This post originally appeared on the ‘fiddlefish.com’ blog. It’s here for archival purposes only.
I had some very interesting conversations with a fellow violinist the other day, Elissa Cassini. Recently, she was back in her native Angers, France, where she got to play on a couple of brand-new violins by Patrick Robin. She owns a Robin and has been playing on it for a few years now. She went on to say that he is a relatively unknown maker, but, I had certainly heard of him. Robin and Prague maker Jan Spidlen were the top two on my list after a ton of research with whom to commission a new fiddle (I ended up going with Jan in the end). So, there I was, trying out her Robin, when she said that this 2010 violin Robin just finished — was unreal. It’s only a month or two old, and it already has a voice that of a 300 year-old Italian instrument. She was blown away. And I was really quite impressed with her current Robin; playing it while she told me about his new creations. It certainly had a enormous sound — more-so than the Gregg Alf that was sitting next to me — with the G-string being as punchy as anything I have heard in a good while. But alas, something was missing. We blankly stared at each other for a long moment looking for the right words to describe it. Then Elissa said: “It has a very direct sound — but — it’s like impossible to play sweetly.” I agreed. I said: “it’s fighting my vibrato. It’s impossible to play vibrato on this thing. It directs the vibrato into a void — weird.”
Elissa and I are in the same boat, more or less. A lot of us are. I think we feel that it’s just going to be a long life of upgrades until we have something great. It could be. I heard a rumor, here, in Switzerland, that professor and violinist Jamie Laredo put down a cool million recently in purchasing a Montagnana violin. Now, wouldn’t that be nice!