My colleague Jon Price finished this magnificent violin in April. It is modeled after the “Plowden”, Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesu’, 1735. The varnish and shading is Stradivari inspired hence the red and gold colors. Notable, this violin has a gorgeous one piece slab cut back made from American maple. As always with Jon’s violins, the top is made from old European spruce.
I met Jon 11 years ago at Psarianos Violins, he had recently finished violin making school at the New World School of Violin Making studying under the direction of Brian Derber. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him grow as maker, each instrument finding a home with fine and dedicated musicians. Including one of his instruments belongs to Emmanuel Boisvert, concert master of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at that time.
At this point in history, Americans are producing some of the nicest modern instruments and Jon is of no exception. I’m not much of a violinist, but this particular violin makes me sound better than I really am, it is easy to play with its quick response and has a nice sound with its resonant and deep character. This violin has a very personable look and feel with it being on the petite side of things and just feels real cozy in the hands.
It’s impressive to watch someone build an instrument starting from just slabs of wood and only using hand tools, complete something so complex and organic. It has taken me a long time to understand the beauty of handmade items, whether it is old instruments, pottery, jewelry, or even cars. During the industrial age we have become so driven for the appearance of perfection, items are machined to be perfectly symmetrical, to have congruent angles, and super high polish. I have always found these items to look perfect but feel sterile and devoid of personality and connection. Much like over produced music lacks depth, over produced anything feels the same way to me at least. What gives handmade objects a lovely look and feel is that they are made by people and not machine, they have imperceptible imperfections. Parts may not be perfectly round as in the pearl eyes on a frog hand filed round. Yet are more attractive then perfectly machined frogs. This is not to say instrument makers are purposely making things “out of round” per say, but it just happens as they strive for perfection. And that is the beauty of handmade items, the imperceptible imperfections made during the journey and struggle of people seeking out perfection.