The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Are American violins equal to or even superior to European ones? The Library of Congress thinks so and will buy 263 of them | August 11, 2016

By Jacob Stockinger

Whether it is conductors or orchestras, singers or instrumentalists, Americans have often been viewed as inferior to Europeans.

And that goes for modern instruments, not just those that are centuries old.

But one collector felt otherwise. He is David Bromberg, a guitarist who played with Bob Dylan and Beatle George Harrison, and he ended up collecting some 263 American-made violins.

The violins are modern but some go back to the 19th century.

American Violins NPR

Now the American government – specifically, the Library of Congress – will raise $1.5 million to purchase the collection.

NPR, or National Public Radio, recently featured a terrific story about the phenomenon, which should help overcome any sense of cultural inferiority.

Here is a link:

Read it and see what you think.

Then let us know in the COMMENT section.

Does anyone else wonder about the quality of violins and string instruments made in Asia, in China and especially in Japan, which is the home of the Suzuki method that has trained so many string players?

The Ear wants to hear.


  1. As a trombone-baritone horn major, my expertise concerning strings is limited to undergrad methods classes, but some years back I visited a professor @ TX A & M who sold Chinese-violins he claimed were as close to Strads as possible. I visited him & tried one but was less than impressed. Solving the Strad mystery may be forever impossible.

    Comment by Larry Retzack — August 11, 2016 @ 9:46 am

  2. I am not qualified to speak about the quality of these violins; I assume they are pretty good.

    But the problem is putting them in the Library of Congress, which is pretty much a research library and available only to a limited number of people in the Washington, D.C. area. It would be far preferable if they were placed in various people’s hand, across the country: in schools of music, with musicians, with orchestras etc.,

    An instrument needs to be played otherwise it quickly declines in quality. Plus, there are likely lots of candidates who would love to have these violins and it makes more sense to me to put them into the hands of players than behind a library desk/wall/plate of glass.

    Comment by fflambeau — August 11, 2016 @ 5:39 am

    • You make a very good point. But I suspect the violins will be lent out for use. The Smithsonian lends out a matched set of Stradivarius violins, viola and cello to string quartets for just that reason. And banks and businesses who invest in vintage string instruments do much the same. One can hope they know what they are doing and what is best for the instruments.

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 11, 2016 @ 8:47 am

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