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What is the best instrument you’ve ever heard?


Arbos

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53 minutes ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

funny how all these people that claim modern makers are the best ever, all pick antiques as the best they've ever heard

What's funny about that? Since really old and super-expensive instruments tend to be the reference standard for various reasons or non-reasons, people tend to refer to these.

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25 years ago.  Was at a mentor’s house with some other members of our ensemble.  Mentor spoke no English.  There was a violin on a table. I just, without thinking, picked it up and played a few notes. “Holy crap, what the holy hell!?!” I hadn’t thought I had ever played or heard anything that sounded anywhere near my personal best violin.  But this thing... the reverberations gripped my soul.  Almost immediately, from across the room, I felt a stare boring into my soul.  The mentor.  I stopped instantly, mid-note. He stared.  I was frozen. I unfroze... then... gently, slowly placed it back on the table.  He looked away as if nothing had happened.  I’m still shaken, remembering that stare.

 

I asked a colleague, “What is that?”  She said, “It’s Italian, one of those beeerrzigggi or gorgozzi things or something I can’t remember the name, one of those Italian ones.”  I asked “How old is it?”  “1700s,” she says.  “What's it worth?" "A lot."

 

I don't know what it was, but I remember what it sounded like.  I wish I had something that could do what it did, but I am simply not good enough to have something like it, it should be played by a true virtuoso (and not one of the youtube pretenders)

 

In the years since I have tooled around with some fairly expensive fiddles, including one with a cute, non-pretentious $1,000,000 price tag.  None of them were even close to whatever that old Italian thing was.  I don't even really want to know what it was.  I'll just leave it as the memory, and the dream.

 

The mentor, he was very, very old then. He was once acclaimed world wide, a long, long time ago.  A virtuoso.

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At one VSA there was a shootout between the winning modern violins and some well-known Cremonese.  I thought the modern ones won, but in the end it's all personal preference.  I do, however, believe that age can do good things, giving old violins a significant advantage.  Check back in another 300 years and see what violins sound the best.

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1 minute ago, Don Noon said:

At one VSA there was a shootout between the winning modern violins and some well-known Cremonese.  I thought the modern ones won, but in the end it's all personal preference.  I do, however, believe that age can do good things, giving old violins a significant advantage.  Check back in another 300 years and see what violins sound the best.

In general, that has been my experience as well.  It might just be survivor bias though.  
 

The other thing I've found is that most newish fiddles sound like they are going to sound after just a few minutes of playing, while some older ones can take 30-45 minutes before they open up.  
 

Why, I have no idea, but it is a real phenomenon.

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1 hour ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

funny how all these people that claim modern makers are the best ever, all pick antiques as the best they've ever heard

Most soloists I’ve heard play on old instruments, so it´s hard to make a comparison. I haven’t seen Tetzlaff or Josefowicz live, for example.

By the same token, several older instruments have disappointed me. While I've liked every del Gesu I’ve heard, several Strads left me cold (for instance, the guitar shaped one that Joshua Bell used to play).

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1 hour ago, Arbos said:

Most soloists I’ve heard play on old instruments, so it´s hard to make a comparison.

While many soloists own or have use of old instruments, many also own modern copies of these instruments. How many people are truly qualified to know what instrument a performer is using, in a particular performance?

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23 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?

Amen. Reminds me of the story of Menuhin, when a student wasn't prepared and blamed it on his instrument, saying, if I was playing your Strad it would be a piece of cake... so Menuhin played it on the student's instrument (whatever it was), and it sounded like... wait for it... Menuhin :P

The best sounding violins I regularly hear are played by the best players I regularly hear, mostly in the workshop.

That said, they are playing - Bergonzi, Gofriller, Strad, Guadagnini... there is a surprisingly good Joseph Hel I know about.

I think Jan Špidlen's blue violin deserves a mention, and not for the varnish color. But then again, Šporcl is not bad either ^_^

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3 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

funny how all these people that claim modern makers are the best ever, all pick antiques as the best they've ever heard

I think there's a real (never-ending ^_^) "struggle" between fact and fancy.

Modern makers can be the "best ever" and people can still pick antiques and claim the sound as "the best they've ever heard". 

If "they" and their opinion on sound constitute a sample of 1, doesn't really mean much, does it?

Plus...we all tend to repeat the conventional wisdom...whether it's right or wrong.

Soloists perform on antiques because the audience wants them to. Rightly or wrongly, it sells tickets. People want to see top tier performers (relatively rare) playing really rare and horrendously expensive antique instruments. 

If that changes...opinions will change.

But, of course...that is unlikely to change because of the economics of the industry.

"Sorry, but no. Your 15-million dollar Strad is now only worth a few K. All the cool kids are playing Burgess and Soras."

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I heard Ray Chen a few years ago in Carnegie Hall playing one of the workhorse concertos with a large orchestra. Before he got through the second bar I said to myself “That’s a REAL violin”. He also played the Meditation from Thais accompanied only by a harp. It was stunning. The violin was a Stradivari (name and date not remembered). 
This was in June, 2019

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1 hour ago, David Burgess said:

While many soloists own or have use of old instruments, many also own modern copies of these instruments. How many people are truly qualified to know what instrument a performer is using, in a particular performance?

I had a visiting well known player show me his modern violin he travels with in the afternoon before his performance that evening.   Later in a preconcert talk someone asked what instrument he plays-he said uses his famous old violin.

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Here are a few that we have had the pleasure to hear up close that really left an impression on me.  I do suspect though that a world-class player and a world-class set-up on the instrument have more to do with the equation than the individual fiddle.

My own personal favorite is the 1864 Vuillaume played by Hillary Hahn.  It is a bench copy of the Il Cannone Guarneri and I just love the sound of it.  I expect that Hillary would sound impeccable on any instrument, but the power she can get out of this one is really special.

We got to hear Yo Yo Ma play Elgar on the Davidoff Strad cello last year up close.  I have heard recordings he has made with this instrument, and I wasn't blown away (compared to his Montagnana), but in person, it was really special.

Vadim Gluzman plays the 1690 ex-Leopold Auer Strad.....they are really incredible together.  A concert I won't ever forget for the tone Gluzman has with that instrument.

1699 Countess Polignac Strad with Gil Shaham playing

1741 ex-Vieuxtemps Guarneri with Anne Akiko Meyers

 

 

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Maybe we should be taking into account the bows these players are using as well.

They won't be Teppichklopfer's after all.

2 hours ago, Rue said:

All the cool kids are playing Burgess and Soras."

Hey Rue they'd be some cool 'rich' kids.If I ever grow up that's what I want too :D

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3 minutes ago, Gtone said:

...

... Teppichklopfer's ...

Hey Rue they'd be some cool 'rich' kids.If I ever grow up that's what I want too :D

Teppichklopfer...hahaha...

I hope you do grow up to be a cool rich kid! ^_^

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8 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

funny how all these people that claim modern makers are the best ever, all pick antiques as the best they've ever heard

Or, interesting to see which names were not picked from living makers as well as from famous makers in the past.

Anyone for JBV or GBG or NL or DP?

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...just to add:

 

I'm a total sound/tone snob.  I have gone to great lengths, and time, and EXPENSE to have a few fiddles that sound absolutely amazing. 

 

That being said, I realistically know that from more than 50 feet away, and maybe a lot less than that, pretty much any decent quality violin is more or less indistinguishable from any other, even to total sound snobs like me, and certainly to the average person.  What makes far more of a difference is strings.  Swapping strings makes a HUGE difference from a distance.  Swapping fiddles, less.  That's why, if those insanely priced $400 strings actually sound better than anything else, they're going to sell like crazy.  I hope they do, and that they give Pirastro some real competition.

 

Addition #2:  I think it's weird that all electric violins sound awful.  You'd think with all the advancements and millions and millions of dollars of research that have gone into making electric guitars sound crazy good, someone could come up with a way to directly plug in a violin that doesn't sound rubbish.

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18 hours ago, Casey Jefferson said:

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...

Quoting myself for leaving out Ray Chen...again same hall, I heard Ray on two instances, first was Beethoven concerto on his Strad, that distinctive smooth projecting sound very similar to Kavakos (though the G for some reason wasn't quite as projecting). 

Then the Lalo, which sounded so different, I believe it was his contemporary violin - somewhat powerful, but didn't have the projecting sound (the Strad felt as though the sound was physically caressing the ear), and he played so aggressively that it actually sounded scratchy.

I believe Ray chosen the (other) instrument for very good reason but...It was definitely a disappointment there (fortunately, he had some serious chop and energy and played fantastically!).

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3 hours ago, Aston4 said:

Addition #2:  I think it's weird that all electric violins sound awful.  You'd think with all the advancements and millions and millions of dollars of research that have gone into making electric guitars sound crazy good, someone could come up with a way to directly plug in a violin that doesn't sound rubbish.

I have always wondered this too....

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25 minutes ago, Matthew_Graesch said:

I have always wondered this too....

And I don't even mean it should sound like a good acoustic fiddle (though that would be nice), any more than I expect an electric guitar to sound like an acoustic guitar.

 

I mean, can no one make an electric violin that sounds like ANYTHING besides a duck being stepped on?  Maybe a MIDI fiddle and some better, focused programming... I've heard MIDI fiddles plugged into some kind of synth, but they sound terrible too.

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Hillary Hahns Vuillaume seems even, ringy and quite powerful. She shares practicing at her Instagram account. I also like Grappellis violin. He probaly had many, but I think the main one is a Gagliano.

Anne Sophie Mutters Strad she is playing in the Musikverein, solo in front of the orchestra Bach, in memory of Karajan. The nerve in the performance and the situation probably have an effect too. She has two Strads.

Colin Gough also has a Vuillaume with a nice ringy e-string. I amy prefer ringiness from my Hardangerfiddle background. 

There are several «world class» instruments in our family. 

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12 hours ago, Marty Kasprzyk said:

I had a visiting well known player show me his modern violin he travels with in the afternoon before his performance that evening.   Later in a preconcert talk someone asked what instrument he plays-he said uses his famous old violin.

:lol::lol::lol::blink:

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23 hours ago, Strad O Various Jr. said:

funny how all these people that claim modern makers are the best ever, all pick antiques as the best they've ever heard

I am one of those who believe (with some evidence) that age does things to the acoustics of wood, often of a desirable sort.  With thousands of old violins still around, top players can pick out the good ones.  There are plenty of mediocre and even horrid antique violins, but you won't hear them.

In my previous listing of impressive violins, I failed to mention a Mario Miralles that a non-famous violinist played, and I thought it was amazing.  If I hadn't already heard of Miralles, I certainly would have forgotten the name.

10 hours ago, Aston4 said:

I mean, can no one make an electric violin that sounds like ANYTHING besides a duck being stepped on?  

I believe there are  (or were) some researchers working on that (Collin Gough?).  I don't know how well it's going, but the lame attempts I have made at using an equalizer to adjust a violin sound hasn't worked out terribly well.  An acoustic violin response is extremely complex, and that's even before you think about transients, which are also important.

I'm not sure what the market is for and electric to acoustic converter, as opposed to a small mic that can be mounted on the instrument.

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