Sunday, April 08, 2007

John Marchese on modern luthiers in the NYT

The New York Times of Saturday, April 7, 2007, has a piece on the op-ed page by John Marchese, author of the newly appearing The Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries Old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop, all about comparing Strads to modern violins. I am not in a position to judge, well, anything about whether a Strad violin or cello can be heard to differ from a modern instrument. I just wouldn't have the ear or expertise.

I can say, though, based on the experience of shopping a couple of times through instruments out of my price range in cellos, that if I wanted to radically improve my cello playing, the easiest way to do it would be to ... purchase a much more expensive instrument. It seems very likely to me that at the top range of instruments, the quality is as good as the ancient workshops of Cremona. But the difference between what I sound like on my $10,000 high school student cello (Cremona 1988) and a $100,000 instrument, old or new, is pretty striking. I can hear it when I play and when I hear it played back recorded. Ooh. Cello lust and envy.

There is, by the way, a great little book - a lovely belles-lettres essay - The Countess of Stanlein Restored, by Nicholas Delbanco, describing the restoration of a Strad cello by a modern luthier.

I have not been playing my cello very much at all these days - I've been on the road so much, it's been difficult. I want to get back to it, and will as soon as I get back from the last road trip for a while, Thursday to Monday this upcoming week for a board meeting of MDLF in New York City. I'm distressed though that I will miss my daughter Renee playing in her conservatory recital next weekend - she doesn't get a chance to play very often in recital, although the conservatory has them monthly, on account of her homework schedule - she will be playing the prelude from the second Bach cello suite. She is getting a very lovely, sure tone out of it - not too fast, and getting a sense of the cadence. And without me saying a word - we're way past the point where Daddy is allowed to play cello coach.

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