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Landolfi

Best contemporary luthiers

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2 hours ago, Landolfi said:

I can't believe no one has given a reasonable answer so far.   I mean, if we change the question to who's the greatest basketball player or quarterback of all time, you can pretty much narrow it down to a handful of players based on the number of championship they won, points scored, etc.    Don't we have some type of measuring stick to determine who's the best contemporary luthier?

I can’t remember that after a concert there was a talk about how many goals the soloist made.

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3 minutes ago, Rue said:

Maybe you need to ask:

Who are the most expensive modern makers?

...that is less subjective.

But more a measure of success as a salesman than an accurate indication of quality. Yes there are people whose instruments merit the high prices paid for them but since my instruments have  often been chosen over more expensive ones before the prices are revealed it is not an accurate way to determine which will be preferred.

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Can't remember if this has been said and I don't feel like going back and reading all the posts.  The OP question was who's the best living maker.  That question would be naturally followed by best for who?  That one is easy.  It's violin's made by so and so that Landolfi or his/her "friend" (whichever is the actual buyer) likes the best. 

For that, the buyer needs to be able to spend the time and money to visit as many of the big venues as possible, e.g. VSA competition, Mondomusica, Cremona Triannual etc.   After a year or two of globe trotting trying out many fiddles from different makers the buyer should have a reasonably informed short list to contact and pursue a purchase or commision from one of the makers the buyer found.  The buyer may even find "the one" and say I must have this one!  If the buyer's not willing to do the homework then I guess he/she will have to settle for someone else's opinion. 

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3 hours ago, Landolfi said:

Don't we have some type of measuring stick to determine who's the best contemporary luthier?

No. If you read the threads here I mentioned in an earlier post, it will become clear that, at least among Maestronetters, there is not even a measuring stick about what is a good violin, although some clearly show better woodworking skills and a better eye and more attractive wood than others, so on that level it is like asking whether Picasso or Matisse was the best painter.

Several violinists reject a golden period Strad in favour not only of an earlier Strad but sometimes of a late Strad (Kavakos did) which is supposed to be 'inferior.' Some violinists love the Cannone, sometimes billed as the greatest fiddle in the world, others get a very disappointing sound from it. So you have to define what constitutes a good violin.

If you plough through the 'Stradivari's secret was a concept' thread, all 2000+ posts, but really worth your time, you will come away seeing that there is no measuring stick. You just have to decide what you want in a violin. I know what I want, I am not swayed by the fact that Heifetz preferred his Del Gesu to his Strad, Milstein preferred Strads, and Tetzlaff prefers a living maker to either. Luckly I can get what I want for a lot less money than Mr. Zyg. charges, which is not to doubt that his work is excellent, and probably a better investiment in terms of resale than my chosen maker.

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Speaking as someone who regularly appraises instruments/bows for a living, I could point out that I always decline to appraise the work of a living maker. I always say that the person who is asking me should go and ask the maker himself. This is partly a question of politeness, but also a strategy to avoid making people furious, or receiving threatening letters from peoples solicitors

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4 hours ago, Landolfi said:

I can't believe no one has given a reasonable answer so far.   I mean, if we change the question to who's the greatest basketball player or quarterback of all time, you can pretty much narrow it down to a handful of players based on the number of championship they won, points scored, etc.    Don't we have some type of measuring stick to determine who's the best contemporary luthier?

I believe you've had several reasonable answers.  

I'd be interested to see what that measuring stick you mention would look like.  :)  I suppose it would resemble the one used to determine the "best" painter, or sculptor, or illustrator.  Taste is subjective.  

I suppose it might be possible to make an assumption of the most popular makers based on demand and market position, but even that would be subject to debate as the market itself is multi-faceted and demand can be controlled, somewhat, by output.  So, would that indicate what you consider "best"?

Tone/performance tests aren't infallible either...  Paul Kaul has already been mentioned in this thread.

Paying attention to those who consistently place well in competitions is a good yardstick concerning peers views on workmanship, but many makers don't compete as their careers develop for a variety of (reasonable) reasons... and criteria for judging changes over time.

So.... in the end, I guess you're just stuck with letting history sort this out for you... but beware... even dead makers occasionally swap places as time marches on. Maybe just be satisfied that there are so many fine makers alive that players can choose from.

 

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There is always some degree of uncertainty when musician is trying to choose a suitable working tool. And there is always some sort of support that helps them to make a decision, from their beginnings, when there are teachers who choose for them,  to the proffesional carier, where they use some kind of consortium, consisting out of their fellow musicians, that helps to make a "good" decision, which is allmost  always based on majority opinion. High end players are able, in most cases, to choose the instrument based on their preferences, expirience and depth of their pockets, but not always. In the end of the line, everyone is in the search for some kind of assurance, that their decision will be correct one. Like measuring sticks that Landolfi want to see. In this busines it is hard to explain to the customer, that the most important thing is, to try to find out and understand personal priorities and start the search there. As hard and time consuming it can be.

You need to understand first what you are looking for to be able to make a good decision. That is a hard part and that is why the questions like this are asked in a first place.

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6 hours ago, Landolfi said:

Don't we have some type of measuring stick to determine who's the best contemporary luthier?

No, but if we find one, I'm sure that someone here would be glad to beat you with it.  ;):lol:

Why don't you ask us a more socially acceptable question, like whether Strad cut his wood in the dark of the Moon, then performed obscene Templar sacrificial rites over it in a crypt?  :ph34r:

Or, better yet, bring us a nice attic find to identify.  :)

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3 minutes ago, not telling said:

How did this tripe get four pages and thousands of views? How bored are you people?

The questions that can not be anwered are the most intriguing NT it seems. And the prospect of endless debate.... You have to reduce your popcorn  stock somehow. 

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1 hour ago, not telling said:

How did this tripe get four pages and thousands of views? How bored are you people?

If this thread has garnered thousands of views then I would guess people are interested in either;

a) the OP's question - indicating it is NOT tripe, and people want to know 

or

b) the drama - in which case someone should go get the popcorn...^_^

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Mr. S makes the best violins on earth

but no one knew b'cause he's  living in Perth

so he decided to move to Cremona

but by mistake he landed in Arizona

what a pity, so no one knows

who's the best maker on earth.

 

 

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3 hours ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

I'd be interested to see what that measuring stick you mention would look like.

I think I could come up with a ranking system based on usage, without tone tests,  contests, etc. Some of the criteria might  include metrics like this:

1. How many instruments are being used by major symphony players?

2. How many are used by regional pay-per-service type orchestras?

3. How many are used by teachers?

4. How many are used by conservatory  students/college music majors?

5. How many were sold overall (output/productivity counts)

Of course this would not be perfect or tell the whole story. It might too much reflect the marketing skills of the maker or personality traits. It would also be hard to collect the data (unlike sports players).

I couldn't guess about violins but I think with violas guys like Iizuka and Whedbee might rank pretty high in terms of serious usage and output.

 

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15 minutes ago, deans said:

I think I could come up with a ranking system based on usage, without tone tests,  contests, etc. Some of the criteria might  include metrics like this:

1. How many instruments are being used by major symphony players?

2. How many are used by regional pay-per-service type orchestras?

3. How many are used by teachers?

4. How many are used by conservatory  students/college music majors?

5. How many were sold overall (output/productivity counts)

Of course this would not be perfect or tell the whole story. It might too much reflect the marketing skills of the maker or personality traits. It would also be hard to collect the data (unlike sports players).

I couldn't guess about violins but I think with violas guys like Iizuka and Whedbee might rank pretty high in terms of serious usage and output.

 

Or we could streamline that by simply ranking makers by the number of "likes" they've gotten on Facebook, right? ;)

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18 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

"likes" they've gotten on Facebook, right?

Facebook users don't pay $20-30K to post a like. And they don't rely on their posts for their jobs (most of the time)

But your point is well taken, this is sort of how MLB all star teams are chosen.

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23 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

GdG wouldn't make the top 1000.

I don't believe he is a contemporary maker.

But if one of the ranking criteria is "used by international soloists" he would be up there pretty high. And if you used that criteria for contemporary makers you could probably whittle down the list pretty fast. But I wouldn't include that in my list.

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9 hours ago, nathan slobodkin said:

But more a measure of success as a salesman than an accurate indication of quality. Yes there are people whose instruments merit the high prices paid for them but since my instruments have  often been chosen over more expensive ones before the prices are revealed it is not an accurate way to determine which will be preferred.

I've been thinking about this - :ph34r:

But since there is no accounting for taste - and the odds are that people spending $25+K for a new violin are expecting (and receiving) a top quality instrument - I think we can safely assume that using the highest priced makers as a guide to overall quality is going to be as good as it gets (in trying to compile a list).

You certainly can't do it on individually perceived opinion. The very best violin in the world might have been made by the superbly talented Bob Smith of Somewhere, NA (who also lucked out on just happening to have the very best tone woods stored out in the back shed) - but since he only ever plays it for his cats - who's ever gonna know? :P Did I mention he is also as talented a player as James Ehnes? In fact- I think they are both originally from Brandon...

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2 hours ago, deans said:

I don't believe he is a contemporary maker.

But if one of the ranking criteria is "used by international soloists" he would be up there pretty high. And if you used that criteria for contemporary makers you could probably whittle down the list pretty fast. But I wouldn't include that in my list.

Whew! I don't prioritize orders based on the status of the player. A big-name player is given the same priority in the making order as an amateur. What has emerged from that, with my rather long waiting list, is that major players (who usually want an instrument right away, for perfectly understandable reasons), are less and less willing to place orders. Despite that, many of my most recent instruments have placed pretty well. Section leaders in major orchestras, a concertmaster or associate concertmaster or two, stuff like that

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Let me go back to something I mentioned earlier, competitions:

Despite all the potential ups and downs of competitions, the Violin Society of America statement of intent with their competitions is to inspire the creation of outstanding concert-quality instrument and bows. But a subtitle might be that it is to help seek out instruments which would meet the needs of most professional players.

Regarding the first claim, the VSA competition is the only one of the competitions I have judged, where the entrant has an opportunity to sit down with a judge, and get feedback. While I have hated that part the several times I have judged (being pretty much trashed from several days of intense concentration and long hours, often struggling to convert impressions into numbers, and just wanting to hang out with people or get some sleep), I think most anyone can understand why they do it that way.

People (including musicians) can try to learn from these competitions, if they wish to. There are certainly much much worse ways to learn, and also to evaluate instruments.

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