The new streamlined electric cello from Vector Instruments
promises a warm acoustic sound.
Vector Instruments unveiled its latest electric cello model this past spring. The new instrument is handcrafted from curly maple and black walnut, and features a traditional carved scroll, ebony fingerboard, and fully removable bouts. Vector utilizes the Barbera Multi-Transducer Bridge, coupled with a Fishman Preamp, to deliver a full, rich cello tone. A unique suspension top adds a warm, acoustic sound at any volume. Optional features include a five-string setup, low E and high E strings, and MIDI compatibility. Available in a variety of colors, and with a padded gig bag, the cello is priced from $3,495. For a one-week trial; or more specific information, e-mail email@example.com or call (902) 538-3271.
Motivating Young Musicians
Do you have a child, or work with a student, who could use some extra motivation? RainBows, a company founded by a pair of music teachers, has designed two alternatives to ordinary-looking bows that could mix a little extra fun into your lessons. Not only can you get bow hair dyed in seven standard colors (blue, red, green, purple, orange, yellow, and pink), but you can also get tri-colored hair (your choice of colors), and even a bow with ordinary hair but a glow-in-the-dark stick. The features appeal to young students, and the company claims school programs using the tri-colored bows find that beginning students are better able to associate bow placement on the string: when a teacher guides them a student to play at the tip of the bow, he or she focuses on keeping the blue hairs—not the yellow or green—on the string. The company also claims that the glow-in-the-dark models encourage kids to memorize their music, since they can’t read music in the dark.
RainBows’ beginning student model is a Glasser fiberglass bow with colored horsehair and silver winding. Prices range from $60 for a one-color violin bow to $90 for a one-color bass bow; add $10 for each additional color. An advanced student bow, the Glasser Composite, is also available. It offers a fully lined ebony frog, Parisian eye, silver winding, black shaft, and colored stallion hair. One-color prices range from $130 for a violin bow to $210 for a bass bow; again, extra colors are $10 each. An easy and inexpensive option is to send in your current bow to be rehaired, which costs $40 for a violin or viola bow (add $2 for a cello or bass bow). For more information or to order, visit www.fiddle.net/rainbows.html or call (800) 748-0586.
Another product for students is Perfekt Noten fingerboard labels. For players learning to adjust to a larger instrument, or just beginning to shift, Perfekt Noten provide position points for the fingerboard. The labels are inexpensive ($7 per set) and guaranteed not to leave a residue on the fingerboard once removed. Perfekt Noten fit most instruments in full and fractional sizes and are also available in the Discount Strings Center’s fall mail-order catalog for $6.25 per set. For more information, visit www.perfektnoten.com; or call Discount Strings Center at (800) 348-5003.
A new "string system" developed to help instrumentalists better customize their sound was recently released by Thomastik-Infeld. The system’s two sets, Red and Blue, offer an improved tonal balance by allowing players to choose the best sound for both upper and lower registers. The Red set produces a warm, dark sound, and the Blue a more brilliant tone.
The Red/Blue System is purportedly less sensitive to humidity and able to retain balanced tensions from string to string. "Until now, violinists who desired to shape the tonal texture of individual strings have typically mixed strings from different brands that have varying tensions," explains Marketing Director Helmut Frank. "[This] system enables players to easily adjust the tonality of their instruments without negatively impacting playability and tension balance." By combining strings from the two sets, musicians pick the tones that best fit their desired sound.
For a short period, these strings will be available at a special introductory offer (double-set packages sold for the price of one set). For more information, consult your local maker or contact John Connelly III at exclusive U.S. distributor Connolly & Co. (24 Vernon Valley Rd., East Northport, NY 11731;  644-5268).
Lyle Otten, proprietor of Pretty Good Woodworking, makes a striking music stand, perfect for any studio. The stand is made of solid southern red oak, with a turned column, a square hole for an extension rod, and sliding dovetails to attach the feet. Most notable is the music holder itself, which features a spreading oak-tree design, scroll-sawed out of the main platen. The stand can be raised, lowered, or tilted to fit any reading plane, and uses violin pegs to secure the adjustments. The stand is finished with Danish oil, waxed, and polished. Stand prices vary according to order and style, but run approximately $250. To order, call (310) 370-3305.
Shar Music has introduced a new music stand imported from France. The contemporary designs of Estien stands combine form and function. The stand has a desk height of 55 inches, and adjusts down to 18 inches. The strong wood-and-metal shaft and legs can support the heaviest of scores, and best of all, the stand is completely portable: it can be rolled up upon itself and features a built-in carrying handle. It is available in seven shades. To order, call (800) 248-7427 or visit www.sharmusic.com.
Several new Web sites have appeared with a lot to offer working musicians. Tired of losing chamber-music parts? Pay a visit Spare Parts to (at www.biols.susx.ac.uk/Home/Chris_Darwin/SpareParts), a sheet-music exchange site. A forum is set up for you to sign in and negotiate music for sale, or track down that bass part you lost ages ago.
New Music Now (at www.newmusicnow.org) offers an impressive look at today’s music for orchestra. The site features samples to listen to, background on each piece, composer biographies, information on how to purchase recordings, and interviews with performers. New works are added to the catalog monthly, and the emphasis is predominantly on American music.
Another site to bookmark is Busy Musician (located at www.busymusician.com), a portal devoted to providing musicians with business information, legal advice, and networking tools for building successful careers. The on-line magazine offers an archive, and current articles, on all facets of musical performance.
Members of the American Symphony Orchestra League are now able to access a new on-line version of the League’s traditional job-announcement service. Anyone affiliated with a member orchestra may post job announcements and search a database of resumés. It’s free to members and quite easy to maneuver through. All that is required is a League number to log on. Visit www.careers.symphony.org for more information.
String Celebration in Vienna
Thomastik-Infeld, the string manufacturer based in Austria, recently celebrated its 80th anniversary. It was founded in 1919, when Dr. Franz Thomastik, a violin maker and musician, and engineer Otto Infeld met as officers of the Austrian monarchy during the World War I. The duo decided to produce strings made from material other than temperamental gut, and the resulting steel strings revolutionized the string industry. Currently Thomastik-Infeld produces more than 3,000 different strings each year—80 percent of those for bowed instruments—for sale in more than 100 countries.
To celebrate the anniversary, company president Peter Infeld hosted a number of distributors, musicians, violin makers, journalists, friends, and colleagues at the Vienna Opera. The 120 guests were served a delicious lunch in the Opera foyer, after which a short concert was given by the Küchl String Quartet playing Haydn.
The next morning visitors were taken on a tour of the string factory, guided by research engineer Helmut Frank. Frank explained that even with the aid of special electronic machinery recently designed to help in the making of the strings, all the finishing operations have to be done by hand. And generally, each worker can produce close to 260 strings a day. An impressive performance.
VSA Convenes and Competes
This November, the Violin Society of America will head to Fort Mitchell, Kentucky (adjacent to Cincinnati, Ohio) to host its 14th Competition for makers of violins, violas, cellos, basses, and their bows. Recognized as one of the major events of its kind in the wold, the competition is held biennially and receives entries from around the globe. Instruments and bows submitted to the competition must have been completed before the November 1999 cutoff date. Contestants must also be members of the VSA. Visit www.vsa.to for contest rules and registration information, or call (845) 452-7557.
The VSA’s 28th Annual Convention will be held November 13–19, in conjunction with the competition. Lectures, discussions, and an open forum are all planned. This year, a special exhibit entitled "Contemporary Masterworks" will display works by past judges and VSA Hors Concours members (those who have won so many VSA competitions, they are asked to step aside and let others have a chance).
John D’Addario, the former head of J. D’Addario & Company, Inc., passed away on June 1, 2000, at the age of 84. John D’Addario was born into the string business—his father and uncle, emigrants from Salle, Italy, were beginning their own string-manufacturing company in Astoria, New York, when he was born in 1916. In fact, the family had been making strings since 1680. But it was D’Addario who transformed the tiny family shop into the world’s largest string manufacturer.
In the 1930s D’Addario entered the family business, focusing on the development of strings for guitar and other fretted instruments. He worked with luthier John D’Angelico to improve the acoustical properties of guitar strings, and also designed an innovative system of varying tensions in guitar strings.
D’Addario’s love of instruments went beyond the business: he was also an instrumentalist, playing double bass in a band well-known at the time in the Brooklyn, Queens, area.
D’Addario is survived by his wife of 61 years, four children, 12 grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren. Donations, labeled "In memory of John D’Addario, Sr.," may be sent c/o Mercy Hospice, 1220 Front St., Uniondale, NY 11563 (include a return address for an acknowledgment card). For more information, call (516) 485-3060.
This past spring also saw the passing of Richard Neil Mooring, a member of the board of directors of John Hornby Skewes & Co., Ltd. Mooring also served on the Statistics Committee of the Musical Industries Association. He was educated at Leeds Grammar School, and joined John Hornby Skewes & Co. when he was 19 years old, in 1970. He is survived by his wife, Alison, and two teenage children, Nicholas and Rebecca.
Christie’ branched out from its usual London venue on May 5, 2000, holding a fine-instrument auction at Christie’s East in Manhattan. A violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1700, called the "ex–Emil Heerman," sold for $1,326,000 (all prices listed here include buyer’s premium). It was acquired by an anonymous patron of the arts who plans to loan it out to musicians. The violin is thought to have been owned by Albert Caressa of Paris, and passed to Rudolf Wurlitzer in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1915. Shortly after, the violin was sold to Mrs. Charles Phelps Taft, one of the founders of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, who presented it to the Symphony’s concertmaster—Emil Heermann. Other sales included an 18th-century Venetian violin by Carlo Tononi, ca. 1720, which sold for $52,875, and a violin by Camillo Camilli of Mantua, which realized $52,875.
Several record prices warrant attention from Skinner’s May 7 sale in Boston. A rare Guadagnini violin sold for a record $288,500. A violin by Pietro Sgarabotto of Parma, Italy, made in 1932, sold for $23,000. A violin made in Milan by Carlo Antonio Testore in 1721 brought $79,000. And a third violin, made by Bostonian O.H. Bryant in 1921, garnered $6,325. Exemplary violin bows included three stunning French examples: a silver-mounted bow by Dominique Pecatte, ca. 1850, with a period frog by another maker, went for $24,000; a gold-and-ebony-mounted bow by Eugene Sartory, ca. 1930, earned $19,550; and a ca.-1850 silver-mounted violin bow by Grand-Adam brought $13,130.
Bonhams had a small sale on May 31 that did well for several unattributed instruments. A nickel-mounted viola bow from the Maire/Peccatte school (unstamped, weighing 71 g.) brought $2,145. An unlabelled cello with decorative inlay took $8,250. And a violin made in 1924, labeled "The Nightingale J. Parkinson," sold for $1,238.
Tarisio, an Internet-based auction dealer with viewings in New York and Boston, conducts two sales per year. The featured instrument of its May 19 sale was a rare Cremonese viola of 1616 by Antonio and Girolamo Amati. Legend has it that Luigi Tarisio (a musician and collector of fine instruments, for whom the auction company is named) brought this tenor viola from Italy to Paris, where he sold it to J.B. Vuillaume. The viola then traveled to England and entered the W.E. Hill & Sons collection until early in the 20th century. Subsequently it belonged to the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, before passing into private ownership. Tarisio sold it for $775,500, a world-record auction price for a viola—and the highest price paid for an instrument from the Amati family. Other sales included a violin by Alfonso della Corte that sold for $68,750, a violin by Leandro Bisiach that brought $50,050, and a violin by Fernando Sacconi that took $47,850.
Still to Come
Bonhams recently restructured its sale dates for the year. The house is now on a schedule of two fine-instrument sales, in June and November, and three regular instrument sales, in February, May, and October.
Other early Autumn instrument sales to look out for are Sotheby’ October 6 sale in Chicago (its first U.S. sale since 1986) and Butterfields’ September 12 sale in Los Angeles.
Market-related news items and information on new products, from the U.S. or abroad, are always welcome. Please mail to Heather K. Scott, Market Report, Strings, PO Box 767, San Anselmo, CA 94979; fax to (415) 485-0831; or e-mail to Heather@stringletter.com.
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