The "Taft" Stradivari violin will be offered in
Christie's May 5 auction.
Zeta Music Systems (2230 Livingston St., Oakland, CA 94606;  261-1702; www.zetamusic.com) recently went on quite a product-development spree that has resulted in something for everyone. The new Acoustic Pro allows players to switch easily between acoustic and electric playing, yet avoid feedback problems. It incorporates Zeta’s E-Series dual-piezo pickup, combined with an internal preamp system and a ¼-inch output jack. The price of $1,495 includes a hardshell case.
Zeta’s new Classic electric violins are MIDI-capable instruments with a more traditional body design. The Performer Classic uses Zeta’s Strados pickup; the price of $1,495 includes an on-board volume control, ¼-inch output jack, and hardshell case. The Jazz Classic uses Zeta’s Jazz pickup system, which sets two directional piezo pickups perpendicular to each other on each string. It comes in various finishes and features an on-board volume control and a ¼-inch output jack. Suggested retail is $2,295 (plus $300 for five-string or maple-top models).
The Educator series was designed to provide a rich tone and comfortable feel in a portable, affordable, electric instrument. The Educator Acoustic Violin incorporates Zeta’s E-Series pickup on a traditional acoustic body. Intended for learning, practice, and teaching, it is available in full and ¾ sizes, comes with a padded gig bag, and sells for $995. Active electronics and on-board volume, treble, and bass controls offer tonal flexibility in the cello and bass, which are built of hardwoods. The Educator Uprite Bass aims for the feel and sound of a standard ¾-size bass; the cost of $2,495 includes a padded bag. The Educator Cello includes a detachable chest rest and knee guide, removable endpin, and padded bag, and goes for $2,495.
Extremely dry air poses a danger to wood, and thus to musical instruments. As the relative humidity in the air drops, wood begins to dry out, losing its suppleness and becoming brittle. An instrument can become inflexible and the wood can shrink, making it prone to anything from squeaky E strings and slipping pegs to the dreaded soundpost crack.
A new product, Stretto, promises to help. Thanks to a new material that resembles grains of ordinary table salt, it raises the relative humidity in the instrument case. Developed by Swiss chemist Jonny Weder and dubbed Hydro-Polymer, the product has a miraculous ability to absorb water. It is stored in a porous nylon pouch designed to release the humidity in a regulated manner. Stretto is activated by soaking for ten minutes in distilled water (which doesn’t leave any minerals or impurities behind when it evaporates). It then goes into a plastic holder that attaches with Velcro to the inside of a case. Stretto will release water into the air for a period of up to two weeks. It is also available in a version with a digital thermometer and hydrometer, so you can see the effect it’s having. Even bows stored in the case benefit, since dry bow hair becomes shorter, which can cause unnecessary tension in the bow even after the nut has been loosened and the bow is not in use.
The device should help maintain a safe level of humidity (40–60 percent), especially in the winter months, when heating systems can send the relative humidity indoors down to levels similar to those in the hottest, driest deserts. Stretto is marketed in the U.S. by Shar (PO Box 1411, Ann Arbor, MI 48106;  248-SHAR; www.sharmusic.com) and internationally by EMS (PO Box 1555, 8801 Thalwil, Switzerland; firstname.lastname@example.org).
On-Line Teachers Database
A new Web site, MusicStaff.com, is helping students and teachers to connect. The database-driven site allows would-be students to search for teachers in their area by instrument, level of ability, and music style. After choosing these variables, plug in your zip code and select how many miles you’re willing to travel for a lesson. Then up pops a list of appropriate teachers in your area.
Teachers can register for free for a simple listing, or for $2.25 per month they can become Founding Members, thus getting an expanded listing with photograph, rates, background information, and teaching philosophy, plus access to discussion groups and on-line articles about teaching. Check it all out at www.musicstaff.com.
Luthier Coggin Dies
New York violin maker James Radford Coggin died July 6, 1999. Coggin came to New York City in 1958 to work in the art world, but began studying viola and became involved in chamber music. In 1968, dissatisfied with his instrument, he quit his day job and enrolled in a two-week course in instrument making. After Coggin completed his third viola, his viola teacher arranged for Leopold Stokowski to hear his instruments at Carnegie Hall. Stokowski reportedly told him, "You make good violas," and urged him to continue. Coggin went on to make a total of 50 violins and 107 violas over the course of his life.
In Memory: Al Stancel
It is my sad duty to report the passing of a great man, Al Stancel. He died suddenly and unexpectedly at home on November 29, 1999. He was a fixture in the community of musicians, violin makers, and dealers and his shop, Casa del Sol Violins, in Indianapolis, served as a focal point for many of us and our specialized interests in violins. In accordance with Al’s wishes, the shop will remain open and in service to all its clients.
Following a successful career as an electrical engineer, Al founded a firm that grew to worldwide prominence, due mainly to his high ethical standards, his skill as a maker and restorer, and his willingness to help others achieve their goals as craftsmen and musicians.
Al and I often joked about working until our last day, then being assigned a bench by St. Peter in the Harp Repair Shop in heaven. I’d like to think he is working there now. He would be happiest that way.
Our world has been darkened slightly by his passing; the music will ring just a little more softly and a great circle of fellow craftsmen and musicians will miss his ready handshake and warm smile. From all of us, Al . . . goodbye.
Davis Instrument Service
Playing in Harmonia
The British viol consort Fretwork (Richard Campbell, Julia Hodgson, Wendy Gillespie, William Hunt, Susanna Pell, and Richard Boothby) has signed an exclusive contract with Harmonia Mundi USA. The partnership is being launched with two projects to be recorded in England this spring. Harmonice Musices Odhecaton, Vol. 1, will be the first of a planned three-part series—the first complete recording of the collection of music printed in 1501 in Venice by Ottaviano Petrucci. The collection contains almost 100 pieces, many by great French, Italian, and Flemish Renaissance composers; Fretwork has commissioned a special set of Italian Renaissance viols for the project. The group’s second effort will be the world-premiere recordings of two works by John Tavener: Nipson, which was written for Fretwork and countertenor Michael Chance and premiered at the Norwich Festival in October 1999, and The Hidden Face, for countertenor, oboe, and viols. The releases will be supported by a U.S. tour in February 2001.
The violin and bow makers of ALADFI (Association des Luthiers et Archetiers pour le Développement de la Facture Instrumentale) held the 11th annual celebration of Ste-Cécile (the patron of instrument makers and musicians) in Paris over the weekend of December 4–5, 1999. They also took the opportunity to view the instruments in the Concours de Lutherie et d’Archeterie and to attend the ceremonies, where some members received awards.
Saturday morning was dedicated to a conference about techniques for measuring and photographing instruments accurately. Specialist speakers were Christian Rault, who has been researching the origins of the violin; Hieronymus Köstler, who reported on the molding of instruments; François Denis, who focuses on scroll shapes; François Papineau-Couture, an instrument photographer for the Musée des Instruments de la Musique in Paris; and Montpellier violin maker Frédéric Becker, who revealed techniques for photographing instruments using natural light and a minimum of equipment.
After a break to view instruments and attend the award ceremonies, the day culminated in a concert held at La Cité de la Musique featuring Anne-Sophie Mutter, Walter Grimmer, Alain Meunier, Patrice Fontanarosa, and others, playing on the winning instruments from the Concours. A group dinner was also held.
Next year’s meeting will take place in Belgium; for more information about ALADFI’s activities, contact secretary Pierre Allain in Nice at (33) 93-56-9597.
Music Exhibition Mounts Instrument Sale
Le Salon de la Musique is the new name for Musicora, the exhibition dedicated to music and musical instruments that is held in Paris each year. This year it will run April 28–May 3. To mark the year 2000, an special auction is planned for April 30 at the Holiday Inn near the La Villette exhibition hall.
Organized by French luthier and expert Gilles Chancereul, the sale will include more than 200 French violins and cellos, plus a series of bows from an exclusive private collection. The instruments, by makers including Silvestre, Jacquot, Gand & Bernardel, and Colin-Mézin, are all in excellent condition and many are ready to be played. The selection of more than 100 bows include names such as Peccatte, Vigneron, Lamy, Fétique, Maire, and Voirin. Upon request, a certificate can be issued for any instrument bought in the auction.
Chancereul has been active in organizing auctions since 1994. Established on the left bank in Paris for the past 20 years, he recently moved to a new address (see below), where ample space allows for instrument exhibits in addition to a larger workshop, store, and tryout room.
A detailed sale catalog will be available April 1. A public preview will be held at the Holiday Inn April 28–29, and viewings can be arranged by appointment. The instruments can also be seen at www.g-chancereul.com. For more information, write to Chancereul at 33 rue Henri-Barbusse, 75005 Paris, France; telephone (33) 143 25 98 23; or send an e-mail to email@example.com.
Comings and Goings
Richard LePage, who formerly made and restored violins, violas, and cellos under the name of Richard LePage Violins in Calgary, Alberta, is now doing business as The Fiddle Farm at Trans Canada Hwy., Flat River, Prince Edward Island C0A1B0, Canada. Telephone is now (902) 659-2932, fax is (902) 659-2935, and the Web site is www.rlepageviolins.com. Michelle Speller, a bow maker and restorer in Vancouver, is now available at 2716 E. 1st Ave., Vancouver, BC V5M 1A7, Canada, by appointment only, so be sure to call (604) 255-1874 before you go.
Guatemala City resident Marco Barrios, who restores and deals in new and antique violin-family instruments and bows, has moved to Residencia 175, Kanajuyú 2, Zona 16, Guatemala City, Guatemala 01016; telephone (502) 364-1308.
In Britain, Sydney Evans, Ltd., a supplier of woods, tools, and accessories for stringed instruments, has moved its Birmingham shop from Regent Place to Unit 204, The Argent Centre, 60 Frederick St., Birmingham B1 3HS, England; telephone (44) 121-233-1741; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web www.btinternet.com/~sydneyevans. And Irish shop Crehan Musical Instruments, which deals, appraises, makes, and repairs instruments, has moved from Calderwood Rd. to 6 Carberry Rd., Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland; phone (353) 183-72351; fax (353) 183-76135. Hours are now Tuesday through Friday, 9–4, and Saturday 10–5.
French company Le Bois de Lutherie, which sells various woods to instrument makers, has moved from Sur Furieuse to 25330 Fertans, France; telephone (33) 381 86 555 5; fax (33) 381 86 555 6; e-mail email@example.com. Bow maker Benoit Rolland, who makes the Spiccato composite bow, has moved from Vannes to Le Morbouleau, 16 Route du Pont, 56390 Locqueltas, France. Telephone is (33) 297 66 66 14 and e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org. Instrument maker and repairer Laurent Kappler, who services all bowed instruments but specializes in double basses, has left the town of Gard for 15 rue Roger Brun, 13005 Marseille, France; telephone and fax (33) 491 25 93 15. And Martin Devillers, an award-winning bow maker, has moved from Fontaine to L’Olagnier, 38360 Engins, France; telephone (33) 476 94 49 19; fax (33) 476 94 48 53.
Sales Spring Up
Phillips kicks off the spring season with a fine-instrument auction on March 13 that will feature a collection from Edinburgh of 200–300 instruments. "It’s the collection of one man who’s now very old," says expert Philip Scott. "A prewar- and postwar-period collection, when good things were to be had. I’m excited about it; I think there will be some quite interesting things there."
Sotheby’ follows with a sale on March 14, and although Tim Ingles admits the Menuhin sale was a tough act to follow, he says that it should be "quite an exciting sale, actually. We’ve got a very early Strad—1666, one of the very earliest, an exciting piece. It’s in very good condition, and the price is going to be roughly a quarter of a million pounds, so it’s an affordable Strad." There will also be a Giovanni Battista Guadagnini violin that Ingles describes as a "very good-looking player’s instrument. The Strad could be a very interesting collector’s piece, but the Guadagnini is a straight-down-the-line player’s fiddle." He adds that for him, "the highlight, actually, is a Joseph Rocca, a Guarneri copy. Absolutely fantastic fiddle, absolutely gorgeous."
Christie’ will hold a sale on March 15, followed on May 5 by a fine-instrument auction held in New York City for the first time since 1995. That sale was a one-off in conjunction with a del Gesù exhibit, but this is intended to launch a tradition of New York instrument auctions. A highlight of the sale will be a very fine 1700 Stradivari violin, the "Taft." Also of great interest will be a group of instruments from the personal collection of Jacques Français, who is retiring from his New York shop on 57th Street (where he began a semiretirement from a larger space on 54th Street several years ago). "He approached us about selling his collection and selling it in New York specifically, which I was very eager to do," says specialist Kerry Keane, "[because] he is certainly one of the great dealers and experts of the postwar American violin world." The collection includes instruments by Nicola Gagliano, the Marchettis, Tommasso Carcassi, Montagnana, Fagnola, and Grancino. There will also be what Keane calls "one of the most beautiful cellos I’ve seen in a long time: an exquisite Tecchler from 1698, just to die for." Français was one of the first European experts to set up shop in the U.S., after getting his start here with Rembert Wurlitzer in the mid–1940s. "That lineage of the house of Français goes right on back to Nicholas Lupot," says Keane. "That’s 200 years of violin-making tradition going on there."
Butterfields’ next sale will be March 21 and will feature "a huge amount of modern Italians," according to Todd French. It’s also the first instrument auction at Butterfields’ to provide live on-line bidding via their Web site ( www.butterfields.com). "Butterfields’ is owned by eBay now," explains French, "and we’re incorporating technologies."
Skinner will hold its spring sale on May 7 in Boston and will also be offering on-line bidding, in alliance with Internet portal Lycos, at skinner.lycos.com . On-line bids will be accepted from two weeks to three hours before the sale; the highest on-line bidder can then bid further in the live auction via telephone, aided by a Skinner representative. "Lycos reaches nearly half of all Web users, and we can target those with an affinity for the items coming up at auction," says Skinner CEO Karen Keane. "It’s a tremendous opportunity to broaden the audience for our auctions." A highlight of the sale will be a cello made by Joseph Gagliano in 1772, which belonged to a well-known musical family. Expert David Bonsey says, "It’s a fabulous instrument, the nicest one I’ve ever seen. There haven’t been any Joseph Gagliano cellos that have sold lately, so this will really be a wonderful thing being offered."
Meanwhile Tarisio, the Internet-only instrument auctioneer, had enough success with its fall fine-instrument sale that it is holding another sale May 2–12. There will be a live viewing in New York City beginning May 2, and there may also be one in Boston; meanwhile, all the lots can be seen on the Web site, at www.tarisio.com.
Finally, Bonhams will hold its spring sale on May 31.
Market-related news items and information on new products, from the U.S. or abroad, are always welcome. Please mail to Jessamyn Reeves-Brown, Market Report, Strings, PO Box 767, San Anselmo, CA 94979; fax to (415) 485-0831; or e-mail to email@example.com.
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