Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Stanley Steamers, X-Rays, and Violins! Huh?

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
 and Kevin Berdine

A long time ago, an elderly woman brought in a violin she wanted to sell. Like many old violins, this one had a story. When she was a girl, her family had owned movie theaters during the silent movie era. They hired musicians to play music during the movie. One musician, a violinist, stayed with her family until about 1933. One day in 1933, he just disappeared. He took almost all his belongings, but he left this violin under his bed. Since that day, no one had played the violin. I opened up the case and there was a beautifully made violin with a wonderful varnish. It was made by F.O. Stanley in Newton, Massachusetts in the year 1889. The top was made from Spruce that looked very similar to Spruce on Cremonese instruments from the same era. The Maple on the back, though, reminded me of European Maple I had seen on the dashboard of an early automobile, a "Stanley Steamer". Strange, but this is a strange business.

A Stanley Steamer Automobile

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kreutzer (?) Sonata: An Inspirational Work

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
 and Kevin Berdine

The birthday of the great French violinist Rodolphe Kreutzer is on November 15. This year, his birthday inspired a discussion in the shop about the Kreutzer Sonata, The Kreutzer Sonata, The Kreutzer Sonata, the Kreutzer Sonata, and a few more 'Kreutzer Sonata's. Of course, we mean, the sonata, the novella, the painting, the string quartet, a ballet, and several movies and plays. Too bad Rodolphe Kreutzer never played Beethoven's Kreutzer Sonata.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Title Bout: Guarneri del Gesu versus Stradivari. Which is Best?

Written by Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins,
and Kevin Berdine

Be careful what you ask for. This morning, while taking photos (to send to a customer) of an Atelier Cremone del Gesu model, I asked Andy "what's the difference between the models of del Gesu and Stradivari?" And, in Andy's usual fashion he exclaimed "Great idea! You have figured out your next blog posting!" Then he showed me some resources and sent me on my way.
1703 "Lady Harmsworth" Stradivari

1743 "Il Cannone" Guarneri del Gesu
The violins of del Gesu and Stradivari are at the utmost pinnacle of violin making. Each innovated violin making and broke away from the highly arched traditional forms of Stainer and Amati. Interestingly, however, the strides that both makers achieved were completely different from one another. Stradivari is known to have executed his violins with extreme physical elegance. Because of their extreme beauty, Stradivari's violins were immediately sought out by the courts and nobility of Europe. A Desiderio Arisi manuscript, written in 1720, lists many nobility, from princes and dukes, among those who purchased instruments from Stradivari. In contrast, del Gesu's instruments were rougher and much more unique. Each instrument left the shop with a much more adventurous design. Although rougher in design and workmanship, his instruments yielded a wonderful tonal palette that was both beautiful and powerful. His instruments, unlike Stradivari, were used by the the common musician who required a great sound without the high price tag.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Beethoven and Bonaparte. The Eroica Was Almost the Bonaparte

Written by: Andy Fein, luthier at Fein Violins
 and Kevin Berdine
What does a cantankerous musical genius and a man of short stature with plans of taking over the whole of Europe have in common?