Old Versus New

While an older instrument may feel very smooth to play and be warm and colorful under the ear, that sound may not project to the audience like a new instrument’s sound does. That smooth, mellow, colorful sound the player hears may be heard by the audience as more muddy and unclear. One of the most well-documented comparisons of old and new instruments was done at the fourth American cello congress. An audience of musicians, mostly cellists, judged the sound of 12 cellos, six old and six new, in a blind test. The old instruments were a Stradivari, a Montagnana, two Goffrillers, a Gagliano and a Tecchler. The new cellos were by modern makers. The final results were as follows; the top scoring cello was old, but the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th highest scores were by new cellos. The 6th and 7th were old, 8th new, 9th old, 10th new, 11th and 12th old. As a group, the new cellos did much better than those famous and very expensive older instruments.

Recently, a musician who plays one of my violins was invited to an audition with the Berlin Philharmonic, in which he ended up as one of six finalists. After the audition, the concertmaster came up to Peter and told him the violinists of the orchestra all agreed that he had the best sounding violin in the audition. Again, there were many famous and valuable violins in the audition; but a violin I made in 2003 was judged, by the very excellent players in the audience, to be superior.