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Are there too many Vuihhaumes?


Samuel Detached
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The whole question of copying, antiquing, and forging is delicate.  My understanding is that JBV was one of the first to artificially age his instruments when making them, so they 'look like' old instruments. But if they are branded internally and signed with a flourish the game would be up the moment the top was taken off, so they wouldn't decieve a connoisseur.

I remember a violin dealer telling me, many years ago, that if someone showed him a Vuillaume 'Strad', he would pick it up and say 1. It is French, 2 It is Vuillaume, 3 it is a Strad copy, in that order, even though Vuillaume was presumably trying to make it 'exact'. Which led me to believe that it is the things we take for granted when making something rather than the things we are trying to copy that give the origin away.

Re Collin-Mezins.  Charles Jean Baptiste Collin-Mezin violins might have sold for  400 - 500 francs back then [based on prices in the Bernardel/Caressa and Francais ledger https://archivesmusee.philharmoniedeparis.fr/en/gand/home.html ] which in today's money would be about $2,000-5,000 depending on whether you price as currency [lower figure] or gold. So they are probably worth [roughly] about the same now as then, whereas JBV's are worth 20-30 times more.  

JBV would be DELIGHTED that we are still talking about him in this way. A Strad would in JBV's time be about 150 years old, as JBVs are now.  Does the age of the wood have something to do with it? I read that JBV did some heat/chemical treatments on some of his violins, and made some out of already old wood. Ole Bull even brought an old piece of spruce from Norway and made himself a new-old violin in JBV's workshop. JBV had great technical curiosity. But he was also a good businessman. He sold a  ‘Guarneri del Gesu’ viola for 4,000 francs in 1874 which had had its f holes 'adjusted' not I think by JBV himself.

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1 hour ago, David Beard said:

I lived with one for a year as a loaner at college.  It wasn't a wonderful experience.

But why? Where you too young? Did it sound awful? Bad set up? Bad bow?

I had to play a wedding on a bad "strad" because it had been owned by the brides grandfather. Not a pleasant experience, and played the best I could. From what I could tell, it was real. Gave it back a minute after the recessional. 

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1 hour ago, GoPractice said:

But why? Where you too young? Did it sound awful? Bad set up? Bad bow?

I had to play a wedding on a bad "strad" because it had been owned by the brides grandfather. Not a pleasant experience, and played the best I could. From what I could tell, it was real. Gave it back a minute after the recessional. 

I wasn't educated about setups at that point.  I suspect tonal setup was an issue.    The instrumemt had a harsh and boisterous character as presented.  The instrument had a strong wolf and the tone easily choked in high positions.

My skills are very differeng now.  I don't know how I might experience that same instrument today.

 

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5 hours ago, deans said:

interesting article here

https://stringsmagazine.com/jeremy-cohens-1868-vuillaume-may-be-one-of-the-most-heard-instruments-ever/

Many fine players have been served very well by Vuillaume. 

Just want to comment that Jeremy is an amazing violinist in that he chooses and excels in producing a wide variety of colors and dynamics. He's an amazing classical player too, if not obvious, but he delivers. As students interests sometimes wane in playing bowed strings, Jeremy's recordings are played to them. Many students think of the classical genre as being rigid but within confines... when I was an assistant coach for a summer symphonic band, we'd play Gene Krupa's version of "Sing, sing, sing." After warm ups, we'd do the analysis of how a jazz piece evolves and that was often enough to have the students get focused and play better.

I am not sure what instruments and bows are used on the recordings, so can vouch for what might be heard. But in person, he is a thoughtful ( and perhaps a bit emotional ) player. He's been an influence ( taught ) a number of musicians who have become outstanding players.

Nash Mondragon passed away in 2015? but the Cremona violin shop, I believe, is still open. He used to say that I had "Champagne tastes on a beer budget." Went to see him about a Kapfhammer violin which was exquisite. Even on a handmade brew budget, that particular instrument was unattainable. 

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36 minutes ago, David Beard said:

I wasn't educated about setups at that point.  I suspect tonal setup was an issue.    The instrument had a harsh and boisterous character as presented.  The instrument had a strong wolf and the tone easily choked in high positions.

My skills are very different now.  I don't know how I might experience that same instrument today.

Understand fully. Yes, wolftones, too. I encounter them too on many JBVs ( i have had the good fortune to play ) and when learning difficult literature, that quirk can be frustrating.

If it were possible to play that instrument again, it would be different, i think. Would you at least try it? or work on it?

Instruments are being restored to such high standards that some of the worst ones in the past are sounding quite excellent now. Not defending JBV or many of the abusers of such instruments, but my experiences have been helpful so just wanted to ask. Thank you for replying.

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4 hours ago, GoPractice said:

Understand fully. Yes, wolftones, too. I encounter them too on many JBVs ( i have had the good fortune to play ) and when learning difficult literature, that quirk can be frustrating.

If it were possible to play that instrument again, it would be different, i think. Would you at least try it? or work on it?

Instruments are being restored to such high standards that some of the worst ones in the past are sounding quite excellent now. Not defending JBV or many of the abusers of such instruments, but my experiences have been helpful so just wanted to ask. Thank you for replying.

I wouldn't want to revisit that fiddle as a player.  But, as I understand it, Vuillaumes vary significantly.

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On 2/21/2022 at 11:28 PM, Samuel Detached said:

JBV was a forger too.

As far as I know he 'forged' Paganini's Guarneri a few times, you may call it copied. If you have one of those I would be more than happy to take it off your hands for a few hundred Euros, especially if you have a surplus of those. I use them for decoration of my office walls.

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22 minutes ago, uguntde said:

As far as I know he 'forged' Paganini's Guarneri a few times, 

When I was a student at the vm school in Switzerland, we went on a weeks holiday to Genua to make a pilgrimage to Paganini's Del Gesu. It was in a glass case in the council meeting room, and one could press a button which made it spin around at a dizzy speed. Also in the same glass case was the “copy” (that one couldn’t spin) that JBV had made, which, according to the legend, Paganini couldn’t tell from the original. The obvious conclusion there, was that Paganini must have had a massive thick white walking stick. What was almost more impressive was the next glass case, which displayed Christopher Columbus’s toe nail, so that one could see where all you Americans originate from

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On 2/23/2022 at 12:19 PM, uguntde said:

As far as I know he 'forged' Paganini's Guarneri a few times, you may call it copied. If you have one of those I would be more than happy to take it off your hands for a few hundred Euros, especially if you have a surplus of those. I use them for decoration of my office walls.

I've not seen an il Cannone copy without internal markings, as I mentioned earlier. If they exist, someone let me know.

It's kind of amusing that some players tend to grouse about market values when they, themselves, have a significant hand in setting them, especially in the range we're discussing (without demand, the prices couldn't really be sustained and I've never heard a player complain when their coveted instrument has appreciated), and makers tend to benefit from higher prices of old instruments (increase in need/demand for great contemporary instruments and acceptance of the prices required to make a decent living, send kids to undergrad school, etc.) so they really shouldn't be too upset. Glory, lore and history often wait till after death, and sometimes never come at all. Reality.

Players have choices in this range, and I honestly don't know of any maker's work that will be perfect for all players (except by legend).

So, I'll split the Vuillaumes that come your way for a few hundred eros once you get too many, uguntde!  :)

Signed,

An American that seems to have less animosity for you European folks than some of you have for us!

 

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On 2/23/2022 at 6:43 PM, jacobsaunders said:

When I was a student at the vm school in Switzerland, we went on a weeks holiday to Genua to make a pilgrimage to Paganini's Del Gesu. It was in a glass case in the council meeting room, and one could press a button which made it spin around at a dizzy speed. Also in the same glass case was the “copy” (that one couldn’t spin) that JBV had made, which, according to the legend, Paganini couldn’t tell from the original. The obvious conclusion there, was that Paganini must have had a massive thick white walking stick. What was almost more impressive was the next glass case, which displayed Christopher Columbus’s toe nail, so that one could see where all you Americans originate from

I am sure you saw the wrong copy :) - the proper copy is indistinguishable, but can't be found any more.  

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Another thing to consider is the fact that the different models JBV used are widely different in numbers (e.g. few GDG compared to Strad models) and in desirability (a Maggini copy comes relatively cheaply compared to a GDG model).

Also condition seems to have a huge impact on the price with JBVs. Because there are so many, buyers can be picky, i.e. top specimens (all original, great condition etc.) go for high prices, but anything with some blemishes becomes hard to shift (I have been told by people who shift them quite regularly).

Re. sound: I have a 1840 Strad model which I love to bits. It has a huge sound and great carrying power. The sound has a certain 'coarseness' or 'freshness' to it, which I have found in many JBVs, but I consider that its charme.

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Many people worked in the JBV shop over the years and many left to start their own shops.  Understanding that, in general, these violins are worth way less than one of their earlier JBV violins, I don't expect them to appear or sound that much different.  From a player's perspective, I suppose a really nice Bailey or Gemunder should be just as good ?  I don't regularly get to play many nice French violins.   Those of you who see a lot of violins for work might be able to give a little perspective.  Should you buy the JBV or should you buy a Bailly or Gemunder and a nice Lamy bow and still have a nice part of a house paid for ?  

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1 hour ago, Giovanni Valentini said:

Also condition seems to have a huge impact on the price with JBVs. Because there are so many, buyers can be picky, i.e. top specimens (all original, great condition etc.) go for high prices, but anything with some blemishes becomes hard to shift (I have been told by people who shift them quite regularly).

Yup. As I mentioned earlier, they are 19th century fiddles and that means that the bulk of the shop's output aren't old enough to be complete wrecks... but relative condition is important. This is also true for instruments like Pressenda, Rocca, etc., etc.

1 hour ago, smf said:

Many people worked in the JBV shop over the years and many left to start their own shops.  Understanding that, in general, these violins are worth way less than one of their earlier JBV violins, I don't expect them to appear or sound that much different.

Actually, that doesn't really seem to be the case. Check the auction prices (which in the case of Vuillaume often closely resemble retail prices and sometimes lead the trend).

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On 2/23/2022 at 4:20 PM, Jeffrey Holmes said:

.....................

Signed,

An American that seems to have less animosity for you European folks than some of you have for us!

 

Cheer up, Jeffrey!  It's looking like they're about to love, love, love us again, under the usual circumstances, to eventually be followed by "overpaid, oversexed, and over here", again, as usual.   We should be used to it by now.  :ph34r:  :lol:  :)

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1 hour ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

Yup. As I mentioned earlier, they are 19th century fiddles and that means that the bulk of the shop's output aren't old enough to be complete wrecks... but relative condition is important. This is also true for instruments like Pressenda, Rocca, etc., etc.

Actually, that doesn't really seem to be the case. Check the auction prices (which in the case of Vuillaume often closely resemble retail prices and sometimes lead the trend).

Thanks, then you are saying the high tides of increasing valuations are lifting all the values of these french makers...  So "premium" for being a JBV is not as high as I would have guessed ?  

 

 

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