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Best American Violin Maker


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#21 MANFIO

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 05:09 PM

Hi Glenn! I don't agree also that it takes 50 years for a violin to get it's maturity and being used as a concert instruments. I had one of my violas used as a concert instrument with a State Orchestra in Denmark. Boris Brovtsyn also said that one violin I made in 2005 was a soloist instrument, and it would be good for playing Shostakovich concertos.

#22 Ken Nielsen

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 07:15 PM

There's no question that a Michael Darton instrument would rank highest among American makers.

#23 oldgeezer

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 08:14 PM

I think Erica made the telling comment. Top soloists have access to the top soloists instruments. Does anyone play something other than a Strad or Del Gesu?. The only one who comes to mind is Hilary Hahn who plays a Vuillaume. Soloists own a few violins but they aren't going to advertise what they are playing in a situation where they don't want to risk their expensive fiddle.

If you lower the criteria to top professionals, symphony players and chamber players, it gets more interesting. The old Italians may predominate but you'll find plenty of less expensive violins both old and new being used to earn a living and quite capable of holding their own. One problem of the older American makers mentioned is that expensive restoration of any condition issues can't be justified. No matter how good the instrument may be for its utility value, it isn't an expensive Italian violin.

#24 Melvin Goldsmith

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 09:23 PM

Hi Oldgeezer, Another who comes to mind is Cristian Tetzlaff who used to play a Stard but now extolls the virtues of his main concert instrument made by Greiner in 2001...click and paste link for the first google entry I could find...Think Tetzlaff also talked about it in the Strad..Link....http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2005/02/10/bmviolin10.xml&sSheet=/arts/2005/02/10/ixartright.html......Many good modern makers boast top players as clients but as you imply these players have several good instruments and normally they chose their old Cremonese for concerts!....and what counts is what they perform on. Tetzlaff performs on a modern violin and he is happy to talk about it from what I can gather. Rivka Golani is another player who comes to mind having built a career with a viola made by Otto Erdez. .....There must be other players whose primary concert choice is a modern as described by them rather than makers adverts & press releases ( any more anyone?) . One of my favourite recordings for sound is ex Liverpool Phil leader Malcolm Stewart playing a Scarampella violin.....Top players know that it is a special feeling for a big part of the audience that they are listening to a great player playing the work of a great composer...and extra special if it is played on a great instrument like a Strad or del Gesu....Part of the audience wants to eat out after the concert knowing they heard a Stradivarius!....It's quite a brave step for a soloist to proudly write on the program notes that they play a modern instrument....Some concert goers who value their dull ears and preconceptions over the raified taste of the performer might be disapointed.
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#25 crazy jane

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:32 PM

I believe that Elmar Oliveira frequently performs on instruments by a variety of contemporary makers--most notably this one by Curtin and Alf (who've so far passed unnoted on this thread) and a more recently commissioned copy of a del Gesu. In fact, he recorded a concerto on the one in the link.

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#26 Melvin Goldsmith

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:41 PM

Is that mentioned in Oliviera's PR or Curtin & Alf's or both?
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#27 GlennYorkPA

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:43 PM

A couple of comments:

Manfio (Hi) - I wasn't necessarily implying that it takes 50 years for an instrument to reach ideal performance characteristics. As I mentioned, some violins achieve admirable tone from the get go but if one is going to pay the big bucks for a good instrument (e.g $100,000+) one needs to be reassured that it won't deteriorate after a few years. Only the concensus of players over a generation or two can provide this confidence.

This is the situation we are now in with Chinese violins. The top end instruments are superb but we don't know how long the wood is seasoned or what 'treatments' might be given to enhance the tone. They will remain inexpensive until confidence is established.

Oldgeezer - you make a strong point about the cost of repairs. I guess my motivation in asking the original question was to assess whether the old, American violins are under-appreciated (not to say undervalued). I have violins by Hyde, Ricard and J.B. Squier and they play well, especially Andrew Hyde who managed to produce a wonderfully powerful and resonant lower register, but I'm not sure I would put any put them in the top flight. Certainly good enough for orchestral work but maybe not beyond that.

I have never played a Becker but I only hear good comments and the price of Beckers has soared so they must be good.

I had hoped that the recent event on 'The American Violin' at the Library of Congress would put American lutherie into perspective and raise its stature on the world stage.

It didn't!.

Glenn

#28 crazy jane

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Posted 10 July 2006 - 10:45 PM

It's on Curtin's site--also mentioned in Strings Magazine....

When we saw him perform Brahms last year, I believe he was using a brand new instrument--didn't recognize the maker (not Curtin/Alf).

J.

#29 MANFIO

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 08:31 AM

Hi Glenn! I've never seen "sound deterioration" of a new instrument.

Problems associated with too thin plates (that are the most mentioned cause of "sound deterioration") can be spotted imediatly, since it produces sound problems from the very beggining of the instrument's life, such as hollow sonority, poor sound on high position on the bass strings, wolves, etc (as a player I can feel that).

"Sound deterioration" can be caused by problems with the set up (unoticeble by most of players), wrong string choice, etc. Sometimes it even occurs that the sound of the violin is the same but the opinion of the player about what "good sound is" had changed over the time.

And every instrument (even by the same maker) is unique. I've heard a Peresson that had a very open sound (a bit unsophisticated to my ears) but I know one in our local orchestra that is totally different in sound.

#30 Selim

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 09:01 AM

"--Assuming that it takes about 50 years for a violin to reach tonal maturity--"

I believe, aging helps violin's tone, If the violin is one with good acoustic balance already.
I think fifty or five hundreds years will not make much difference in a violin that is poorly constructed acoustically.
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#31 MANFIO

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Posted 11 July 2006 - 09:50 AM

In the case of violas, violists are almost obliged to play on modern instruments, because old ones are scarce. Stradivari made about 14 or less (and they aren't a must among violists...). Del Gesù made none. Andrea Guarneri made perhaps 8. Violas made in the 19th century and most part of the 20th are on the too small side (38 centimeters, 39 centimeters, etc). Tabea Zimmerman plays a modern instrument, she started using it when it was brand new. The same for Pietro Farulli, of the Quarteto Italiano, he started playing his brand new viola when was young and used it for the rest of his life.

#32 GlennYorkPA

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Posted 16 July 2006 - 10:52 PM

Manfio,

In another thread, Jeffrey mentioned a violin which held its color nicely for 4-5 years and then developed a greenish color. This may not affect the tone but it will certainly affect the value of the instrument and reputation of the maker.

The varnish is one of the most noticeable aspects of a violin and time can play cruel tricks on it or it can work magic. I guess that was another aspect that was on my mind when I suggested it takes 50 years for a thorough assessment of a maker's work.

(I'm sure your instruments won't turn green but can you be sure the varnish will hold up well over the years?).
Glenn

#33 Lymond

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 10:01 AM

Manfio,
Not that I don't think modern instruments are wonderful, but in my experience there are lots of historical violas out there. Granted, not as many as violins or celli, but quite a few. Also, I'm not sure what you mean about the size. I suppose that perhaps my experience is limited, but when I've been viola shopping I've been never shown such small instruments as 39 cm, and many of the instruments have been early 20th and late 19th century instruments. My viola is 41.6 cm (late 19th century), and I've seen plenty of other violas in this range.

I guess my point is this: there are historical (and lovely) violas for sale right now and those violists who are not playing them are doing so by choice, not because of scarcity (not that there's anything wrong with that).

#34 oldgeezer

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 03:17 PM

I once commented to a violin maker that I have stripped plenty of varnished woodwork with darkened alligatored varnish from the late 1800's and early 1900's and wonder about modern violin varnish. He's a varnish cooking maker and said that researching varnish chemistry will quickly turn up information about the well known causes of bad varnish and the reasons for the bad commercial varnish of that era. There's plenty of good violin varnish available today and plenty of information about varnish chemistry.

Of course if a violin maker chooses to ignore all the information available about varnish, dyes and pigments then bad results are possible. The green look from using dragons blood is well described by Michael Darnton "Sometimes we do things that make us think we know better than a couple of hundred years of collective experience, and then BLAM! "

#35 Lymond

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 05:42 PM

Ooh! Everyone check out this month's Strad. Talk about relevant. The article is titled "American Beauties." The article mentions the following makers:

John Antes (1740-1811)
Peter Young (they cite an instrument made in 1778 in Philadelphia... though they also mention that it wasn't very pretty)
Abraham Prescott (1789-1858)
John Albert (settled in Philadelphia in 1852)
George Gemunder (came to the US in 1847... trained by Vuillaume)
Herman Macklett (the maternal grandfather of Carl Becker Sr. arrived in America in the early 1860s)
Asa Warren White (1826-1893)
O.H. Bryant (1873-1943 his clients included Kreisler, Ysaye, and Zimbalist)
Simone Sacconi (brought by Emil Herrmann in 1933 he was American for 40 years)
Carl Becker Sr. (1887-1975)
William Moennig Jr (1905-1986)

An interesting article. Check it out.

#36 MANFIO

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 06:26 PM

Hi Lymond! Perhaps you haven't seen many 39 cm violas just because dealers haven't bought them, but they are in some place, many of them.

I'm with Blot's book on Piemonte school in my hands now. Fagnola 401 milimeters, Marengo Rinaldi 400 mm., Rocca 400 mm., Rocca 392 mm., Pressenda 394 mm., Felice Guadagnini 390.

On Blot's book on Lombardia and Veneto: Riccardo Anoniazzi 395.

As a viola maker, I'm allways observing viola models and sizes, and I've noticed that.

#37 fiddlecollector

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 06:36 PM

I see alot of smaller violas at auctions and they dont bring particularly good prices ,even when they are nice looking 18th century Italian.I see alot more small sized English violas though than any other school.Also many were obviously much larger and often originally viols or tenor instruments. I think there must have been a massive viola chopping fad going on in 19th century Britiain.

#38 PhilipKT

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 07:03 PM

This is a terrific thread. I am buying a David Caron, and it arrived last week.

Words don't describe the sound, nuance, and power of this cello. It's just amazing...I told the maker I'd be interested in seeing a new cello that played better, so I was about to post a question asking about "Greatest American cello makers."
The most wonderful thing about being an advanced string player is the abilty to experience these instruments both as works of art and as working tools.

I think what one must first do is distinguish between a maker as cello maker, and/or as violin/viola maker. For instance, I have heard much about Erdezs' violas, but not a peep about anything else he makes, to the extent I wonder if he's ONLY a viola maker.
One local viola friend sold her Caron viola and is playing a Matsuda, and another viola sold her Peresson and is playing a Caron.
(I don't recall seeing Matsuda's name yet, BTW)

Overall, isn't Becker the most respected financially? I am told that a good condition Becker Sr cello would sell for at least 60K.

Squire, Gliere, et all, are fine makers(I have a 1915 Gliere violin for sale, it's beautiful but not expensive) but I don't think they are in this category at all.

I wish someone would write a Book about the new england makers, because some of them, including both whites and william conant, made really fine violin, but I have never seen a cello by any of them...

#39 MANFIO

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 07:09 PM

Hi! Our MN friends Melving Goldsmith and Neil Ertz are fine cello makers.

#40 PhilipKT

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Posted 17 July 2006 - 07:24 PM

MN... does that mean Minnesota? If so, where?




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