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French vs Italian, Is one "better" than the other?


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Looking at older violins, let's say around the start of the 1900's. Other than being made in or by an Italian or French luthier, what characteristics do you traditionally see in a French or Italian violin (tonally for instance)? Do you find that you prefer French instruments from this time? Or are you more of a fan of Italian instruments from this era? Why?

In general, do you find that Italian instruments are better than French instruments from this time period? Or vice versa? Why?

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8 minutes ago, LilHobbit said:

Looking at older violins, let's say around the start of the 1900's. Other than being made in or by an Italian or French luthier, what characteristics do you traditionally see in a French or Italian violin

 

Oh, it's simple.  Taking German violins as the baseline, people will pay much, much, more for Italian violins, much more for French, somewhat more for British, the same or a little less for Eastern European and American, and considerably less for Chinese.  The tonal characteristics, of course, are all over the place, so you don't consider sound, just provenance.  All clear now?  :huh:  :ph34r:  :lol:

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1 minute ago, Violadamore said:

Oh, it's simple.  Taking German violins as the baseline, people will pay much, much, more for Italian violins, much more for French, somewhat more for British, the same or a little less for Eastern European and American, and considerably less for Chinese.  The tonal characteristics, of course, are all over the place, so you don't consider sound, just provenance.  All clear now?  :huh:  :ph34r:  :lol:

I think you win the award for "Most succinct summary of the violin trade"

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I wonder if there is an industry more snobbish then the violin industry. Phillip Kass Wrote a splendid article about undervalue German bows, you should look it up. Italian violins are better because they are Italian. Chinese violins are worse because they are Chinese.

The nicest Cello I ever acquired at auction was made in Germany by a man Who immigrated to South Africa and became a leading South African maker. It sounds fabulous. It’s a professional quality instrument. It cost nothing. So one of my former students has a lifetime Cello that plays far better than it cost.

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4 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I wonder if there is an industry more snobbish then the violin industry. 

I suppose art and fashion are contenders for the most snobbish industry. But I agree,  I despair at an industry that worships a mediocre sounding violin made in 17th century Italy but pours scorn on a wonderful violin made in China. (Puts head swiftly below parapet)

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1 hour ago, stringcheese said:

An early associate of mine in this business (who has since gone on to a higher level) once said: "Violins are the most deceptive things to deal with because they're all made to look like something that they're not."

Might that be a reference to the rough resemblance  of violins to the female figure, which has seduced and led people astray for thousands of years?  ;)

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2 hours ago, Violadamore said:

Oh, it's simple.  Taking German violins as the baseline, people will pay much, much, more for Italian violins, much more for French, somewhat more for British, the same or a little less for Eastern European and American, and considerably less for Chinese.  The tonal characteristics, of course, are all over the place, so you don't consider sound, just provenance.  All clear now?  :huh:  :ph34r:  :lol:

That's why we need fake labels. Pointing them out gives us something to feel morally superior about without looking snobbish.

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IMHO, among the dominant national violin provenances, while Italian gets quite a few points added just for being the original home of both the violin itself and the Cremonese tradition, most of the rest of the inequalities in market attractiveness may be inversely related to how coupled countries or regions are with "cheap student fiddles" in the public consciousness.  Italy has never been noted for dominating the modern wholesale violin trade.  :)

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4 hours ago, LilHobbit said:

Looking at older violins, let's say around the start of the 1900's. Other than being made in or by an Italian or French luthier, what characteristics do you traditionally see in a French or Italian violin (tonally for instance)? Do you find that you prefer French instruments from this time? Or are you more of a fan of Italian instruments from this era? Why?

In general, do you find that Italian instruments are better than French instruments from this time period? Or vice versa? Why?

Yes.

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21 hours ago, Violadamore said:

Oh, it's simple.  Taking German violins as the baseline, people will pay much, much, more for Italian violins, much more for French, somewhat more for British, the same or a little less for Eastern European and American, and considerably less for Chinese.  The tonal characteristics, of course, are all over the place, so you don't consider sound, just provenance.  All clear now?  :huh:  :ph34r:  :lol:

Sadly, I think you're right.  Way too many base value simply off of where it was made rather than the tonal characteristics of it and the actual quality of the make of the violin itself.  I'm looking at a couple of violins right now and one of my favorites so far is a violin made by Paul Mangenot, likely early 1900's.  One of the people at the shop looked at it and said "oh, it's an old french violin" with the obvious implication that old and french made it not as desirable.  I think that's what got me thinking about this concept to begin with!

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