It’s that time again–the start of the school year, the end of the summer season–time for getting out the grind stone and putting one’s nose to it, or whatever. Let’s hope that the “time off from playing” that many students take during the summer vacation didn’t cause all their skills to erode.
If it’s a new instrument or bow that’s in the cards in the near future, you’re in luck. I’ve had the opportunity to acquire many instruments in all price ranges.
The owner of Eastman Strings was able to buy about 300 violins from a friend of his who was closing his shop. They all went through the Eastman workshop for fingerboard dressing and quality ebony pegs, and I was able to snare 25 of them. They are in a few different grades, priced from $500 to $800, and they all have properly sized necks.
The owner’s daughter showed up in her big white truck, and I picked out some Pietro Lombardi violins, priced at $2000 and Pierre Lupot’s at $1500. Also arriving and sold immediately was an Albert Nebel cello, made with all European wood, selling at $4000.
The Camillo Callegari violins from Guang Hong are very popular, so I grabbed a bunch of them. I was very lucky that a fine violinist was in my shop at the time, and she auditioned the instruments for me, rather than the salesman* having to listen to me screech. A number of Guarneri models were chosen along with a Guadagnini that was especially nice, all priced at $2000 to $2200. Also available are the Heritage instruments, which are simply plain wood versions of the heavily flamed and antiqued Callegari’s. They come in at $1200 to $1500. I get these instruments from Arcos Brasil, the premier supplier of bows from Brazil. (*sans white truck)
Below $1000 there are many choices, starting at $400 with the new offering from Century Strings. These violins are made in their own workshop in Beijing, and the tops and backs are mostly arched and graduated by CNC machines, thus keeping the price down while producing a great sounding violin for the money. I also have some of their C.L. Wynn violins priced at $600 and $800. Also available are the Kai Yang violins that have been flying out the door in the last 2 years, but the price has gone up slightly to $500.
My latest score are the violins from Cedar Strings, the workshop of Zhenjie Zhao. Mr. Zhao and his wife and daughter (the only English speaker) showed up here about a month ago with a car load of instruments. I was very impressed with his $800 to $2000 range violins, and a bought a number of them. Then Huijuan, the daughter, asked if I wanted to see any “rental” grade instruments. I reluctantly said yes, and am I glad I did. She pulled out a beautiful violin that was anything but “rental” grade. Turns out that these instruments were made 5 years ago and varnished with a shaded orange finish that they no longer use. Otherwise, they are roughly the same caliber of instrument as their current antiqued violin selling for $800. I bought 6, and later that day I set one up. Then I called her and asked “how many more of these do you have?” Of the 40 remaining, I split the number with a shop in Maryland, and now I have 23 left (3 were sold). It’s simply the best $600 violin I have ever had.
Violas have been very popular lately, so I was very happy when the West Coast Strings white truck rolled in. A number of Paolo Lorenzo wide body violas now line the walls, in sizes from 15″ to 16 1/2″. These instruments are available in a number of different grades, priced up to $3000, but I have found that the Paolo Lorenzo is the best combination of price vs. sound at a mere $1200. Hopefully I will also be able to get a number of Xuechang Sun violas in all sizes. Mr Sun had to move his factory because of some government hijinks, so he’s a little behind in production.
Let’s not forget about cellos! Gang Shen from Tanglewood Strings pulled in with his white truck, and I bought some more cellos from the workshop of Hua Chang Jun. They have been a $2000 staple for the last 5 or 6 years, and they keep getting better. Jian Ming Li, the supplier of one of my $600 violins, is getting into the cello business, and I obtained two examples, priced at $1500 and $2800. I bought 4 of my regular $1200 Xuechang Sun cellos a few weeks ago, but they are mostly gone. More are arriving next week, along with 4 cellos from Deng Yan Shan (I haven’t priced these yet because I may have to install pegs–I don’t know if they have them fitted). Also coming is a cello from C.L. Wynn, a higher grade instrument priced at $3000. For some unknown reason, cellos have been flying out the door recently.
The bows from Brazil are still well represented with examples from Arcos Brasil, Horst John, and Buzzato Bows, priced from $350 to $800. Carbon bows from Glasser and China range from $100 to $450, and there are a number of vintage bows from $500.
I don’t have to remind you that all of the instruments I sell, no matter how inexpensive, are set up by me. In fact, it seems the cheaper the instrument, the more I have to do to it to make it fit to be sold here. You won’t get instruments set up like this from the internet or from dealers who sell orchestral instruments only as a sideline. Please impart this to your students and to their parents. Buying a violin is not like buying an IPad. The internet is not your friend, and it certainly isn’t mine. When you shop for an item like a violin, where functionality is chief among many other important factors, there is only one logical choice–BUY LOCAL, and buy from a specialist.
OLDER SELF PROMOTION
Of course, you can buy entry level outfits for a couple of hundred dollars online or from music stores, but they are not the quality that you deserve, and certainly not the quality that I expect. (My opinion: European entry instruments, although well made, are unacceptable because they are too heavy and do not sound well.) Have you already bought a bargain online? If it meets certain parameters of quality, it makes sense for you to have it professionally set up. I’ll be happy to give you an estimate.
All the instruments I sell are set up by me to my exacting standards. You will only find quality Pirastro, Thomastik, or D’Addario strings, the necks are smooth, the playing action is easy, the pegs work well, and I will not sell instruments that don’t sound the very best for their price points. Entry level instruments receive the same care as the $2000 ones. If you have a problem with any instrument I have sold it’s unlikely that you will have to pay to have it fixed for the first three years of ownership (basic maintenance and accidental damage excluded). Reliability is probably the most important factor in choosing an instrument at the dealer level, and my 48 years of experience allows me to choose only the best instruments and bows for my clientele–ones that I can stand behind (and cases that I can stand on).
Look here for a list of the latest new instruments: