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Stradivari's secret was a concept?


Andreas Preuss
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20 minutes ago, David Beard said:

To me, the design look customized and unique in detail to each instrument.  The absolute opposite of batch work.

I don't buy the idea of batch work in the Stradivari shop either, but the very idea of there being multi-megabuck Dutzendarbeit fiddles on the market was simply too exquisite to pass up.  ^_^

Neither am I certain that Torbjörn's comment was absolutely serious. :)

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This is a long thread, and yet I do not recall the topic of the wood under the bridge feet come up for discussion.

A 300 year old Strad, with the bridge bearing down on one spot, would significantly compress the wood fibers.

What effect does this compression have on the tone ?

Has any maker here ever tried artificially compressing the wood underneath the bridge feet on a new violin to hear the effect before and after ?

 

 

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Well, I didn't mean it to be like the dutzenarbeit cottage industry north of the alps. More like, with a distinctive Cremonese touch. Think quality. Imagine yourself in Antonio's shoes: Everybody wants a Cremonese instrument i.e. a Stradivarius. With money to spend, what's the logical thing to do? 

Was he not a good business man?

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As another WH Lee worker I can attest that the speed of work when  one does the same thing every day without distractions can be very efficient. Violin making just like violin playing takes constant practice and when I was setting necks for most of the shop the first one on Monday morning always took at least twice the time as the ones later in the day when I got my groove back. I have always assumed that 17th and 18th century workshops would have been run the same way with people joining up a dozen plates at a time and so forth. I also have seen pictures of early machines of quite ingenious design which used very large fly wheels and could be turned by a man or boy standing up and once moving would not have required much more than a steady push to power frame saws capable of slicing ribs or resawing plate blanks. The fellow Michael spoke of who knocked out a fiddle a week was a gold medal winner and one criticism of his work tended to be that they might be  too consistent and sterile. He was certainly the cleanest worker there and by far the fastest at the same time.

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9 minutes ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

Didn't Strad's shop have about 90 unsold violin's at the time Strad died?

Other later makers may have had trouble finding customers too.

Is there any reason not to suppose that it was a violin shop where one could go to buy a violin, and therefore required stock, and this is the surplus stock after the shop closed ?

In other words, a customer who turned up on spec could try violins off the shelf  and take one home ?

 

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8 hours ago, David Beard said:

To me, the design look customized and unique in detail to each instrument.  The absolute opposite of batch work.

The people whose work depends on noticing this kind of detail have observed that Strads appear to come in batches of three and del Gesus in pairs. When I was actively making, three was a good number for me to work at maxiumum efficiency, but four turned the job into a boring one. There's also some indication that some Strad parts---heads and rib sets, probably--were made in large groups and stockpiled until needed, then matched later with a top and back to finish.

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2 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

The people whose work depends on noticing this kind of detail have observed that Strads appear to come in batches of three and del Gesus in pairs. When I was actively making, three was a good number for me to work at maxiumum efficiency, but four turned the job into a boring one. There's also some indication that some Strad parts---heads and rib sets, probably--were made in large groups and stockpiled until needed, then matched later with a top and back to finish.

Hi Michael, could it be plausible the Strad shop made much, much more than the known 600 Strad violins, and only the best ones got the Strad label?  

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The Hills assumed that the total production was at least double the survivors, which sounds reasonable. However, I don't think there are any "off brand" ones slinking around. Label or not, a Strad is an obvious object to people who know*, and isn't likely to sneak past 300 years of expertise. The last one I know of that was passing as something else was known as a Vuillaume Strad copy, which is not too far off, in a way, but I don't have an explanation of how that happened.

There isn't any large body of work from that place and time floating around that people can't identify, and most of the nit picking around the Strad shop is in the nature of trying to ascertain which person did which piece. For instance, I'm not the first person to have noticed that there is an unidentified individual in the shop from around 1696 to 1717 or so whose work is identifiable, but appears not to be any of the three main contenders (Tony, Omo, Frank). Is there another son that could be? I don't remember. . . . . maybe Allesandro Giuseppe retired early or found a different line of work? He would have been 19 in 1696, which would be just about the right age to move someone with promise from sawing out hinges to doing identifiable bits of violins.

_____________

*When I was at B&F, of course we always played the guessing game with whatever came into the shop: figure out blind what you have in your hands. But when someone would bring a Strad back, it would come back spinning, literally: it was assumed everyone in the shop would know what it was, and the game was to name the year of the spinning target before it stopped. That's how obvious they  usually are.

 

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57 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

The people whose work depends on noticing this kind of detail have observed that Strads appear to come in batches of three and del Gesus in pairs. When I was actively making, three was a good number for me to work at maxiumum efficiency, but four turned the job into a boring one. There's also some indication that some Strad parts---heads and rib sets, probably--were made in large groups and stockpiled until needed, then matched later with a top and back to finish.

This would explain the marking of the mould inside the pegbox. The neck was attached to the ribs and stored away. Because the mould is not so apparent on the loose ribs the inscription in the interior peg box makes sense to identify the original mould.

 

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1 hour ago, Delabo said:

Is there any reason not to suppose that it was a violin shop where one could go to buy a violin, and therefore required stock, and this is the surplus stock after the shop closed ?

In other words, a customer who turned up on spec could try violins off the shelf  and take one home ?

 

Not a bad assumption. Then it would be up to the customers judgement what he likes for the sound and elegantly eliminating the biggest risk factor for selling: sound issues.

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I had a few violin lesson from an elderly Russian last year. He got his violin from his teacher in Moscow back in the 70's.

It had no label, but he had it examined by Charles Beare a few years ago in London. As both the scroll and the f-holes (!!) were replaced, the origin was difficult to determine, but probably from the Strad shop. Not made by the master himself, more likely by one of the sons or Bergonzi.

He told me, and i heard before, that parts from one Strad (or from the shop at least) sometimes were used to make several "Strads". Is there any thruth to this story?

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4 hours ago, Torbjörn Zethelius said:

Well, I didn't mean it to be like the dutzenarbeit cottage industry north of the alps. More like, with a distinctive Cremonese touch. Think quality. Imagine yourself in Antonio's shoes: Everybody wants a Cremonese instrument i.e. a Stradivarius. With money to spend, what's the logical thing to do? 

Was he not a good business man?

Thats what I am thinking. He was faster and more efficient than others around. Not that he pushed fiddles out like in a factory, but maybe 20 - 30% more than others. For what reason seems to be debatable, was it because of simply better honed working skills or was it because of new tool inventions. Despite some disagreements here on MN  I am inclined to believe rather the latter.

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21 minutes ago, Emilg said:

I had a few violin lesson from an elderly Russian last year. He got his violin from his teacher in Moscow back in the 70's.

It had no label, but he had it examined by Charles Beare a few years ago in London. As both the scroll and the f-holes (!!) were replaced, the origin was difficult to determine, but probably from the Strad shop. Not made by the master himself, more likely by one of the sons or Bergonzi.

He told me, and i heard before, that parts from one Strad (or from the shop at least) sometimes were used to make several "Strads". Is there any thruth to this story?

Maybe you have read David Laurie's The Reminiscences of a Fiddle Dealer? In it he brags about having John Lott disassemble one Strad and use the parts, adding new bits, to make two Strads. My cello-playing business partner owned one of these--he even knows where the top is, on a Lott fake Strad body. Laurie did a considerable business in Russia, which he talks about in the book. That would be an easy explanation of how such a thing would end up in Russia.

https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/cozio-carteggio/late-strad-cellos-part-2-vaslin-composite/
I don't know if you need to be logged in to read this...

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10 minutes ago, Michael Darnton said:

Maybe you have read David Laurie's The Reminiscences of a Fiddle Dealer? In it he brags about having John Lott disassemble Strads and use the parts, adding new bits, to make two Strads. My cello-playing business partner owned one of these--he even knows where the top is, on a Lott fake Strad. Laurie did a considerable business in Russia, which he talks about in the book.

I think it's also in the lecture about Stradivari by Peter Sheppard Skaerved

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=52pwDWGuV64

but the source might well be the book you are talking about. I did not know the book.

My teacher has now retired from playing and he sold his violin. I regret very much now i did not take a better look at it when i had the chance :huh:

 

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

This would explain the marking of the mould inside the pegbox. The neck was attached to the ribs and stored away. Because the mould is not so apparent on the loose ribs the inscription in the interior peg box makes sense to identify the original mould.

 

From the recent analysis of the inks it would seem that the letters inside the pegbox and on the forms are not from Stradivari but from Count Cozio, which would exclude your hypothesis. But I also thought that it could also be that Cozio limited himself to refresh the existing letters that were perhaps wearing out.

However I think that there is no need to assign a violin scroll to a specific model, because each scroll is good for each body and even the scroll wood always different from the rest of the violin and the reduced number of models (at most a couple in my opinion) seem to refute your theory.

 
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4 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:
 
From the recent analysis of the inks it would seem that the letters inside the pegbox and on the forms are not from Stradivari but from Count Cozio, which would exclude your hypothesis. In fact I think it does not make much sense since there is no need to assign a violin scroll to a specific model, because each head is good for each body.
Even the scroll wood always different from the rest and the reduced number of models (at most a couple in my opinion) seem to refute your theory.

Davide, maybe you misunderstood what I was trying to say. Of course it doesn't matter which head is set into which ribs. I don't think this was done before the neck set. 

Most convenient way to set the neck in the baroque way is when the ribs are completed and without top or back. Thereafter the ribs with the attached neck are stored away and for the identification of the mould it would be useful to inscribe the mould somewhere where it can't be seen directly. So the place in the pegbox is ideal. Technically this makes sense to me. Or not?

If ink analysis can prove that it wasn't done by Strad, then I am scratching my head. Why Count Cozio would have done that??  And if I remember correctly the Messiah Strad has the inscription in the pegbox but was never in the possession of Count Cozio. 

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1 hour ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Davide, maybe you misunderstood what I was trying to say. Of course it doesn't matter which head is set into which ribs. I don't think this was done before the neck set. 

Most convenient way to set the neck in the baroque way is when the ribs are completed and without top or back. Thereafter the ribs with the attached neck are stored away and for the identification of the mould it would be useful to inscribe the mould somewhere where it can't be seen directly. So the place in the pegbox is ideal. Technically this makes sense to me. Or not?

If ink analysis can prove that it wasn't done by Strad, then I am scratching my head. Why Count Cozio would have done that??  And if I remember correctly the Messiah Strad has the inscription in the pegbox but was never in the possession of Count Cozio. 

Yes, with neck attached to ribs this make sense, now I get your idea.

However Cozio has written many other things on Stradivarius forms, complete sentences and descriptions (:rolleyes:), attributed with certainty to him by handwriting analysis and ink dating from recent research, so it is plausible that he also rewrote the letters, even if given the presence of original letters (like CV, TV, P and others) written by the hand of Antonio or his sons on other paper and wooden artifacts I am inclined to think that they were already there also on the form and maybe pegbox.

So you may be right.

Concerning the Messiah, it is something very debated and interpretable in different ways but many believe that it was the 1716 violin in the possession of Cozio which he mention in his correspondance (carteggio).

(I absolutely do not want to reopen this question :wacko: since we will never know with certainty).
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6 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

 

Concerning the Messiah, it is something very debated and interpretable in different ways but many believe that it was the 1716 violin in the possession of Cozio which he mention in his correspondance (carteggio).

I see. Well, it definitely didn't bear the name ''Messiah'. 

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20 minutes ago, Davide Sora said:

:)

However, this name which has been given is very appropriate, because its attribution will always remain only a question of faith.....

I believe in Stradivary the almighty ....

Actually half true. The more I analyze what he has done the more I am convinced that he was a class of his own making things which set him apart from all other makers in Cremona. Thinking aloud in this thread is just a way to get other views I didn't think about. 

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6 hours ago, Michael Darnton said:

Remembering here that one of the most famous Venetian lute makers died with an on-hand stock of something like 1000 lutes.

From this we are to infer that despite having 90 violins on hand at his death, likely Stradivari had trouble meeting demand for his product?

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Actually, my research into the geometry found that the height of the scroll and all other key messures of the neck and head derive from the stop unit of the instrument. So these measures depend on the body work. They aren't really independent.

Now a worker could make necks separately, but in concept that would be ignoring the key meausres. Which doesn't seem likely.

It isn't conclusive, but I would very much expect them to not carve the head fully until the body was far enough along for the body stop and its unit to be well establish.

 

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