spend on this upgrade for your daughter can help us provide you with insight and the different directions you can take. 

If you'd rather not say in the chat feel free to send a personal message :)

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On 15.3.2018 at 7:06 PM, miles said:

 

Recently, my daughter was selected from her YO to play in their chamber music.  Since her ensemble is of full symphony orchestra, most of the string players are in high school (in fact, my daughter is the youngest, a 3rd grader) playing full size violins.  She plays the first violin in the chamber music with a larger 1/4 violin, and has to work hard to be heard clearly.  So we upgraded her to a 1/2 violin.  Since she seems to be quite aspired to be a CM (who often has to play solo parts in their pieces), I thought I might as well start looking now and raking up, at least, some back up violins in the process. 

 

To clarify, I'm not convinced that it makes sense actually to start looking for "back up violins", which your daughter might be able to play just in a few years, nor to look for some "great name" 3/4 instruments.

Iwl made some very good points explaining that it won't be the soloist quality violin which could help your daughter, rather the surrounding and the response of the instrument, well fitting to her personal requirements. This sort of quality could be found in a rather new made instrument, too, from a contemporary maker experienced in making such small instruments as well as from a high standard far eastern workshop. The only way to find out can be to let her try and play, not to collect some so called soloist instruments chosen by well sounding (and expensive) names only.

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I got my first youth symphony concertmaster position as a 10-year-old, and retained principal positions until I was done with school. I won that first audition on a cheap but good-sounding German workshop half-size, against kids who were junior high age playing full-sizes. I had a terrible Romanian workshop-made three-quarters, which was finally replaced by a decent American contemporary full-size (albeit apprentice-made, under the guidance of Carl F Becker). Throughout those years, I played solo competitions, concertos / concerto grossi with orchestra, concertmaster solos, and chamber-music.

My violins didn't especially do me any favors (especially since I was such a small kid that I didn't get to a full-size until I was in high school), and indeed, my teachers really felt I should be playing something much better than I had. But my parents were probably better served waiting to get me the best full-size they could afford, rather than spending money on fractional instruments. A lot of kids growth-spurt. I went from a half-size to a full-size in less than two years, so money spent on the three-quarter was largely wasted. Importantly, I learned to produce a big sound, rather than depending on my violins for projection.

Also, frankly, most concertmaster solos done at the youth symphony level don't require the concertmaster to have a huge sound. If you're playing Baroque concerto grossi (Corelli, etc.), the orchestration is light enough that it's easy to be heard. If you're doing the youth symphony classics -- say, Capriccio Espagnol -- the texture is light enough that you can be easily heard. If you're playing pit orchestra, most concertmaster solos are over an extremely light orchestration and are background-ish anyway. Indeed, as an adult now, concertmaster of a community orchestra, I can think of relatively few concertmaster solos in which it's hard to be heard; I never really feel like there's the same issues one faces in playing a concerto with orchestra.

Violins are really personal to the player. There's no use in looking generically for good deals now. When your daughter is ready for a full-size, she'll need to go shopping in person to figure out what she likes, guided by her teacher. Responsiveness is paramount, along with playing characteristics that will help a player mature technically and as an artist. Also, what each player likes in terms of tone and proportions will be different. "Loud" is a bad purchasing criterion.

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I think you might have some pretty good luck finding a winner if you had a big pile of mass-produced instruments to play through. 

I'm suspicious that highly-selected mass-produced violins, and highly selected contemporary handmade violins, and highly selected Strads are all pretty similar in quality, fundamentally.

Something that ought to be borne in mind is that a soloist doesn't have to be louder than the orchestra -- one requirement of a good composition is that the range where the soloist is playing be pretty empty except for the soloist.  It isn't like a bunch of people playing in unison and the soloist has to be louder than everybody else combined...

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