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Separating antique value and value as a musical tool


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24 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

Just had today a professional violinist in my shop who purchased one of my instruments not so long ago for 4 reasons.

  1. Sounds as good as a Guadagnini the same player used in the past
  2. good old instruments are overpriced and therefore in monetary terms out of reach for almost any violinist.
  3. new instruments are in better shape
  4. The user can be more relaxed for paying insurance for it.

Seems the violin world is changing.

(I wish that banks drive the price for high end instruments into a price region where sponsors will worry about loaning them out to musicians. :D)

Do you make cellos?

I bought my cello because the maker had a reputation, not necessarily world renowned, but not nothing, I could afford it, barely, it has provided me with 16 years of joy and confident playing, and 10 seconds after I breathe my last, my stepson will flog it for more than I paid.

Gotta call that a win.

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5 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

Flautists and clarinettists are a suspicious bunch. In many orchestras they get paid better than string players, because they are “soloists”, but then proceed to spend much of the orchestra rehearsal sitting there doing nothing, whilst the violinists and cellists have to scrub away almost non stop:)

The theory is that a flute job is exponentially more difficult to get, but once you get it, it’s much easier. There is no happier worker in the entire world than the tuba player in a major symphony.

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Don't forget that wind instruments are also mechanical. I need to take my bassoon in for regular tweaks. Screws come loose, bars/keys bend, seals leak, springs stretch out.

There's much more that can wear out.

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18 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

The theory is that a flute job is exponentially more difficult to get, but once you get it, it’s much easier. There is no happier worker in the entire world than the tuba player in a major symphony.

I remember once going to a concert of the Niederösterreichische Tonkünstler Orchestra. There was a bloke sitting next to the flutes, looking bored. I was wondering if he wasn’t the bus driver, when all of a sudden he got a piccolo out of his jacket pocket. I counted very carefully, and he had to get it out of his pocket 4 times in the whole concert, and one of those times, he had to cough:D

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Is it normal for Austrian bus drivers to sit in the orchestra? During a performance? :blink:

I think our bus drivers are supposed to wait in their bus.

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1 hour ago, Violadamore said:

Analyzed logically, "the violin market" (being an emergent entity) disassembles into different sectors following rules specific to each sector.  One very important concept to grasp is that each sector has its own curve of price to quality.  Trying to treat the violin business as if it has a single pricing relation, by superposing all the curves, doesn't lead anywhere useful to puzzled consumers who are looking for tools rather than symbols or investments. It's of no use to  people (not already part of the violin culture) who come here wanting to know what they can sell a found violin for, either.  :)

Good clear post.  I agree.

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2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I remember once going to a concert of the Niederösterreichische Tonkünstler Orchestra. There was a bloke sitting next to the flutes, looking bored. I was wondering if he wasn’t the bus driver, when all of a sudden he got a piccolo out of his jacket pocket. I counted very carefully, and he had to get it out of his pocket 4 times in the whole concert, and one of those times, he had to cough:D

Many years ago, the opera company performed Janacek’s wonderful opera Jenufa.

During one of the breaks a group of us were chatting, And I commented that the violins were doing a whole lot of work. I turned to the contrabassoon player and said to him, “I bet you have a pretty easy time of it, don’t you?”

He laughed and answered, “yes. In the whole opera I have 17 notes. I counted… And 11 of ‘em are the same note!”

Another time I remember our principal trumpet sitting back and laughing and saying to his colleague, “...and now, to count two hundred measures rest while playing Angry Birds.”

Yeah, like the song says,”nice work if you can get it.”

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

Don't forget that wind instruments are also mechanical. I need to take my bassoon in for regular tweaks. Screws come loose, bars/keys bend, seals leak, springs stretch out.

Tightening or replacing a few mechanical parts is  nothin', compared to the repairs fiddle restorers do.

Have you ever had a quarter of the wood in your bassoon replaced, in such a way that nobody but an expert restorer would be the wiser?

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10 hours ago, martin swan said:

Good sound can come in all sorts of different packages - some more attractive or desirable than others.

History, rarity, provenance, all can be very important, and ultimately the player's confidence in their instrument contributes as much to their expressiveness as any physical properties.

 

I believe this is a great part of what goes on.

Amazing playing is voodoo.  No player ever knows how much more they might be capable of.  And how much a player gets from an instrument is also voodoo.  And how much a setup luthier gets from an instrument is voodoo.

If a player picks up a famous instrument, the thought they have found the limit of the instrument will be farther from their mind. And their voodoo will be all the stronger for it.

Likewise, when we doubt an instrument, that doubt can be significantly self fulfilling.

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1 hour ago, David Beard said:

I believe this is a great part of what goes on.

Amazing playing is voodoo.  No player ever knows how much more they might be capable of.  And how much a player gets from an instrument is also voodoo.  And how much a setup luthier gets from an instrument is voodoo.

If a player picks up a famous instrument, the thought they have found the limit of the instrument will be farther from their mind. And their voodoo will be all the stronger for it.

Likewise, when we doubt an instrument, that doubt can be significantly self fulfilling.

There is certainly a lot of voodoo in any performers attitude. It is the reason why actors wont mention the Scottish play by name etc. String players often believe their instruments change in character as people play it so an old instrument has some indefinable "magic" bestowed upon it by the great musicians who have played it.

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10 hours ago, Brumcello said:

My concern is that there is pressure on young talented soloists to play on fine old Italian instruments. I question whether this serves a musical purpose. 

Many players will mention in the program that they are playing a Strad....  till the moment you see it is not a Strad, but a Vuillaume, or a contemporary violin. In the dressing room they will say the Strad is "with his luthier". Saw that many many times.... I think Michael Darnton has mentioned it here too.

The idea that a soloist needs a 10 million dollars to make his career is not true. I know a quite good concertist who plays a Paul Knorr German violin.

Michael Tree, in his later years played a contemporary viola.  A very good friend in NYC, who owns a fantastic Bros Amati viola also plays a contemporary viola.

Not to mention Tabea Zimermann, which was awarded a viola by contemporary luthier Étienne Vatelot (1980) when she got the first price in the 1983 Maurice Vieux Competition in Paris.

These are Szeryng's words about old instruments:

"What are the problems concerning antique violins?

I have talked at length with experts. The result is extremely simple. The material seasons and ages. With time the wood becomes more venerable... but ultimately ... too old.

It does not exactly decay, but certainly does not improve, and loses elasticity.

I mostly play one of my two modern violins.

With all due respect, we must not forget that the finest classical violins are at least 250 years old. I am an incurable optimist, but I'm convinced that the Stradivaris, the Guarneris, the Amatis, the Grancinos, the Ruggeris, the Gaglianos and the Stainers will not be "playable" much longer unless they are completely restored.

This then gives rise to the problem of whether such an instrument can still be considered antique and original or whether instead it is the restorer who has bestowed upon that violin its balanced timbre and sonorousness, rather than the violinmaker who made it.

Consequently, the question arises of whether it is not more practical to resort from the beginning to a new instrument" (FRNAKFURTER ALLGEMEINE, Magazine, 30.01.87)

And in the Strad, September, 1988, we will find:

"In his final period, in addition to the "Le Duc, he (Szeryng) played on two French violins, one by Pierre Hel made in 1922 and the other by Jean Bauer, a contemporary maker."

 

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2 hours ago, Brumcello said:

There is certainly a lot of voodoo in any performers attitude. It is the reason why actors wont mention the Scottish play by name etc. String players often believe their instruments change in character as people play it so an old instrument has some indefinable "magic" bestowed upon it by the great musicians who have played it.

 

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1 hour ago, MANFIO said:

With all due respect, we must not forget that the finest classical violins are at least 250 years old. I am an incurable optimist, but I'm convinced that the Stradivaris, the Guarneris, the Amatis, the Grancinos, the Ruggeris, the Gaglianos and the Stainers will not be "playable" much longer unless they are completely restored.

You might have noted in a recent thread the some wooden Chinese traditional string have working lives exceeding 2 millennia.

Something to consider.

I think the survival of instruments has much more to do with how cherished and desired they continue to be, rather than with the wood getting too old.

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13 minutes ago, David Beard said:

You might have noted in a recent thread the some wooden Chinese traditional string have working lives exceeding 2 millennia.

Something to consider.

 

It was Henry Szeryng who said that, I just quoted him.

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16 hours ago, Brumcello said:

but many younger professionals are playing on instruments made by the best modern makers. Nevertheless there is still pressure from recording studios, agents, even conservatoire professors, for performers to play on antique instruments. This is, as far as I am aware, unique to string instruments.

I follow TwoSet Violin on YouTube and these kids have some interesting things to say about the pressure that is sometimes put on young players and/or their parents, to buy certain instruments.  I know that the vast majority of teachers have only the best interest of their students at heart, but this could explain at least some of the affinity towards antique (i.e. expensive) fiddles.  Brett and Eddy play contemporary fiddles by living makers and love them. 

 

 

 

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I doubled viola and tuba in my college orchestra.  Sometimes there are not a lot of notes in the tuba part, but everyone in the hall will hear all of them.  That does add a bit of interest when you are playing the part.

 

On the matter of the 'simple' acoustics of wind instruments - the tuba is notorious for being out of tune with itself.  The beautiful harmonic series that we all learn about for musical instruments is usually out of tune for actual instruments.  It takes many years to work out the tweaks required to make a really good wind instrument.  And this applies to all the wind instruments.  Since the bass instruments are so big and expensive to make, the tweaks required take longer to find and understand.  Understanding the correct bore and developing manufacturing techniques for tubas has improved a lot recently.  This means that older instruments are not as good as the best new instruments.  Not to mention, musical tastes in wind sound have changed.

The hardest instrument in the orchestra is all of them.  But the difficulties are not all in the same place!

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Interesting video!

Out of curiosity, I took a look on the wikipedia page of strad's (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Stradivarius_instruments). Some info might be outdated or missing, but the general trend in that lists shows many instruments that are on loan and linked to foundations/trusts.

I wouldn't feel comfortable receiving such a highly valued antique instrument on loan, a lot of things can happen while rehearsing, performing or travelling with it. On the other hand, I presume that for some players the advantages outweigh the disadvantages (for the audience the instrument is part of the experience when you go watch a performance, even though that audience can't notice much difference in terms of sound compared to modern top instruments). The loaner probably expects to have the value of the instrument increase over time as people see it being played by several top musicians.

Edited by Stephan
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13 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Do you make cellos?

I bought my cello because the maker had a reputation, not necessarily world renowned, but not nothing, I could afford it, barely, it has provided me with 16 years of joy and confident playing, and 10 seconds after I breathe my last, my stepson will flog it for more than I paid.

Gotta call that a win.

No I don't make cellos. Just preparing to make cellos since 7years....

The only thing new instruments don't have is history. If a musician can say 'This instrument has seen Beethoven' it has some inspirational grace.

Thinking about value gain is on new instruments always a sort of speculation. Lucky those who hit a winning ticket. Makes me sometimes wonder how my instruments will be valued after I am gone.

 

 

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31 minutes ago, Andreas Preuss said:

No I don't make cellos. Just preparing to make cellos since 7years....

The only thing new instruments don't have is history. If a musician can say 'This instrument has seen Beethoven' it has some inspirational grace.

Thinking about value gain is on new instruments always a sort of speculation. Lucky those who hit a winning ticket. Makes me sometimes wonder how my instruments will be valued after I am gone.

 

 

 I think about that often when I play my cello, and it doesn’t matter. I love it, it does absolutely everything I want it to do, I’m happy to have it, I don’t know how many other cellos for the same amount of money would have pleased me as much, but it doesn’t matter. This is my cello forever. I’ll let the boy worry about resale.

Im sure the people who play your violins feel exactly the same way.

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On 4/27/2021 at 8:22 AM, PhilipKT said:

They wear out. After a few years you need another one.

 

Can't see where this makes sense.  I"m not only a woodwind player (albeit, not at symphony level), but I've spent (in my earlier life) about 20 years behind a bench doing woodwind repairwork for many professionals.  I never heard anything like this.  Other than the typical pad and cork wear(normal maintenance), the only other real wear is keywork, and when the instrument is overhauled, a good repairperson always "refits" the keywork by swedging out the hinge tube and refitting the pivot screw to make all the keywork tighter than new.  I guess someday, that can't be done anymore, but not in your lifetime.  The only time I consider an instruemnt "worn out" is when some idiot repairperson does poor work and rebuilding the keywork is such a nightmare it isn't worth doing.  Not that common.  I agree with David B. the work on antique instruments is much more extensive and invasive.  Maybe I'll change my tune when my Selmer MkVI Tenor hits 250 years old though......

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2 hours ago, jacobsaunders said:

I have no idea about woodwind instruments at all, mind you, I don’t think anyone spends 8 hours a day spitting into his violin:)

Visit texas...

Somewhere a fiddler is using his old fiddle as a spit cup for his dip.

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5 hours ago, Jeff White said:

Can't see where this makes sense.  I"m not only a woodwind player (albeit, not at symphony level), but I've spent (in my earlier life) about 20 years behind a bench doing woodwind repairwork for many professionals.  I never heard anything like this.  Other than the typical pad and cork wear(normal maintenance), the only other real wear is keywork, and when the instrument is overhauled, a good repairperson always "refits" the keywork by swedging out the hinge tube and refitting the pivot screw to make all the keywork tighter than new.  I guess someday, that can't be done anymore, but not in your lifetime.  The only time I consider an instruemnt "worn out" is when some idiot repairperson does poor work and rebuilding the keywork is such a nightmare it isn't worth doing.  Not that common.  I agree with David B. the work on antique instruments is much more extensive and invasive.  Maybe I'll change my tune when my Selmer MkVI Tenor hits 250 years old though......

I’m no flautist, so I can neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of what I’ve been told, but I can sure confirm that I’ve been told it. My flute colleagues, have switched from silver to gold flutes, from wood to metal headjoints(and back) and have switched from one key system to another. They end up with multiple instruments( wood for Mozart and Bach, and Beethoven if requested, gold for everything else)  and have “retired” others because they no longer play as well as they once did.

I suppose “wearing out” is a matter of definition, but replacing one because it no longer plays as well as a newer counterpart would seem to fit.

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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

I’m no flautist, so I can neither come firm nor deny the accuracy of what I’ve been told, but I can sure confirm that I’ve been told it. My flute colleagues, have switched from silver to gold flutes, from wood to metal headjoints(and back) and have switched from one key system to another. They end up with multiple instruments( wood for Mozart and Bach, and Beethoven if requested, gold for everything else)  and have “retired” others because they no longer play as well as they once did.

I suppose “wearing out” is a matter of definition, but replacing one because it no longer plays as well as a newer counterpart would seem to fit.

Ok, then I now understand what you meant.  You mean "wear out" as in no longer plays as well as something made with better, usually intonation etc. I get that the instrument no longer works for what they want it to.  I thought you meant that the actual instrument didn't perform as well as it did when new.  No reason in the world it will get to that point, or they need a new repairperson.

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