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Thread: What sort of violins do members of major orchestras play?

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    Senior Member Simon Moon's Avatar
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    Default What sort of violins do members of major orchestras play?

    Everyone is aware that world class soloists play Stradivari violins, or Guarneri.

    But I've always been curious on what instruments members of major orchestras play? Obviously, they are not playing Strads or Guarneris. Only the best players in the world are able to obtain long term loans of Strads, and I'm sure orchestra members are not going to be able to afford them on their own.

    Are they playing lesser known and lesser quality vintage instruments? Or are they playing modern instruments?

    I am aware that there are some very well respected modern luthiers around the world, making top quality instruments (Daniele Tonarelli, Benedicte Friedmann, Lucas Fabro, and others). Are there many orchestra violinists playing instruments from makers such as these?
    Last edited by Simon Moon; Dec-03-2021 at 00:27.
    And if there were a god, I think it very unlikely that he would have such an uneasy vanity as to be offended by those who doubt His existence - Russell

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    Senior Member MatthewWeflen's Avatar
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    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
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    Funnily enough I've always pondered about the same question, SM. Looking forward to more answers from you guys.

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    It's been said the difference between a violin and a fiddle is about $100K

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    Senior Member mbhaub's Avatar
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    You might find this interesting. If you every watch a Vienna Philharmonic concert and they show backstage activity, there's a curious ritual when the string players go through a hall and pick up their instrument, or rather the orchestra's instrument. From the VPO website:

    The Vienna Philharmonic is also unique for the instruments played by its musicians. Instead of performing with their personal instruments, as is common practice in most other orchestras, members of the Vienna Philharmonic must use the set of instruments owned by the orchestra. The string section has been collected meticulously since the ensemble was founded as the Vienna Opera Orchestra, long before the Vienna Philharmonic separated. These violins, violas, cellos, and basses are renowned for their uniform sound and unique, Viennese timbre. The first violin section currently houses four Stradivarius violins, but the Philharmonic itself admits the rest of the stringed instruments are "of no outstanding quality". This is puzzling given the string section's legendary sound quality; the secret is in how the instruments are played. The Vienna Philharmonic says, "the string section of the Vienna Philharmonic is more like a workshop in the middle ages, where newly-arrived musicians are initiated into and absorb the secrets of the orchestra's special musical style." In other words the players are trained extensively to learn how to produce the orchestra's unique sound regardless of the instrument they play.

    There have been so many - thousands - of violin makers over the years, some good, some bad, that in any orchestra you'll have many different makers represented. Adding to the mix are the bows; some players I know swear their bow is more important than the violin. Bows can cost well into the tens of thousands!
    Last edited by mbhaub; Dec-03-2021 at 19:25.
    "It is surprising how easily one can become used to bad music" - F. Mendelssohn

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    Wow that is a great question.

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