Does anyone NOT build Strad? And if not, why?


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1 hour ago, Torbjörn Zethelius said:

I'm still waiting for proof that mode matching has a positive effect. It's been going on for decades. Somebody must have proof. 

 

1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

If there was proof, somebody would have shown it by now. :)

Taptones I think are best at giving a clue about the wood properties you're using... which only  works by comparing to other plates of exactly the same dimensions.  Not so hot comparing plates of different makers, different arching, outline, graduations, etc.

I join the choir.

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53 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Me too. I wasted a lot of time investigating that (like, I could have made 20 fiddles instead), without any spectacular outcomes.

Why not making 20 fiddles while investigating ?

Such data are very interesting - the art is, to draw senseful conclusions.

Mine are these, I don´t know if they are senseful : 

- there is a big spread of taptones, so it is not very probable, that the old had precise frequency targets

- one should try to be within the spread and additional regard some other important things like archings, densities, graduations and also remain there in the spreads in a most possible senseful way. The more data one has, the easier he could suceed.

- last and probably most important :  to look for the "real targets ( or procedures)" of the old masters 

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2 hours ago, Danube Fiddler said:

- last and probably most important :  to look for the "real targets ( or procedures)" of the old masters 

There are 2 giant assumptions in that statement: 1) The old masters are the best, and 2) The stuff they did is the reason they are the best, rather than lots of other possible explanations like age, care and adjustment, group hysteria, etc.

I would much rather attack:

-what aspects of materials and construction map into what effects on tone?

-what is considered good tone (and playability) by today's good players?

One important method of attacking these two questions is to get access to instruments that are considered to be very good (old or new), and try to define what it does and how it does it, which may take some copying and tweaking.

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3 hours ago, Peter K-G said:

I might know a thing or three about those myserious modes :)

But of course you cannot teach us what you know, as that would be robbing food from Patrick Kreit's mouth. The fact that you are building good violins, of course, speaks in favor of his book, dismissed by some here.

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1 hour ago, Don Noon said:

There are 2 giant assumptions in that statement: 1) The old masters are the best, and 2) The stuff they did is the reason they are the best, rather than lots of other possible explanations like age, care and adjustment, group hysteria, etc.

As a contemporary luthier whose own instruments have been preferred by musicians to those of Stradivari, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. And your recommended course of action is one that would work whether or not the old masters are genuinely better.

It is true that his statement that searching for the methods and goals of the reputed old masters is the most important thing does make those two assumptions.

But to say that these are giant assumptions, rather than obvious and reasonable assumptions, even if they might be mistaken, may be unfair.

I am now much more open than I had initially been to the possibility that the superiority of Stradivarius and Guarneri instruments to conemporary ones is a myth. After learning that the distinctive characteristic shown in the Dünnwald graphs was not proof that the old Italian instruments have a distinctive sound that modern makers do not replicate, that what those graphs instead showed was something well-known as the "bridge-hill", which is obtainable through known techniques, my initial reason for thinking that the old masters were worthy of careful study has been diminished.

Given, however,

  • that the instruments made by Antonio Stradivari were highly prized and valued in his own day,
  • and that in 1782, Viotti, by playing a Stradivarius, which may have been but 73 years old, before an audience, brought his instruments to renewed acclaim
  • and that many renowned concert musicians have given very high praise to the instruments of Stradivari, Guarneri, and Guadagnini for quite some time,

to not make just those assumptions, and instead think that it is just as likely that it's all hype, or an accidental result of age or maintenance,  is not something that would come naturally or automatically; instead, going against what appears to be the common consensus in the face of overwhelming evidence is something that would require an accounting.

The mitigating factor, of course, is that such an accounting may very well be available. Even when a Stradivarius cost $10,000 instead of $8,000,000, there was money to be had in selling them, and this suplies an obvious motive to promote hype and discredit skeptical voices. That one fact by itself, though, wouldn't lead me to be particularly suspicious of the "Stradivarius myth" - I am not, by temperament, particularly partial towards conspiracy theories.

The thing is, though, that at present it does seem that there are other facts accumulating that provide reasons to at least entertain the thought that modern makers are being seriously underrated, and a number of them are making instruments able to serve the requirements of concert soloists.

One piece of evidence that I'm looking for, though, and which appears to me to be conspicuous by its absence, would be a statement by a concert soloist who uses an instrument by a modern maker, and who has had the opportunity to play one of the famed older instruments at least for a brief time, of why he considers his current instrument satisfactory, with some detail of where it equals or surpasses the older instrument, and where it comes short as well, but how modest those shortfalls may be. (With several such statements indicating that the shortfalls are no different than such as is expected from the individuality of different instruments from the great masters... the case would be strong.)

All I see from concert soloists are ravings about the greatness of Stradivari, and so what is a person to think?

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Just now, Quadibloc said:

 

One piece of evidence that I'm looking for, though, and which appears to me to be conspicuous by its absence, would be a statement by a concert soloist who uses an instrument by a modern maker, and who has had the opportunity to play one of the famed older instruments at least for a brief time, of why he considers his current instrument satisfactory, with some detail of where it equals or surpasses the older instrument, and where it comes short as well, but how modest those shortfalls may be.

"Concert soloists" is very vague and absolutely no guarantee for any competency besides accurate, quick and vigorous manipulating of the instrument. I knew few people who were not "concert soloists" at one time or another. :)

That aside, the statements you seem unable to find do exist in the form of newspaper interviews, personal letters, third party communications up to the beyond debate act of using a modern violin for most of one's concert activity.  You are unfortunately some 50 years removed from the times these things were rather more openly discussed.

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18 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

All I see from concert soloists are ravings about the greatness of Stradivari, and so what is a person to think?

It is a bit like trying to get investment advice from a newspaper. No one has an interest in publishing their real views. If one of my close friends owned a Strad, or was loaned a Strad by a rich benefactor, you can bet your bottom dollar I would talk them up. I don't think modern instruments are under-valued, just under-priced.

I was chatting to a professional violinist a few days ago who owns a valuable antique instrument, and who, after I raised the topic, told me 'the bow is at least as important, maybe more so'. This view did not surprise me. Why do you think you do not read ravings from concert soloists about the greatness of their bow?

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On 8/3/2018 at 6:12 PM, JacksonMaberry said:

I've heard Stanley Ritchie's Stainer played in Auer Hall at IU, and it filled the space well. It's worth noting also that, per Charles Beare, a Stainer led the LSO for decades, meaning it would have been used for many a concertmaster solo and possibly a concerto or two. I would imagine that if it weren't equal to the task, it would have been replaced. 

Melvin Goldsmith has attested on this forum that one of the best sounding violins he encountered was a Stainer with a fairly low arch.  

I make Stainer pattern fiddles for baroque players and everyone who has played one has been pleased. I hope to make one in modern setup and see how it fares. 

I think that there is only so much worth in repeating the wives tales that persist in the community of violin enthusiasts. The proof is in the playing. Not all violins from a single maker are equal in quality, each must be judged on it's merits. 

I really liked the tone of the Stainer in the last Tarisio auction in London. Has anyone else played it? It was on the same table as the Oddone and the Fagnola, although much nicer in tone.

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29 minutes ago, John_London said:

Why do you think you do not read ravings from concert soloists about the greatness of their bow?

Because "Stradivarius" sounds so much classier than "Tubbs"? 

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13 minutes ago, uguntde said:

I really liked the tone of the Stainer in the last Tarisio auction in London. Has anyone else played it? It was on the same table as the Oddone and the Fagnola, although much nicer in tone.

I'm not sure you could really describe it as a Stainer. The Oddone and the Fagnola were horrific (as the later ones generally are) so even a moderately good violin would sound nice in such shabby company!

 

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43 minutes ago, Quadibloc said:

As a contemporary luthier whose own instruments have been preferred by musicians to those of Stradivari, you are certainly entitled to your opinion. And your recommended course of action is one that would work whether or not the old masters are genuinely better.

It is true that his statement that searching for the methods and goals of the reputed old masters is the most important thing does make those two assumptions.

But to say that these are giant assumptions, rather than obvious and reasonable assumptions, even if they might be mistaken, may be unfair.

I am now much more open than I had initially been to the possibility that the superiority of Stradivarius and Guarneri instruments to conemporary ones is a myth. After learning that the distinctive characteristic shown in the Dünnwald graphs was not proof that the old Italian instruments have a distinctive sound that modern makers do not replicate, that what those graphs instead showed was something well-known as the "bridge-hill", which is obtainable through known techniques, my initial reason for thinking that the old masters were worthy of careful study has been diminished.

Given, however,

  • that the instruments made by Antonio Stradivari were highly prized and valued in his own day,
  • and that in 1782, Viotti, by playing a Stradivarius, which may have been but 73 years old, before an audience, brought his instruments to renewed acclaim
  • and that many renowned concert musicians have given very high praise to the instruments of Stradivari, Guarneri, and Guadagnini for quite some time,

to not make just those assumptions, and instead think that it is just as likely that it's all hype, or an accidental result of age or maintenance,  is not something that would come naturally or automatically; instead, going against what appears to be the common consensus in the face of overwhelming evidence is something that would require an accounting.

The mitigating factor, of course, is that such an accounting may very well be available. Even when a Stradivarius cost $10,000 instead of $8,000,000, there was money to be had in selling them, and this suplies an obvious motive to promote hype and discredit skeptical voices. That one fact by itself, though, wouldn't lead me to be particularly suspicious of the "Stradivarius myth" - I am not, by temperament, particularly partial towards conspiracy theories.

The thing is, though, that at present it does seem that there are other facts accumulating that provide reasons to at least entertain the thought that modern makers are being seriously underrated, and a number of them are making instruments able to serve the requirements of concert soloists.

One piece of evidence that I'm looking for, though, and which appears to me to be conspicuous by its absence, would be a statement by a concert soloist who uses an instrument by a modern maker, and who has had the opportunity to play one of the famed older instruments at least for a brief time, of why he considers his current instrument satisfactory, with some detail of where it equals or surpasses the older instrument, and where it comes short as well, but how modest those shortfalls may be. (With several such statements indicating that the shortfalls are no different than such as is expected from the individuality of different instruments from the great masters... the case would be strong.)

All I see from concert soloists are ravings about the greatness of Stradivari, and so what is a person to think?

Concert goers want to hear a Strad. Concert sponsors want a Strad to be involved. etc etc...Concerts of concerti played by the Joe Bloggs orcestra composed by Joe Bloggs with Jane Doe playing a violin made by Jon Doe don't fill large halls. A friend who was part of one of the most successful 20C quartets told me that it's part of the deal that they play Great on old Cremonese.  It's the tradition. learn to live with it .

 

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2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

There are 2 giant assumptions in that statement: 1) The old masters are the best, and 2) The stuff they did is the reason they are the best, rather than lots of other possible explanations like age, care and adjustment, group hysteria, etc. 

I wouldn´t call it assumptions but call it experiences. Not consistent experiences - because there are many old-italian instruments, I don´t like and don´t consider as superior ( often because they namely have old-italian features but also some serious disadvantages, resulting in an unsufficient total quality). However the most impressing instruments, I ever have played, have been old-italian instruments. Whether my opinion would stand blind tests - I don´t know. 

My actual impression is : there is a special old-(italian) sound and there is a reason for this. Some of the characteristics of this old-italian sound i.m.o. are its depth and density combined with a fine brilliance or brightness. In most other instruments I found only one of these features and often all were lacking. While these are my experiences and my belief, I think, that some contemporary instruments can be equal or even superior in something like a "total quality" in spite of lacking some typical old-italian qualities. Even I don´t want to exclude, that there are new instruments having quite all old-italian qualities - however I didn´t meet them until now. 

 

2 hours ago, Don Noon said:

I would much rather attack:

-what aspects of materials and construction map into what effects on tone?

-what is considered good tone (and playability) by today's good players?

One important method of attacking these two questions is to get access to instruments that are considered to be very good (old or new), and try to define what it does and how it does it, which may take some copying and tweaking.

These are very good ideas - total agreement. 

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48 minutes ago, John_London said:

Why do you think you do not read ravings from concert soloists about the greatness of their bow?

Offhand, I'm not sure. I know that there are valuable antique bows. What I do not know, however, is how many makers of bows have made bows that are considered to be of the first rank, how many such bows are in existence, and what prices they fetch at auction.

It doesn't surprise me that the bow is a vital link in violin playing. But circumstances could still exist that lead to it being taken for granted. Recently, I read about a famous concert soloist who did commercials for cosmetics so that she might be able to afford to buy the bow she wanted - for her violin, however, she was dependent on a loan by a foundation due to her renown as a performer.

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Reading this thread I see some assumptions that del Gesu was not as good a craftsman as Strad.  This is very incorrect.

In the mid 1730's del Gesu's ability to design and execute is equal or superiour to that of Strad. I would argue that his finest creations of that period can be better made than what was coming out of the Strad workshop during the so called golden period.

Towards the 1740s something has happened to del Gesu's health and more importantly eye sight.  He is abandoning the irrelevant details to concentrate on the greater picture....It is interesting to see what he selects as important....

WE must keep in mind that del Gesu is a 4th generation Cremonese maker dating back to roots from the Amati. Where did Strad come from? what evidence is there to link him to the established Cremonese tradition? What evidence is there that he interacted with musicians? The Rosengard research on Guadagnini shows him living hand in glove with the finest musicians of his day.  Is there similar for Strad? 

 

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Strad had the advantage of a huge output.  It would be interesting to see ...on a percentage of known surviving instruments... how the numbers favor either Strad or Guarneri for instruments that are played by high-level professionals.

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12 minutes ago, Don Noon said:

Strad had the advantage of a huge output.  It would be interesting to see ...on a percentage of known surviving instruments... how the numbers favor either Strad or Guarneri for instruments that are played by high-level professionals.

I agree. I doubt they were focussing on the same market when they were alive

 

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22 hours ago, Don Noon said:

 If you'll notice, Strad top grads are thinnest in the center, while the other old guys' tops were thickest in the center.

The Kreisler is the exception to this. It is thinner in the center. I suspect that the regrad was done later. The interesting thing to me is that the Kreisler has dg sound with the responsiveness and slightly more “sizzle” than the dg instruments I have played. Granted this is from 3 encounters that were a few years ago. So subjectivity rears it’s ugly head...

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Regardless of which of Strad and Del Gesu made better instruments, both made wonderful instruments, and which you choose is a matter of taste than of quantitative measurements.  I was interested in Melvin Goldsmith's observation regarding Del Gesu's later work may have been affected by DG's health problems.  I could be wrong, but DG's later output, say 1740 and later, is generally more highly regarded by players than the earlier work.  So, it seems DG's focusing on larger scale issues in making, and abandoning irrelevant details, produced wonderful instruments.  What were the aspects he focused on then?

As for modern versus old instruments, it is certainly the case that only a small fraction of players can manage to be able to play on the great old instruments.  The high standards of contemporary making has produced a boon for players like me who are passionate amateurs, are not wealthy, but can afford excellent modern instruments.  The great old instruments are only going to become less and less available.  I say bravi to contemporary makers.   The fact is that a great player using an excellent contemporary instrument can produce just as much beautiful music as he/she could using a Strad or DG.  When I go to a concert I care about the music, not which particular instrument is being played.

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17 hours ago, Melvin Goldsmith said:

Towards the 1740s something has happened to del Gesu's health and more importantly eye sight.  He is abandoning the irrelevant details to concentrate on the greater picture....It is interesting to see what he selects as important....

Seems plausible, but I doubt that he got trouble with his eyesight. The stylistic change of del Gesu during the late 30's shows so beautifully performed, small details in the f holes. It reminds me of an artistic metamorphosis towards expressionism, and we all know that this was based on a change of concept rather than eye sight issues, but who knows.

There was also an Important event towards the 40s that could enable him to work in a more relaxed way - the death of his main competitor Antonio Stradivari.

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1 hour ago, Torbjörn Zethelius said:

I suspect that in the 40's del Gesu got more and more assistance from his wife. Guess I'm not alone in thinking this. The Cannone has a half finished violin scroll. Interestingly, because we can see how he went about when carving it.

Do you think she did also other work than scroll carving? To my eye the main evidence/eminence is that she did the leduc/wilton style scrolls.

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Through listening to videos on YouTube and then following up with searches on Google, I have once again stumbled on a possibility for, if not the "secret of Stradivarius", at least a usable equivalent.

Naturally, of course, derisive laughter is a valid response to the notion that such valuable knowledge would yield itself up so easily, but here it is anyways for consideration.

After coming across a video of Lana Trotovšek playing the violin, I searched, and found out that her usual instrument was a 1750 Pietro Antonius dalla Costa. Not having heard of the maker, I looked up more information about him.

His violins were said to have been very similar to the Amati pattern, although, like a Stradivarius, somewhat more "masculine" in appearance. So far, nothing exciting.

But in addition, they were said to project quite well, and this because they had slightly larger f-holes than Amatis or, for that matter, most other violins. As there are very few surviving instruments by this maker, I suppose they could be comparable to those by Stradivari without the violin world much caring or noticing, except for those lucky enough to have one.

An Amati is much too valuable an antique for someone to irreversibly enlarge its f-holes in an attempt to turn it into a Stradivarius. The same, no doubt, goes for a Stainer. But that someone with a Klotz might just try it...

Or, more to the point, perhaps since a higher arching is said to be appropriate for wood of inferior quality, or perhaps because Klotz is technically a "modern maker", yet his instruments were mistaken for those of Stainer, if one could entertain the notion that even if the "Stradivarius myth" is true, and modern makers can't at the moment match Stradivari in the playing characteristics of the instruments they make, equalling Amati is within their grasp...

that it might be easier for a luthier of today to make an instrument worthy of being admitted to the rarefied company of Stradivari, Guarneri, and Guadagnini, if, instead of building it to one of their patterns, he built it in the pattern of Pietro Antonius dalla Costa!

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