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VSA Competition Compared to the Rare Instrument Exhibit


Christian Pedersen
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Any opinions about the instruments in the VSA competition compared to the instruments in the rare instrument exhibit? Modern fiddles that could hang with the old on the same table? Any award winners that are as bold as the old? Varnish, carving, and individuality seem on different paths to me.

--Chris 

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I think there was a distinct difference in the overall impressions from the new instruments and the antiques. Mostly in the finish philosophy, it seems. The old instruments have blemishes and blots that the new instruments didn't seem to want. Like cracks in the ribs, bad repairs, weird touch up. Not to mention they almost all had a bowling ball coat of French polish that eliminated any texture left. The new ones, to my eye, all sort of confirmed to an idealization of what we want to see in a more artistic sense of an old violin. There were no blemishes and weird features in the wood. Everything was perfectly cohesive. The makers clearly had a vision and made sure everything fit that theme. Whereas on the actual antiques, there were bumps and bruises that not many new makers would dare impart on their own piece. But, to me, the old instruments had a certain quality that, even the best, new instruments still can't capture. 

Just my opinion, though. 

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8 hours ago, Christian Pedersen said:

Any opinions about the instruments in the VSA competition compared to the instruments in the rare instrument exhibit? Modern fiddles that could hang with the old on the same table? Any award winners that are as bold as the old? Varnish, carving, and individuality seem on different paths to me.

--Chris 

At the granular level? still more to go than the molecular level.

I love and commit to the old for the efforts that were made. Modern instruments kick ass. We can have a requiem for all the great instruments that were destroyed. And put them into archives. It might be our jobs to learn from them, but as a player, the newer instruments are of more interested. 

Most of us will not be here a century from now.

The makers who did there own thing, who had thoughts and amplified on them made me happy confused and wanting to play their instruments more.

Again, restored instruments are a different thing. Going through University collections, we interpret the past not having been there. Thank god the sheep are similar. Listening to different pipe organs and the opinions of scholars, I do what I do to better understand what and how might be played for the citizens pre- iPhone. 

 

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Other than the ravages of age, the Guarneri instruments were almost all arched much higher than the modern ones.  I suspect it is due to what most modern players want tonally and power-wise, which probably differs from the average "Old Italian Sound".  Too bad we couldn't play the old ones.

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4 hours ago, Don Noon said:

Other than the ravages of age, the Guarneri instruments were almost all arched much higher than the modern ones.  I suspect it is due to what most modern players want tonally and power-wise, which probably differs from the average "Old Italian Sound".  Too bad we couldn't play the old ones.

Do you think that the je nais se quois that the old ones had aesthetically shouldn't be attempted in a more high fidelity approach? Excluding things like distorted catchings and broken ribs, etc. Because to me, it seems like the best examples in the competition room were all (while exquisite) seemed to be an artistic idealization of what an antique violin would look like, as opposed to the real deal. Kind of like the flattering portraits that nobles would commission for themselves. 

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6 hours ago, Nick Allen said:

Do you think that the je nais se quois that the old ones had aesthetically shouldn't be attempted in a more high fidelity approach? Excluding things like distorted catchings and broken ribs, etc. Because to me, it seems like the best examples in the competition room were all (while exquisite) seemed to be an artistic idealization of what an antique violin would look like, as opposed to the real deal. Kind of like the flattering portraits that nobles would commission for themselves. 

I personally think that comparing modern violins to antique ones doesn't make much sense, if you like the charm of the antique just go with the antique ones, if you like modern work go with the modern ones. The variety of styles and qualities is extremely variable even among the ancient ones and I think it is not possible to generalize, there are very ugly instruments even among the ancient ones, as well as among the modern ones. In my opinion trying to somehow replicate the appearance of the antiques is not the way to go if a luthier wants to hope to express a style in some personal way, and exact copies made to replicate the charm of the antiques in an integral way, for me it is not modern lutherie in the true sense of the word. I am not saying this to belittle the work of copyists which is extremely difficult and complex and which requires a lot of skill if done seriously, but I am only saying that it is a different job compared to what the ancient luthiers did, and for me doing modern lutherie means working with the mentality of ancient luthiers, i.e. trying to express themselves, possibly taking inspiration (this is almost inevitable) but without necessarily copying. Many contemporary luthiers, due to this continuous comparison with the ancient luthiers, feel crushed, and the demonstration is the ever-wider diffusion of antiqued finishes to please the musicians who dream of the ancient violins but cannot afford it. It takes courage to make a not-antiqued work and a varnishing knowing that many will not like it, but if everyone gave up doing it believing that in this way they would sell their violins more easily, for me this would decree an inevitable decline of violin making.

Just my opinion, though.

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1 hour ago, Davide Sora said:

"It takes courage to make a not-antiqued work..."

I'll take that - beats admitting that I lack the knowledge and skill.  Along with wabi sabi there's something about a bold, original design and new, perhaps unexplored, tonal and playing qualities.  On a less serious note - once I'm allowed to retire... eight bits:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ranjit/12396601314/in/set-72157640401185814/Fugit irreparabile tempus.

 

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I'm now thinking the bulk of modern violin making is like vanilla ice cream with different bits added for individual choices as opposed to a different flavor. My making included.

I'm interested in inspiration from seeing examples of successful makers that could have an instrument on a rack or table of Guarneri family and not look out of place. (antiqued or not!)

I saw many lovely instruments but none that were so inspiring. 

--Chris 

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19 minutes ago, Christian Pedersen said:

I'm now thinking the bulk of modern violin making is like vanilla ice cream with different bits added for individual choices as opposed to a different flavor. My making included.

I'm interested in inspiration from seeing examples of successful makers that could have an instrument on a rack or table of Guarneri family and not look out of place. (antiqued or not!)

I saw many lovely instruments but none that were so inspiring. 

--Chris 

In my wiew, even the best Stradivari or Amati might seem out of place on a table together with the Guarneri, or perhaps more likely the other way around (but it's just a matter of taste).

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In a previous VSA violin competition I noticed my violin seemed quite out of place on the table where they are all were closely examined.  A judge said to me   "This isn't really the best place for you." which gave me great inspiration.

One of my goals is to improve sound projection such that the audience at the back of a big hall can clearly hear my violins.  But as a consequence people can recognize my violins at quite a distance~about 50m rather than the 0.5m viewing distance the judges use.

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The Guarneri reference was directed to the exhibit at the VSA convention. I'd be just as excited if not more so to see a modern instrument on a table of Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri that looked like it belonged especially if it wasn't a copy. (antiqued or not, I'd like to think I'm experienced enough to look past the difference) 

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24 minutes ago, Christian Pedersen said:

The Guarneri reference was directed to the exhibit at the VSA convention. I'd be just as excited if not more so to see a modern instrument on a table of Stradivari, Amati, and Guarneri that looked like it belonged especially if it wasn't a copy. (antiqued or not, I'd like to think I'm experienced enough to look past the difference) 

No chances.

Not because they are better or worse, but simply because no one would even consider giving them a chance...:)

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Varnish wise two instruments in the exhibit stood out for me.

The Peter of Mantua 1690 with the one piece back had an extraordinary Varnish with less added color than the ones I am most familiar with.

The del Gesu Ferni 1732. On my first glance at this violin across the table it appeared to me as a massive but poor retouch job. I was encouraged to take another look...and I was very wrong.  This was an amazing Varnish example...most color I have examined on a del Gesu.  Thanks to all who made the exhibit possible.

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