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What is the best instrument you’ve ever heard?


Arbos

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Quite simple, what is the best instrument you’ve ever heard live?

For me, Isaac Stern’s Guarneris, Panette and Ysaye, particularly the Panette. I got lucky and heard Anne Sophie Mutter play on her Stradivari, Capucon on the Panette and the concertmaster of the Paris Orchestra on his Stradivari in 3 consecutive days in the same hall and the Panette was incredible, so much better than either Strad. The Ysaye I’ve heard three times, when Khachatryan used to play it, always in the same hall, and it was incredible, way more depth and volume than Kavakos’ Willemotte Strad that I heard the same year in the same hall.

I’ve also heard great things about the Soldat del Gesu and the Soil Strad, but I’ve never had the opportunity to hear them live.

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32 minutes ago, Christopher Jacoby said:

Brings up a favorite thought process of mine-- Am I hearing the violin, or the player?

Obviously both. But at such high levels of playing, what is theirs, and what is the fiddle's?

True. That’s why I’m looking forward to hearing Ben Beilman play the Ysaye del Gesu, I wonder whether the violin will make the same impression on me!

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

For me, it was a Carlo Bergonzi which came through the Weisshaar shop, in terms of both sound and playing properties. (I was a pretty decent player at that time.)

You still get to play a bit? Legend has it you were quite good

I have Bergonzi copy that I love.

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4 hours ago, Christopher Jacoby said:

Brings up a favorite thought process of mine-- Am I hearing the violin, or the player?

Obviously both. But at such high levels of playing, what is theirs, and what is the fiddle's?

"What you think you heard is not what I thought I played..."

 

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From my personal favorites list I particularly remember the Cannone del Gesu played by Isabelle Faust behind the scenes at the 1993 Paganini Competition, for it's really heroic abilities. Another memorable instrument was the 1693 ex-Bonnett Strad cello, and a DaSalo viola that I was adjusting many years ago which seemed to offer infinite possibilities.

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I've heard a few very good instruments in concert settings.  But I have to say the best times are when I'm visiting the shop and excellent players and very good instruments happen to meet for a short time. 

Once I was fortunate to hear a gorgeous Rocca played straight up bluegrass style... a rich and raw sound I will never forget.  Also seeing the shimmering, melted caramel-looking varnish on that fiddle has stuck with me ever since.  

Another time, a classic early Martin guitar came through the shop, its only depreciation due to refinishing.  It was handed to a incredibly talented and well known guitarist to "see what he thought".  He took it and immediately went into playing mode for 45 minutes, going from one tune to another without stopping or looking up - he was in his own world.  I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

But I think my favorite was hearing a friend play his Gagliano just to try out different types of  rosin.  This was quite literally "fiddling around" to him, but I was mesmerized. 

 

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I've heard only a few great players live, but at the same hall and same orchestra, Kavakos sounded absolutely beautiful on his Falmouth Stradivarius 20 years ago, Capucon on his Del Gesu didn't sound quite as smooth and projecting. Both performances were more than 10 years apart so I might be listening differently ever since but Kavakos was unforgettable, that feeling of not being loud, yet you can hear everything he played. Not sure about the need for a better Strad...

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The instrument that impressed me the most was a pre-war Martin D-18 that Russ Barenberg was playing in the early 1970's.  As for a violin, I haven't been around too many great ones that I can remember.  There were some that were great... I just can't remember exactly what they were. One was a Montagnana of some sort, and the Ex-Jackson Strad is pretty good.  VSA winning violins also seem to be quite good.

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13 hours ago, Gtone said:

You still get to play a bit? Legend has it you were quite good

Only to test or adjust instruments when there's nobody else around. Due to a combination of not having practiced for 50 years, and nerve damage in my left hand, my playing now is abominable, and I'm not much into torturing people. ;)

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For me, 'il Cannone'. I've heard it played by a lot of different and very qualified musicians and everybody at the end of the day was positive about what they could do on it. The only one who lamented a bit was Maxim Vengerov but it was with the old soundpost that didn't fit well. Vengerov normally played a Stradivari and often musicians get categorized into those who prefer Stradivari over Guarneri 'del Gesù' or vice versa. I wonder.... Later I fitted a new post and fingerboard and the complaints stopped.

I also have fond memories of a Carlo Bergonzi in the Peterlongo collection in Milan, the ex Mischa Piastro c.1739-42. Sort of like the difference between a good tenor and Luciano Pavarotti.

Another excellent violin is the 'King' 1735 in the Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb, Croatia. Not to be confused with the 'King Joseph'.

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Funny, I thought Vengerov’s Strad to be almost disappointing. I heard him in recital and I only liked the violin when he played solo.

Another violin I loved was a small Guillamí, owned by a visiting professor when I was in my undergrad. It made me hunt for a Guillamí myself, but they’re very rare.

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