Friday, February 02, 2007

thank you, George Bryant

Well, I bought a violin. It was made by George Bryant in Lowell, Massachusetts in 1916. I have posted some pictures of it, though predictably, I don't really feel the pictures do it justice. Though its tone is certainly the main thing I fell for, I can't deny a certain appreciation for its appearance and its local New England genesis. Instead of describing it, I'll quote from my appraisal: "The faint to medium flame of the one-piece, quarter-sawn American maple back is horzontal, and is irregular and narrow in width. The flame of the ribs and head is similar to the flame of the back. The golden brown varnish is evenly applied." To my eyes, it glows, but with a subdued, earthy light. It looks its age, yet is in excellent shape, only sporting the odd weathered scratch or irregularity in the wear to its finish.

Falling for this instrument has been an interesting experience. I do mean falling for it, and it really has been similar to the way I have fallen for women before, if considerably less fraught with emotional ups and downs and various insecurities.

I fell for it instantly. In my job I regularly play violins of all sorts of makes and prices, from $100 dollar ebay instruments to antique and modern-made violins up to $25,000 or so (I have yet to play a stradivarius or another of that ilk) - and many of the pricier of these are objectively better than this one - richer, louder, more projection, finer craftsmanship, more expressive versatility - but this one just grabbed me in a completely unpredictable yet natural way within two seconds of picking it up and playing it. I realized very quickly I liked it a lot. A couple co-workers walked into the room where I was playing it and I looked at them and smiled, asking "What is this?" One of them, Vicky, smiled and said "It's nice, isn't it?" I think it was really over at that moment; it just remained to be seen whether we would go the distance or my heart would be slowly be broken. Continuing this rather heavy 'relationship' analogy, I must tell you that we, my violin and I, got married yesterday.

But seriously, folks, I really like this violin. It's very warm and open, with a bit of a dark character to it, a touch of the viola, and a very consistent tone from string to string. It's not loud, but not quiet either. It feels easy in my hands and has a voice like mine - I feel like myself when playing it, while its depth challenges me to develop as a player and a communicator.

I'm hoping that it will motivate me to take my playing to another level. I've been exploring the Bach unaccompanied sonatas and partitas recently, and have been jabbing at a couple movements that I've never attempted before, and still may never be able to pull off, but have always been favorites, such as the first two movements of the first sonata in g minor, the Adagio and the Fuga, and the wonderfully beguiling Andante from the second sonata (perhaps my favorite movement of all). Also, the second movement from Beethoven's violin concerto, which holds some of the most beautifully serene passages, where it seems all the love in the universe is balanced perfectly, comfortably, on the head of a pin.

Anyway, I hope that many of you will get a chance to hear it someday.


Anonymous said...

dear Brian,
That is a beautiful violin. I can't wait till you post another thing on your blog. Love, Esme

"Comrade Brad" said...

Bri, looking good (although it seems strange to hear the word 'flame' used to describe a piece of wood, I'll trust you on that one...)
glad you had a good trip to Cinci, sorry to not be able to make it down, I have class on weekends now too #@$%@!

Meghan said...

Hey Brian!

That's looks pretty cool! Of course, it's impossible for me to appreciate all of it's qualities as you do, so I will simply take your word for it. I also read the post about your Cinci visit, driving in the snow with dad and eating skyline chili are definitely not my favorites. Still, everything else sounded pretty cool though, wish I could have joined you! Take care, Meghan

Robin said...

Wow, Hi Brian! My name is Robin & I am the great,great granddaughter of Goerge Edward Bryant. If you'd like to know a little about him and see some awesome pics of him in his workshop making violin's check out my blog spot. He just may have had yours in his hands at that very moment.I found your blogspot by way of Mr.Tom Ledoux @

Robin said...

I'm sorry, you can find my blogspot here & read all about him. He really was a remarkable man!