Violin/Stradivarius Violin

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Hi David,

Thank you for sharing your knowledge and expertise with all of us. I started playing the violin at the age of six (Suzuki Method). It was my father’s dream to have me follow the path of a dedicated musician as was also hoped for my 3 siblings. He was never short of providing ample opportunity to all of us by always giving us the opportunity and also the backup with many tutors. The instruments that we were offered and encouraged to master were the violin, the piano, the flute and the clarinet. My biggest regret is that I never amounted to anything with all the support that was so generously given. I think that I probably was not blessed with a good musical ability. In my earlier years, after being faced with bridges breaking on a regular basis, my father found, after a little investigation, that I was turning the violin case upside down and using it as a toboggan down the grassy slopes on my walk back from my violin lessons. After all, the violin case was perfectly shaped just for this purpose! Anyhow, in a final ditch effort to rekindle my (or my father’s) dream of a musical genius, he decided to purchase the next size of violin with a good, rich sound, which is what I now bring into the equation. It was undoubtedly one of the most magnificent musical instruments I had ever laid eyes upon or heard. What a beautiful sound it made. But alas, a good sounding instrument doth not a musician make. After a while, my father relented and eased the pressure, which ultimately lead to the silence. I often took out the violin just to look at and to hold, desperately wanting to play it. But the peg board had a small crack which could no longer hold the peg. So the strings have lain limp for many years, only seeing light on the occasions when opened to be gazed upon and held lovingly. It has a really magical feeling. Every time, wishing that I had been able to fulfil both my and my father’s wish for me to be the most nimble of violinist. He had said to me on occasion that this beautiful instrument was worth something, so I humbly request that you look at this beautiful instrument, and tell me what I have been blessed with for all these years. What my father has invested in me only with his support is undeniably priceless, and I only wish that I had been able to convey my appreciation before he died in February 2012.
I would dearly like to cherish this violin for the rest of my life and pass it along to the generations to come, but I am beginning to feel rather selfish by “hiding” this instrument and not letting its enchanting sound be heard.

Answer
Hi Christopher
Your story is not that uncommon, parents wanting the most for their children and the children growing into adults before those dreams are even considered with any possibility. I remember myself sliding my violin case down the slick halls in Junior High school.

I can't tell much from the photographs as they don't show nearly enough detail and photos rarely do.  I can tell you for an absolute certainty that it is not a Stradivari.  The wood is not the same, the varnish is not the same, the workmanship is not of the caliber that Stradivari possessed and the instrument is no where near old enough.  The violin does appear to be made in Europe but probably not until the late 1800's. The darkening on the top of the violin by the bridge is most likely artificial to make the instrument look old, as real age in this area takes on a different look and looks more natural and less painted on.

The violin could still have some value, but probably no more than around $1500 in playing condition. To be sure of the value if possible I would take it to a violin shop for an evaluation. If you do fix it up, get the crack and any other gluing done and wait on any setting up to play until it can be used. Cracks need to be repaired as soon as possible so that it doesn't make it harder to repair them.  If you make the violin playable and just stick it away, much of that extra work will have to be done again when someone is ready to use it.  

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David Lashof

Expertise

I can answer questions on violin, viola, cello and bass making, repair and maintenance as well as supply general violin value ranges and information on instrument makers’ assuming the instrument's as labeled. I don't give values for modern makers as many of these modern makers are yet unknown to me. I can only give you feedback based on what information you give me, and no authority on the instrument can know every maker's work that ever lived. I have access to many books on makers and auction prices on over 25,000 makers, as well as having 36 years of experience with selling and appraising violins. Without having the instrument in hand, any estimate over the internet is just a guess as the label inside an instrument is more often wrong than right, so just having that information is not very useful. Pictures can sometimes be helpful but only so much, as the "feel" of the instrument along with small clues in workmanship and varnish cannot be seen in pictures. Any pictures should be high quality close-ups of the top and back. Additional photos of the front and treble side of the neck are also useful. It is always best to have an instrument seen in person at a violin shop that does appraisals. I can also provide advice on bows, rosin, strings and other string instrument accessories. As I am now retired, I have no bias towards selling anything; I only wish to share my knowledge and experience by providing information for those that may be getting confused by misinformation, misdirection or conflicting statements. (While I have seen many thousands of instruments and have performed numerous appraisals; if I have not evaluated an instrument in person, any information I set forth in an opinion is just that, an opinion based solely on what you have provided. Thusly, no financial decision should be based on that opinion, but rather, further investigation should be performed by having the instrument examined in person.)

Experience

I am a retired violin maker and repairman with 35 years experience having worked in Chicago and Maryland at 5 different violin shops and music stores including the first violin repairman at William Harris Lee in Chicago, the head repairman at Weavers Violins in Maryland, and in my own shop of 25 years. I have made 160 instruments and have restored countless professional level and student grade instruments. I am an accomplished violinist having performed with semi-professional as well as amateur groups although I haven't played for years and mostly stay away from questions about playing. I have taught violin making and restoration to about 20 students; three of which have gone on professionally and now have their own shops. I know violins from playing, selling, repairing, making and teaching.

Organizations
Violin Society of America (VSA). American String Teachers Association (ASTA)

Education/Credentials
I graduated from the prestigious 4 year Chicago School of Violin Making in 1981 under Master Violin Maker Tschu Ho Lee. I also studied with violin maker Willis M. Gault in Washington DC from 1973-75, who was the former owner of the oldest known example of an instrument from the modern violin family, an Andreas Amati Viola.

Awards and Honors
2008 Chester Petranek Award for service to the music community. ASTA award for service. Top All Expert in Violin for 2014 and 2015.

Past/Present Clients
I have worked with many professional musicians from DC area Symphonies as well as players from all over the US. Here are just a few, Leonard Slatkin - Former conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra. Doris Gazda - Nationally renowned string specialist and composer. Bernard Greenhouse, Tanya Anisimova - Internationally renowned Solo Cellists. Jody Gatwood, Mark Pfannschmidt, Lori Barnet, Doug Dubé, Judy Silverman - National Philharmonic Orchestra. Robert Blatt, David Hardy, Glen Garlick - National Symphony Orchestra. Eddie Stubbs, Brendan Mulvahill, Nate Leath - Professional Fiddle Players. David Basche, Pat Braunlich, John Knudson, Romano Solano, Ed Ferris, Fred Lieder - freelance musicians.

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