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Violin and luthier

   Not long ago, a concert held at Wigmore Hall in London, England, was packed. The concert played a string trio of Schumann and Mozart for violin, cello and piano, which won the audience's fanatical love . Ms. Tangatzlav played on a soft-toned Guadagnini cello made in 1776. The violin played by her brother Kristen Tetzlaff lends even more charm to the tone. However, many people may not think of the origin of his violin - it comes from the hands of contemporary German luthier Peter Greiner.

  Christian uses two Greiner violins: one that has been with him for 10 years with a high tone, ideal for solo performances; Most of the instruments used by famous players were made by Italian masters hundreds of years ago, and they especially like the instruments by Antonio Stradivari because they are the best.

  Previously, Christian used two Stradivari violins and a Guadagnini violin. This time, his Greiner violin at Wigmore Hall was mistaken for a Stradivarius by the audience. Christian believes that the best contemporary luthiers can make violins of the highest quality at a fraction of the price of an antique violin made by a master.

  Peter Greiner has been making violins since he was 14, and now in his 40s, he has made 250. He worked closely with a physicist, Heinrich Duward, to make the violin sound closer to the human voice. Violins made by Greiner sell for $48,000 to $57,000 each. This price is much higher than the average level of contemporary excellent luthiers, but there are countless people who apply to buy Greiner violins.

  The last two decades have been a renaissance in string instrument making for luthiers (violins, violas and cellos) around the world. They can learn the craft at several internationally renowned violin making schools. However, the most prestigious in this field are Milan, Parma, and especially Cremona in Italy. Cremona was home to the Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari families of the most famous violin makers from the 16th to the 18th centuries.

  Cremona is a beautiful city in Italy, and the International Violin School is located in an ancient palace in the center of the city. On a sunny autumn morning, the students were at work. Most of them are from abroad, but they all chat and communicate in Italian. Fluency in Italian is one of the mandatory requirements for admission. All students have a strong interest in Cremona making.

  The International Violin School was established in 1937 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Stradivari's death. So far the school has trained 800 graduates. 300 of them are Italians, others are from abroad, including 58 Japanese, 48 Koreans, and even 8 from China, which is known for mass-producing cheap musical instruments. Some graduates have brought the Cremona tradition of luth-making back to their hometown, where two famous American luthiers, Joseph Curtin and Greg Alf, were trained here. And most of the students stay in Cremona after graduation to open their own shop. There are now about 150 luthiers here, hoping to benefit from Cremona's stellar reputation and swarms. Local chambers of commerce provide financial sponsorship for musical instrument fairs. An association of 65 luthiers certifies products and helps market the violins.

  The head of the association, Francisco Toto, believes that luthiers have benefited a lot from Cremona's long-standing craftsmanship, but that's not enough. The luthier craftsmanship in Cremona reached its peak as early as the end of the 17th century, and then began to decline in the mid-18th century as luthiers scattered around the world. At the end of the 19th century, a local mP made a lot of shoddy violins. It was not until after the opening of the International Violin School and the return of luthiers that high-quality violins were presented again.

  To create a good atmosphere, the Cremona Town Hall displays violins from famous violin makers, including Stradivari and Amati. Every morning, one by one, the management took the violins out of the glass booth and played them for a short while to keep these ancient violins in top condition. Other excellent violins are displayed in the Stradivari Museum. Every fall, the Violin Making Festival in Cremona offers a huge musical feast. The String Instrument Making Competition is held every three years.

  Luthier Gaspar Burchart's workshop is opposite the Cathedral of Cremona, the beautiful Romanesque building that inspired him. He said that the piano-making school here taught him superb piano-making skills, but more experience came from 27 years of practice. Burchart produces about 8 instruments a year, each of which takes 200 to 250 hours of meticulous and painstaking handcrafting, which also requires a lot of creative play from the luthier. Usually, the luthier starts painting the surface of a violin after it is completely finished, and then waits for the paint to dry before starting the production of the next instrument.

  Good luthiers in Cremona make good money. Some of the new instruments produced here sell for as much as 18,000 euros.

  It is more profitable to do repair work on an advanced instrument than to make a new one. Violins are quite fragile and cannot stand up to toss, and most of them have to be repaired sooner or later, so the demand for musical instrument repairs has never ceased. If a musical instrument is valuable, the cost of repairs will vary greatly depending on its price, so skilled repairmen can set their own prices accordingly.

  For some companies, professional violin making and repair skills are essential. For example, the British J&A Bill Musical Instrument Company has a history of more than 100 years, and many businessmen, appraisers and repairers work here. In fact, professional musicians rarely buy pianos from auctions, they prefer to find dealers they trust, said Francis Gillum, director of J&A Bills. J&A Bill Company maintains an extensive database of many antique violins that have been identified as genuine, and the company offers restoration services for these violins. Guillam said that the development of modern science and technology has further improved the restoration technology of musical instruments, and the repairers have more respect for the original instruments.

  In addition, the company's director Peter Beer also made a violin for the famous British violinist Nigel Kennedy. Many famous players use not only master-made violins, but also modern violins, not just because new violins can withstand the harsh air travel and the heat of central air conditioning, but also because some music actually works better with modern violins. good. Sometimes musicians just love these new violins. British female cellist Jacqueline Dupree uses two Stradivaris and a cello made by Matteo Ricci in Venice 300 years ago. Later in her playing career, she switched to a modern cello made in Philadelphia by Italian-born luthier Sergio Pleasant.

  The highest price ever sold for a contemporary violin was at auction in 2003. It was made by American luthier Samuel Zgmontowitz. The violin sold for $130,000. Former Soviet violin master Isaac Stern. Zgmontowitz is considered one of the most outstanding luthiers alive. Even so, such a high transaction price should be attributed to the fame of the owner who once owned it.

  Stradivari himself made almost 1,100 instruments, an astonishing number. He lived to be 93 years old, and his life is endless, making more than one. About 650 musical instruments he made have survived to this day, mainly the violin. The cheapest Stradivari violins are also selling for $1.6 million. The most expensive one was sold at auction in 2006 for $3.5 million. The few Stradivarius violins on the market generally only change hands privately. A very good Stradivarius violin sells for $10 million to $12 million. Some lesser vintage violins from Italy can also sell for hundreds of thousands of dollars, and prices continue to rise. a trader

Traders estimate that since 1950, the price of a good violin has increased by an average of about 12% per year.
  Such a high price point discourages aspiring young string players. In the context of the globalization of the string performance profession, they need to reach a higher level at a younger age and face tougher competition. Unless they come from a wealthy family, or quickly become famous by winning numerous competition awards in the hope that someone will give them a good quality instrument. A well-known young Scottish violinist, Nicola Benedetti, used a Stradivarius violin valued at $3.3 million, provided by a generous sponsor. Another young British violinist, Jennifer Pike, was trying to save up for a 1708 Ricci violin that sold for $400,000. These best young performers may be able to secure the trust of sponsors or interest-free loans, but they spend most of their lives buying expensive instruments.
  There is also an option for young players to go to Zgmontowitz, Greiner or other famous violin makers to have a beautifully handcrafted instrument made to order at a price they can afford . The sound of these violins is equally outstanding and beautiful, and only a very small number of listeners can hear the difference between them and the century-old guqin. However, most players who regard performance as their life will still do everything possible to get a century-old guqin.
  Every expert has a story about the blindfold test. In the blindfolded test, participants could not see the instrument but hear its sound, relying on hearing to distinguish whether to play a Stradivarius violin or a modern violin. As a result, they often misjudge. In fact, there are good and bad Stradivarius violins, and there are some very good violins today. With many fine-tuning tweaks, the instrument can look better when played, and a talented player can make a poor violin sound amazing in five minutes. Of course, he didn't want to always spend so much effort making the sound of the piano melodious all the time. Many musicians have no doubts that a great old instrument is more graceful when played than a new one.
  A self-reinforcing snob element is at work. If people think old instruments are the best, then a self-respecting player will want to use such an instrument, because it is also a respect for himself. And the old musical instruments have a history that makes them shine, the icing on the cake. For example, Stradivari produced many excellent musical instruments, which were used by famous artists and composers at that time, and were given a high evaluation.
  However, the difference between the old and the new instruments may not only be psychological. Even lovers of modern instruments often admit that the best vintage instruments are better than the best modern ones. This may have something to do with the age of the instrument itself. Most musical instruments are subject to wear and then come to the market with design changes. Only violins, violas and cellos can last hundreds of years with careful maintenance. They are workable antiques worth owning and collecting, most of which are still used to play today. The wood becomes dry and light over hundreds of years, but with continued use, wooden instruments are enduring.
  According to Francis Gillum, director of J&A Bill, Italian violins made in 1900 are now starting to improve significantly over the years. So maybe the best instruments of the next century are made today and will perform much better than they are now. Still, they may not be able to match the most extraordinary vintage instruments from Italian master luthiers.


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