players' instruments

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Information on how players relate to their instruments

A Famed Violin's Fantastic Journey

ImageThis article first appeared in the Dallas Morning News and was written by Mark Wrolstad. It tells the story of a famous violin and its astonishing journey. Enjoy!

The mystique of the name Stradivarius has resonated beyond classical music for generations, finding a place in the popular imagination and even urban legend. You don't have to know a violin from a viola to know the stories - some apocryphal - about one of the exquisitely rare instruments turning up in an attic or junk shop. Now add another stanza to what may be the most contorted tale of all the world's prized violins - a masterwork lost for half a century, today in the hands of a new master.


Play it again, Vieuxtemps. But for $18 million?

This article appeared in the NY Times recently and was written by Tom Hundley. The mind boggles...

After playing a few notes on the celebrated Vieuxtemps violin some years ago, Ruggiero Ricci, the American virtuoso, is said to have offered to trade his wife for the instrument.

After playing the Vieuxtemps, Mr. Quint said the instrument had “this ferocious power, this incredible beauty.”


Gidon Kremer on his Amati

This is from an interview Gidon Kremer conducted with Pamela Margles and appeared in The Wholenote in 2007. Amati violins and Amati model violins are not generally known for their big sound, and it is interesting that Kremer's experience is directly the opposite. Another side note is that this particular instrument was stolen and surfaced recently before Kremer acquired it.


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.”


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. 


Secrets Wonderful and Cruel

I came across this article that first appeared in the LA Times in 1997. It is a good description of the making process and how the history of the maker, player, instrument model and wood comes together to create a new violin. Enjoy!

By DUANE NORIYUKI, August 31, 1997


Ariane Todes talks to violin makers about their craft

I came across this on The Strad website in the blog of Ariane Todes. Interesting read...   AB

As part of the recent London International String Quartet Competition, I chaired a panel discussion with makers John Dilworth, Andreas Hudelmayer, Kai-Thomas Roth and Tibor Szemmelveiss. Here is a transcript of the conversation we had.

AT: Why should a player think about buying a modern instrument?

AH: It comes down to what playing power you get from your money and in my experience if you’ve got the typical budget of somebody who hasn’t just won the lottery then you will get a lot better playing instrument if you choose a good modern maker than if you go for what’s in your range in old instruments. You will need a big budget to find something that plays very well in an antique.

JD: It’s not to be underestimated, the business of making an instrument for a player. The player has the chance to direct what happens on the bench and specify what kind of instrument they like and want in every way and choose the right instrument for themselves. And they can have a relationship with the maker that can go right through their whole career and know that they can always go back to the person who made it if there are any difficulties.

AT: How does the relationship with players work?


Descriptive terms relating to sound

SoundwaveOne of the problems that violinmakers and violinists face is how to describe the sound characteristics of an instrument accurately. I often come across clients that want a 'dark' sounding violin. Or they complain that their violin is too 'nasal' or 'tinny'. What does that actually mean? Do we all understand the same thing if a violin is described as 'boxy' or 'bright'? Here is a list compiled by audiophiles to describe the sound of hi-fi equipment. I think it was written by Bob Neidorff of Texas Instruments and it was posted by Michael Darnton on Maestronet years ago.


Airy: Spacious. Open. Instruments sound like they are surrounded by a large reflective space full of air. Good reproduction of high-frequency reflections. High-frequency response extends to 15 or 20 kHz.

Bassy: Emphasized low frequencies below about 200 Hz.

Blanketed: Weak highs, as if a blanket were put over the speakers.


Blind Faith

What's in a label? Would a Strad sound as sweet by any other name? Blind tastings, popular in the wine world, offer a method of objective evaluation, but the string world doesn't believe in such tests. Alan Coggins wonders why.

By Alan Coggins (Published in The Strad, February 2007) 

The appreciation of fine violins is often likened to that of great wines. Both have the ability to stimulate and please our senses. Experts, connoisseurs and enthusiasts enjoy sampling and discussing their respective merits - a great Bordeaux vintage is treated with as much reverence as a golden-period Stradivari. The common wisdom is that both wines and violins improve with age. As John Townsend Trowbridge wrote

Violins ripen with age like wine?

With years a richer life begins,
The spirit mellows:
Ripe age gives tone to violins,
Wine, and good fellows.


Kavakos on Del Gesù and Stradivari

This is a quote from Leonidas Kavakos from the January 2009 Strad magazine:

Image"A great instrument is one that inspires the player to different directions in their playing, but doesn't force them to certain directions. That's the problem with many instruments by 'Del Gesù', and why if I was able to have one I probably wouldn't. This isn't the same with Stadivaris, although they have their own problems. Some are too bright and don't offer you the darkness of a 'Del Gesù'. Many Sradivaris have a silvery sound that is penetrating, with beautiful harmonic overtones. I've played quite a few violins by 'Del Gesù' and I find that with few exceptions, they direct the player to a certain approach and that is something I don't like. The instrument has to able to offer freedom." 




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