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So...why didn't the Germans keep up with the Italians?

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5 hours ago, Violadamore said:

IMHO, while the prices are certainly a barrier to anyone who wants one getting a fiddle by a top-ranked modern maker, the prices are immaterial as a deterrent, compared to the length of the waiting lists.  Anyway, for tone and projection, there are alternatives available [essays a shrill harmonic on her Chinavarius, and sets off some dogs a quarter-mile away].  :lol:

I agree, prices of top modern makers are not deterrent and are lower than Martin Swan tries to claim - sadly, many will say. Without my intervention we yet would believe, that Leonhard would charge 35 % more than later corrected by Martin. Not to speak of, what he actually gets. So easily wrong price-perceptions can spread. If you play reasonable, then waiting-lists could loose their fright in some cases.

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3 hours ago, martin swan said:

This would be a laudable sentiment were it not for the fact that you remain anonymous here. Perhaps if you told us your name and allowed us to verify your identity, your level of experience etc ... I too prefer verifiable facts of public access, particularly with regard to people.

 

You misunderstood : Here it is not about me and also not about you. We are not interesting - anonymous or not anonymous. Violins are interesting, verifiable facts about violins are interesting. 

Coming back to our actual topic :  your nearness - idea. As I yet told, I share some elements of this idea, but not the idea, that late contact to great Cremonese normally has a big benefit. Too much opposite examples. Even when we think about Vuillaume : I never played one, which would be near the great Cremonese in sound or only in appearance, in spite of fact, that he was a very successful and fine maker. Although having great access , obviously Vuillaume could not unmask the main building - basics of Stradivari et al. And this, although he surely was an extremely talented, fine and passionate maker of the highest levels. Not always great talent and access come together. In Vuillaume it happened, but even here it didn´t help. The "secret" of the old italian makers is lost and late access ( after centuries ) seems not bring it back. 

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46 minutes ago, Danube Fiddler said:

I agree, prices of top modern makers are not deterrent and are lower than Martin Swan tries to claim - sadly, many will say. Without my intervention we yet would believe, that Leonhard would charge 35 % more than later corrected by Martin. Not to speak of, what he actually gets. So easily wrong price-perceptions can spread. If you play reasonable, then waiting-lists could loose their fright in some cases.

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13 minutes ago, Danube Fiddler said:

You misunderstood : Here it is not about me and also not about you. We are not interesting - anonymous or not anonymous. Violins are interesting, verifiable facts about violins are interesting. 

Coming back to our actual topic :  your nearness - idea. As I yet told, I share some elements of this idea, but not the idea, that late contact to great Cremonese normally has a big benefit. Too much opposite examples. Even when we think about Vuillaume : I never played one, which would be near the great Cremonese in sound or only in appearance, in spite of fact, that he was a very successful and fine maker. Although having great access , obviously Vuillaume could not unmask the main building - basics of Stradivari et al. And this, although he surely was an extremely talented, fine and passionate maker of the highest levels. Not always great talent and access come together. In Vuillaume it happened, but even here it didn´t help. The "secret" of the old italian makers is lost and late access ( after centuries ) seems not bring it back. 

You are missing my point, which was that the pricing of violins relates to degrees of separation from Stradivari.

The pricing of violins clearly has very little to do with how close they are in sound or performance characteristics to a Stradivari.

So a Vuillaume is worth far more than it should otherwise be, because Vuillaume owned, promoted and copied Stradivaris. Personally I find Vuillaumes charmless in workmanship and generally without tonal quality, and yet they change hands (VERIFIABLY :D:D) for large amounts of money.

On your other point, when it comes to a discussion of anything to do with violins, it matters hugely who you are and who I am. Since there are so few verifiable facts, and since we are in a field where everything is subjective, then experience, insight and a certain rational open-mindedness are everything. 

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7 hours ago, martin swan said:

You are missing my point, which was that the pricing of violins relates to degrees of separation from Stradivari.

The pricing of violins clearly has very little to do with how close they are in sound or performance characteristics to a Stradivari.

So a Vuillaume is worth far more than it should otherwise be, because Vuillaume owned, promoted and copied Stradivaris. Personally I find Vuillaumes charmless in workmanship and generally without tonal quality, and yet they change hands (VERIFIABLY :D:D) for large amounts of money.

Martin,

Your "degrees of separation" theory is neat and tidy, and sums things up fairly well, but there are some factors that shouldn't be minimised.

The "Viotti/Kreutzer/Paganini/Joachim/Kreisler/Ysaye/Elman/Heifetz/Stern/Oistrakh/Perlman etc played one" (lumping Strad and Del Gesu together for convenience) effect is extremely important, and carries over to Vuillaumes, for example, between Kreisler, Hahn, and the hundreds of concertmasters and teachers who've used them and have left positive impressions on their students and colleagues. Certainly, anytime a famous or respected violinist is associated with a certain maker, the interest in that maker shoots up, like Kreisler's Parker or Mintz' Contreras. I remember a colleague who studied with Szigetti, and of course she had to have a Pietro Guarneri (probably the worst Guarneri I ever played!)

Another factor I think is important is ubiquity, as a maker that left thousands of violins (or bows) like Vuillaume (or Sartory) will always be better known and more sought after than even a superior contemporary whose work is simply less known to the buying public. There are some MNers here who seem to want to defend Stainer tooth and nail, but I wonder how many of them have actually played one? Authentic Stainers are quite rare, and I've only played on two, whereas I've played dozens of Amatis, to pick one contemporary. It's only anecdotic, but those particular Stainers I played weren't worse than the two worst Amatis I've tried, whatever that's worth.

Why didn't the Germans "keep up?" I think Jacob said it well, and I heartily concur. In terms of quality violin making, they did keep up. The Widhalms, Mussiels, Buchstetters, and early Klotzes I've seen hold their own with equivalent contemporary Italian makers in terms of sound and craftsmanship, often cleaner for the latter.

Why haven't their values kept pace with Italian violins, when we compare the asking prices in the old Wurlitzer catalogue, for instance, with today's prices? By flooding the US market with cheap crap for over a century, the German makers created a hierarchy in the mind of American violinists: Italian "best," French "medium" and German "junk," and that's had a lasting influence. When I started working in the '70's, showing up at a gig with a German violin was the equivalent of having a new Chinese violin today. You did a lot of justifying and insisting that about the quality of the sound.  Oddly enough, here in France German violins do not have that aura of "junk" that they have in the US, as the cheap end of the market was flooded by Mirecourt. Mirecourt is actually the "dirty word" for violin quality here and you're more likely to hear someone defending his Dieudonné than someone insisting his Roth is as good as an Italian!

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I just thought I'd add, that "so and so plays one" effect is at the heart of why certain modern makers get big prices with long waiting lists, while there might well be equivalent quality makers happy to "give away" their work. It can be a soloist, the leader of your orchestra or a colleague, but it's really the driving force. I was just asked about a violin by Jean Bauer who was the "gotta get one" luthier for all the big orchestra members here in France back in the 1980's. Excellent workmanship and very good tone, but no one wants one now, so I've seen students and colleagues "giving them away" for embarassing prices.

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Hi Michael,

My "degrees of separation" theory was a bit tongue in cheek, kind of like the theory which states that a violin's value relates to the number of syllables, and the particular vowel that the name finishes with ... but it's as true as any other theory of hierarchy in violins.

I agree with your two points about player endorsement and ubiquity (for the latter, how else to explain the popularity of Vuillaumes and Sartorys!).

However, on the first point, I was really thinking about it ahistorically - in other words, how does the current-day market price instruments. The fact that Paganini, Viotti, Kreutzer et all espoused these makers has fed into and helped to solidify their supremacy, but the other makers who are currently valued highly all have a direct or indirect connection to the mythology.

When it comes to new makers, pretty much all seem to refer to their meticulous study of classical Cremonese techniques, varnishes etc, and the closer to the source they are the more they charge. Obviously there are exceptions, but even someone like Gregg Alf or Joe Curtin is still heavily enmeshed with the Cremonese ideal ...

Then we have the DG school of makers, who drink a lot and plan to die early ...

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5 hours ago, martin swan said:

Then we have the DG school of makers, who drink a lot and plan to die early ...

....and let their wifes make the violins in the meantime;)

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3 minutes ago, Blank face said:

....and let their wifes make the violins in the meantime;)

I tried that, but it didn't stick. :lol:

She is much more expert (and earns more money) in the automotive supplier trade.

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6 hours ago, Michael Appleman said:

I think is important is ubiquity, as a maker that left thousands of violins (or bows) like Vuillaume (or Sartory) will always be better known and more sought after than even a superior contemporary whose work is simply less known to the buying public.

Quantity without quality is nothing. We are fortunate that Sartory left a lot of bows( and taught good students, too!) but Sartorys are popular not because they are common but because they are great.

Great makers who made fewer bows are no less popular for being rare. I had never heard of Eulry(?) before I was handed one of his cello bows, which at that time had an entire page of the Bein & Fushi Website devoted to it, but the instant it was in my hand I knew it was the finest bow I had ever held.

Even rare greatness finds its level.

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6 hours ago, Michael Appleman said:

I just thought I'd add, that "so and so plays one" effect is at the heart of why certain modern makers get big prices with long waiting lists, while there might well be equivalent quality makers happy to "give away" their work. It can be a soloist, the leader of your orchestra or a colleague, but it's really the driving force. I was just asked about a violin by Jean Bauer who was the "gotta get one" luthier for all the big orchestra members here in France back in the 1980's. Excellent workmanship and very good tone, but no one wants one now, so I've seen students and colleagues "giving them away" for embarassing prices.

Wouldn’t that be a rather common example of marketing driving the sale rather than quality?

I don’t know whether Zygmuntovich instruments are worthy of the fuss they elicit, but a lot of the fuss is certainly due to marketing. 

 

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23 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Wouldn’t that be a rather common example of marketing driving the sale rather than quality?

I don’t know whether Zygmuntovich instruments are worthy of the fuss they elicit, but a lot of the fuss is certainly due to marketing.

I can certainly think of other makers, both contemporary and deceased, where the fuss is much less justified. ;)

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5 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

I can certainly think of other makers, both contemporary and deceased, where the fuss is much less justified. ;)

Hi David,

I wasn’t casting aspersions on Samuel. I have seen exactly one of his violins, which was on its way to a Brompton’s(?) auction, but have neither played nor seen a cello so I can’t comment on quality. I just mentioned him because he’s “famous.”

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16 hours ago, martin swan said:

You are missing my point, which was that the pricing of violins relates to degrees of separation from Stradivari.

I can´t see nearness to Strad by "late contact" in the pricings.At the moment the most acknowledged and highest priced contemporary makers seem to be Curtin, Alf, Zygmuntovic, Greiner and Schleske - in the case of the first three American makers also yet displayed in some spectacular auction results ( public price-access ). Their building - skills and expertise mainly seems not to be based on daily and current contact to many Stradsb et al ( although also these naturally have had some (limited) contacts ) - but i.m.o. much more on great intuition, acoustical talent and highly expressed analytical skills. On the other hand there are many makers, who have and have had intense Strad-contacts in great amount ( your nearness idea ) and could not take much (price)-advantage. 

So I will repeat a last time :  to have had many Strads in hands and on bench mostly does not build much nearness to Stradivari - not in (sound)-quality and therefore also not in prices.

Some words to Vuillaume

1) I think, in our days nearly nobody pays for a nearness to Stradivari, when buying a Vuillaume, in the general perception the most musicians even would rate his instruments as something  like an opposite to the old-italian world 

but, and here you could change your mind in respect to many great musicians  :

16 hours ago, martin swan said:

So a Vuillaume is worth far more than it should otherwise be, because Vuillaume owned, promoted and copied Stradivaris. Personally I find Vuillaumes charmless in workmanship and generally without tonal quality, and yet they change hands (VERIFIABLY :D:D) for large amounts of money.

2) NO, it will have a fine reason, why great musicians play and played Vuillaume - violins ( they always have and have had many alternatives ). I am surprised, that YOU  know it so much better.  NO - considering the actual prevalence of use as instruments of leading musicians, e.g. great concertmasters until soloists like Hilary Hahn on the top - Vuillaumes are rather more paid quite underrated.  When I now try to include your "Strad-nearness" ( which had an extreme level in Vuillaumes shop, even included a much closer time-nearness than in your current examples ) - where is the effect ? When there should be any effect at all, it even would be a negative price-effect of Strad-nearness, reducing the price of great solo-instruments ( Vuillaumes often are ) down by a "Strad-nearness - discount".

Why is this ?  Why "Strad-nearness" in the late-contact-dimension does not work ?

1) Strads don´t reveal their secret in the dealer-makers shop or on his bench - at least until now they did not.      

and, particularly important 

2) everybody with only a little bit expertise knows it.

And last, one should not underestimate musicians, collectors and other clients - these themselves will decide by own ears, eyes and hands in the instruments themselves, how much expressed "Strad-nearness" is. They don´t need stories about, how many Strads have been on your bench  - NO - they need to see, to feel and to play your instrument. Then they will decide how close to Stradivari your instrument is.

Even the historical Strad-nearness is not perceived, because anybody tells us, the instrument (e.g. a Testore or Gagliano or even a Guadagnini ) would come from a near location to Cremona - NO - it is, because you see it, you feel it, you hear it and you enjoy playing so much - THAT´S IT ! 

Edited by Danube Fiddler

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This all seems very second hand to me - I have a feeling you don't have quite as much experience of these instruments as you would like us to believe.

I would also imagine you get your information about pricing from auction records because you don't have access to other sources of information. 

Your posts are very tiring, especially the capital letters and bold type preaching. I was making a general slightly tongue in cheek observation - if you want to discuss the particular examples of ex-Ricci instruments at auction or Greiner's success (as promoted by Beares and through his association with Stradivari varnish analysis) then you need someone who's into more boring stuff.

Personally, whatever you tell me about Vuillaumes and Stradivaris, I will trust my ears, my own experience of these instruments, and the insights I have gained from people who play them.

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

I tried that, but it didn't stick. :lol:

She is much more expert (and earns more money) in the automotive supplier trade.

So we would have missed a lot if there was an automotive industry at Katarina's time?:)

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Wouldn’t that be a rather common example of marketing driving the sale rather than quality?

I don’t know whether Zygmuntovich instruments are worthy of the fuss they elicit, but a lot of the fuss is certainly due to marketing. 

 

I wouldn't call it "marketing," necessarily. It's more about awareness. Of course there are some players who'll go around trying everything they possibly can, but most of the professionals I know just don't have the time or the stamina to do that. I'm a hopeless violin nerd and I'm always game to try violins by makers I haven't heard of, but even I hit saturation at some point. Here's a case that I think is fairly typical of how a maker becomes a "gotta get one." I have a friend who's an excellent violinist, medalist at Tchaikovsky and currently leader of a good orchestra here in France. As an Aussie, she had a long term loan of a fine Milan Guad from her regional government, and used it to win her medal in Moscow, and as a touring soloist for the years following her prize. After a while, she settled down to start a family and was offered the position she currently holds. Then, the regional council asked for the Guad back to give it to the next up and coming local soloist. Her own personal violin was a fairly awful English violin, but she's a fine player so she made do, looking for something that could come close to the Guad she had to give up. In the mean time, soloists would come and play with the orchestra, including a certain German who plays Greiners, and others who play Ziggys. She got to try their violins and was sold on their qualities, so she got on the waiting list. I was with her when she got her Ziggy. It's an excellent fiddle, and has been serving her well since. She just didn't have the time or the desire to go around and try everything under the sun, and getting to try visiting soloists' modern fiddles saved her the hastle. Since then, I think 3 other violinists in the section have placed orders...

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30 minutes ago, martin swan said:

.....or Greiner's success (as promoted by Beares and through his association with Stradivari varnish analysis) then you need someone who's into more boring stuff.

Greiners success was long before his Beares-connection and his Stradivari-varnish book - you surely know it. 

30 minutes ago, martin swan said:

This all seems very second hand to me - I have a feeling you don't have quite as much experience of these instruments as you would like us to believe.

Yes, you are absolutely right ! It is second hand - as I yet told, it is not about me.  Hilary and some very fine  musicians are first hand  - when you can have their opinion and expertise, why you focus on me ? But o.k. - I even will tell you something, you eventually could like : I personally don´t like the Vuillaume-sound ( in the players view) so much, in the French world I much prefer Nicolas Lupot and even Aldric ( may be in my taste having the biggest Italy - nearness of later french makers ), also Hel.   However I am able to really respect the choices and expertise of Hilary and other great musicians and I am able to see and hear the (not - italian, but very fine) qualities of Vuillaume - violins. You may know all much better, if you like - or going on to ruminate, of which level my expertise could be.

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1 minute ago, Danube Fiddler said:

Greiners success was long before his Beares-connection and his Stradivari-varnish book - you surely know it. 

Yes, you are absolutely right ! It is second hand - as I yet told, it is not about me.  Hilary and some very fine  musicians are first hand  - when you can have their opinion and expertise, why you focus on me ? But o.k. - I even will tell you something, you eventually could like : I personally don´t like the Vuillaume-sound ( in the players view) so much, in the French world I much prefer Nicolas Lupot and even Aldric ( may be in my taste having the biggest Italy - nearness of later french makers ), also Hel.   However I am able to really respect the choices and expertise of Hilary and other great musicians and I am able to see and hear the (not - italian, but very fine) qualities of Vuillaume - violins. You may know all much better, if you like - or going on to ruminate, of which level my expertise could be.

I won't deny that Vuillaumes are capable of being excellent soloist instruments, but really it's 1 in 10, if that. And unlike Stradivari, 1 in 4 is really poor. 

The fact that Hilary Hahn (I'm not on first name terms with her) has a good Vuillaume or that Tetzlaff loves his Greiner doesn't tell us anything about the maker as a whole. When it comes to preferences for new makers, I think Michael's story hits the nail on the head. Success begets success - many players care little for nuance, have no time to shop around, and will go with an established maker. In this scenario they are reassured by a long waiting list and a hefty price tag.

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Personally, i think this 'near-Strad' idea explains a lot of otherwise odd things we see.   However, I don't believe everyone in the market behaves so mindlessly.   I still believe that some dealers and some players actually can see the instruments reasonably well.  And such players particularly will buy the best they can manage to lay hands.  Besides these few who decide based on their own judgements, some additional group will follow their lead closely.

Perhaps the very top of the overall market, and the very top of the market for the best current making are more dominantly influenced by these elite people who can somewhat see and judge on their own steam?

But it seems the bulk of the market below that, and many of the irrational disparities between price and quality are indeed driven by this 'nearness to Strad' market insanity.

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4 minutes ago, martin swan said:

Success begets success - many players care little for nuance, have no time to shop around, and will go with an established maker. In this scenario they are reassured by a long waiting list and a hefty price tag.

This is, how human beings tick - yes, we are not sure about anything, we try to reassure us by other opinions, we don´t have neither time nor much capabilities to evaluate by ourselves. That´s a very important and big part of the game - who misunderstands this part, can come to the conclusion, that sound is not paid.

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7 hours ago, martin swan said:

Hi Michael,

My "degrees of separation" theory was a bit tongue in cheek, kind of like the theory which states that a violin's value relates to the number of syllables, and the particular vowel that the name finishes with ... but it's as true as any other theory of hierarchy in violins.

I agree with your two points about player endorsement and ubiquity (for the latter, how else to explain the popularity of Vuillaumes and Sartorys!).

However, on the first point, I was really thinking about it ahistorically - in other words, how does the current-day market price instruments. The fact that Paganini, Viotti, Kreutzer et all espoused these makers has fed into and helped to solidify their supremacy, but the other makers who are currently valued highly all have a direct or indirect connection to the mythology.

When it comes to new makers, pretty much all seem to refer to their meticulous study of classical Cremonese techniques, varnishes etc, and the closer to the source they are the more they charge. Obviously there are exceptions, but even someone like Gregg Alf or Joe Curtin is still heavily enmeshed with the Cremonese ideal ...

Then we have the DG school of makers, who drink a lot and plan to die early ...

Or; modern makers going back to the late 1700's have relied on some guy they don't know, only his work, as a crutch and an advertising aid, trying to make it sound like their good ole' buddies with Strad and his methods...

You kinda nailed it on the head there, I struggle to think of many people who have/do not rely on comparing their instruments to Italian instruments of pedigree as a sales point, or something like "see look how good I am, I do it just like Strad did"

To a certain extent I would consider this "point" to be the entire point of my angle, which is to be an opposite to the norm, instead of promoting myself as "being close to Strad"  I have always striven, in violins and guitars, to promote myself as being far away from that "normal" as possible. 

I think Strad and the mythology has been a very double edged sword for the society of those who continue the tradition of building stringed instruments.

I you do not follow the norm you risk financial failure, if you choose the safety of a known way, you choose the safe and easy way out, which leads to comfort...but imo lacks artistic bravery that may or may not lead things in a new direction.

I will not be a slave to an old dead Italian man just because everybody else is, partly, because for me, it just does not feel right and partly because it is really just as weird as it sounds when you think about it.:lol:

And for what it's worth, as a note for "inspiration" to anyone out there who may be reading this and has a desire to go their own way, stepping away from the Italians and Martins...

Lili Haydn, a great musician and player who owns one of my vso's has been nominated for a Grammy this year , if she wins, that will be a total of 3 Grammy winning clients under my belt, the belt of someone who intentionally went left when every one else went right.

I mention this not to toot my horn, but more to inspire people to know there is another world outside of what "everyone" tells you, but you'll never see it unless you go there and you'll never understand it's value unless you try. Value is not always money

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14 minutes ago, Danube Fiddler said:

This is, how human beings tick - yes, we are not sure about anything, we try to reassure us by other opinions, we don´t have neither time nor much capabilities to evaluate by ourselves.

"Fear is the mind-killer".  Time constraints and self-doubt are not uncommon excuses for failing to study enough to gain sufficient expertise to make one's own sound decisions about something.  But they're just excuses. :P

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8 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

"Fear is the mind-killer".  Time constraints and self-doubt are not uncommon excuses for failing to study enough to gain sufficient expertise to make one's own sound decisions about something.  But they're just excuses. :P

One should not underestimate the difficulties and the limited reliability of own sound-evaluations. The best chances for such have soloists with their great access to many concert-halls in real live - performances with audience. 

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