Albertus Bekker's blog


Lee and Anichenko win in South Africa

Yura Lee and Georgi Anichenko won the violin and cello categories respectively at the Unisa International String Competition in Pretoria, South Africa. The 24-year-old Lee, from South Korea, played the Tchaikovsky Concerto in the final. Anichenko, also 24, from Belarus, won with his performance of the Dvorák Cello Concerto. Each winner was awarded a first prize of R200,000 (£16,500).


String Fever video

With their electric instruments and unique sound, the worlds first genetically modified string quartet combine exceptional musical skill with a real talent for involving and engaging audiences to provide you with an experience you’ll never forget.


Making violas: reconciling size and sound

I came across this transcription of a talk given at Lutherie2006 Conference, Newark on Trent, 13 May 2006 by Helen Michetschläger. It is posted on her website here. It is a really good and useful description of her philosopy on viola design and the particular challenges the larger instrument poses. Good stuff!

I'm particularly pleased to have the opportunity to talk about one of my main areas of interest, making violas. This is going to be a practical rather than a theoretical talk, based on my experience of meeting and working with many viola players and teachers, discussing ideas with colleagues and trying things out at the workbench.

I think that making violas is one of the most interesting aspects of violin making today. Players demand powerful and responsive instruments in a size they can manage. As there are fewer good old violas than violins or cellos, viola players are often less conservative in their expectations. This gives us as makers a wonderful opportunity to be creative; to experiment and to test out ideas.


Mummy - something to send shivers down the spine....

I recently strolled into a second-hand bookstore and came across a book entitled “Artists’ Pigments c. 1650-1835” by R.D. Harley. It looked like an excellent reference for the trials and tribulations of a violin maker and I promptly bought it. I would like to share with you a section from this book that is probably worthless from a violin making point of view … on second thought, we are dealing with a craft where terms like dragon’s blood, cat gut, tail-hair of Mongolian mare are not uncommon.


Highest price ever for a violin?

The following article is by Daniel J. Walkin and appeared in the NJ Times and describes what is probably the highest price ever paid for a violin. Astonishing!

With tears in his eyes the violinist Aaron Rosand left his soul behind in a London hotel suite last week.

That is how he described the sale of the instrument he had played for more than 50 years, the ex-Kochanski Guarneri del Gesù. The buyer was a Russian billionaire whom Mr. Rosand declined to identify and who paid perhaps the highest price ever for a violin: about $10 million.

“I just felt as if I left part of my body behind,” Mr. Rosand said on Wednesday, overflowing with metaphors for what the instrument meant to him. “It was my voice. It was my career.”


What every string player should know about pegs

This article is by Eric Meyer and appeared in Strings and it gives some good advice about pegs and how to maintain them. The original can be found here.

“Pegs don't get a lot of respect,” says Eric Meyer, a Portland, Oregon, craftsman whose handmade fittings grace some of the world’s great instruments. “People think of them kind of like tires. They wear out and you throw them away.”

Pegs may draw little attention when they do their job well, but there’s no ignoring them when they won’t turn, refuse to stop at the right place, or, worse yet, or let go altogether. And, like tires, if one pops at the wrong time—say in the middle of an audition—the results can be, well, spectacular, though not life-threatening.

Recalcitrant pegs are not only a vexing nuisance; left unattended they can lead to serious damage that will diminish the value of your instrument. Luckily, a little understanding will go a long way toward staying in tune.


Squeezing in a practice session...

Image Really serious players take every opportunity to practice...

William F. Fry: a physicist's quest for the 'secrets' of Stradivari

This is an article by Kameshwar C. Wali that I found here. It gives a profile of William Fry - a physicist - and his efforts to understand what makes the old Cremonese violins so special. I don't necessarily agree with all of his opinions, but it is nevertheless a very interesting read, especially the part on the effect of frequency ranges on the sound.

The origin and early history of the violin remain shrouded in mystery despite much research and speculation. The instrument appeared in its present form in the early sixteenth century, predominantly in Italy. Two schools of luthiers flourished: that of Gasparo Bertolotti, or Gasparo da Salo (1542-1609) in Brescia, and that of Andrea Amati (c. 1511-1581) in Cremona. The Cremona school dominated the scene for the next two centuries. Amati and his descendants ushered in an extraordinary period of violin making, which peaked between 1650 and 1750. All the violin makers lived and worked side by side around a courtyard in front of the St. Domenico church, where they produced instruments of great beauty and exquisite sound. The most celebrated of all, Antonio Stradivari (1644?-1737), brought unsurpassed perfection to the instruments he built.


Nicolo Paganini and gut strings: the history of a happy find

I came across the article below by Mimmo Peruffo on this website. It tells the story of some gut strings that were discovered and that can possibly be connected with Paganini. On the website there is also a nice section describing how modern gut strings are made. Interesting, but also slightly disturbing...

Click on the thumbnails for full size images.


Thanks to a series of fortunate circumstances, abetted by the tenacity of Dr Tatiana Berford, correspondent in Novgorod of the Istituto di Studi Paganiniani in Genoa, and later of Dr Philippe Xavier Borer of Boudry (Switzerland) on a communication by Dr Maria Prestia Sanfilippo (the former director of the Ufficio Promozione Città Turismo e Spettacolo), a series of finds from Paganini's day have recently been discovered in Genoa. 


Carleen Hutchins, innovative violin maker, is dead at 98

In the mid-20th century, when Carleen Hutchins was at the height of her career, it was unusual enough for a woman to make violins. It was even more unusual for a violin maker to conduct hands-on acoustic research, harnessing technology so that modern hands might build instruments to rival the work of 17th- and 18-century masters.

But Mrs. Hutchins did something more unusual still. Working intently and noisily in her home in Montclair, N.J., she helped reimagine the idea of what a violin could be.

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