Cremona violin 2010 No. 430.
Four strings across the bridge
Ready to carry me over,
Over the quavers, drunk in the bars,
Out of the realm of the orchestra,
Out of the realm of the orchestra
— Kate Bush, "Violin."
My first violin was a machine-made German instrument that my mom went
down and helped me rent at a local music shop. It was a heavy thing, and
didn't produce a very good tone. Nevertheless it got me through the
first year and I learned the basics. My second violin was a handmade
Charles Nelson Pierce violin (1905) that my teacher, Mrs. Olive Rhodes,
fixed me up with. It was a well-made violin, light and with a nice tone.
The bow that she put with it was an excellent pernambuco bow that itself
was valued at $500. I used the Pierce through high-school, college, and
a bit beyond.
A couple months ago when I decided to take up the violin again I needed
a cheap instrument. Rather than spend endless time going around to the
various music stores and pawn shops to find one, I did what I do now for
most purchases — I got onto the internet. After doing a bit of research
I decided to get a Cremona violin, a handmade Chinese instrument that
had a pretty good reputation going.
Not having gotten any actual hands-on with one I was very nervous when
the violin was delivered and I reached down to open the case. I pulled
the violin out. It was fairly light, not as light as my old Pierce but certainly
lighter than my first machine-made one. It looked nice in terms of fit and
stain, a nice looking violin. The bridge needed to be installed on it, but
luckily any violinist who has played for any time at all knows how to fit
a bridge. The string grooves are not equally spaced and the bridge might
be about 2 millimeters too high — I will have this checked out when I
eventually get up to Petrucelly's Violin Shop and will probably replace
it. I also bought a mute, so as to not drive my neighbors crazy. Or my
mom. Or my dog.
The strings were not good, but I had already planned on upgrading to
Pirastro Oliv strings next month anyway. As for the brazilwood octagonal
bow, it is too light — at least for me. An upgrade there too is in order
a few months down the line. I had ordered a cake of good Pirastro bow
rosin, the same type I used in the old days, but the place I ordered from
turned out to be out of stock and I canceled the order. The Cremona
rosin that came with the violin sucks big time. I rosined up the virgin
horsehair bow about a dozen times but the rosin does not get a good
enough grip and is way too dusty.
As for the case it is fairly nice, light. But since I don't have any current
plans to take the violin anywhere it is mainly just a good place to put
the fiddle between practice. If I ever start lessons again, I might upgrade
In short, I think that with a little tweaking that I will have a fairly nice
student instrument to play on.
You know between the time I ordered the violin and the time it was
delivered I asked myself repeatedly if I was crazy. It had been 30 years
since I had played. And over the past 6 years I have had three bona fide
mini-strokes, the medications have depleted my muscle mass, and I get
tired easily and sometimes have trouble breathing.
But an amazing thing happened. I found that by the end of the first
night that I could already play with all four fingers on the G string
(the only string that was tuned at that point), little half scales and
partial arpeggios, and with a fair degree of accuracy with regard
to pitch. Somewhere up in my brain must have still resided the
instruction set to tell my fingers what to do even if the muscles
and nerves of the fingers themselves were unfamiliar with that
at this point.
I suppose it is only natural to value our bodies, and especially when
sick the body seems to come to the forefront. But there is also the
mind. As well as the heart-soul, which already even here is not of this
world, and which is capable of incredible transformation.
And so the little bunny rabbits are once again hopping up and down on
the strings. They might be old rabbits, but are very motivated. As
Ferruccio Busoni liked to say, "To begin again…"