I recently purchased a very fine Pawel Migiel violin from Fiddleheads. I highly recommend this shop and its thoroughly knowledgeable proprietor. Rhiannon answered all of my questions about the violin and she just knew that it was the right fit for me.
I had been feeling that the violin that I was playing on was limiting me both technically and interpretively. You reach a point with your playing when you need something more. I had been searching for a great violin that "wouldn't break the bank," so to speak.
I will be performing the Bruch Concerto no.1 this coming November and just felt that my current violin, while very good, was limiting me, not allowing me to express myself as completely as I would like to.
Before I get into the specifics about this violin, let me offer some background information about myself.
While not a professional violinist, that was more a matter of choice. I turned down a very prestigious music conservatory in the East because I was not willing to commit at the time to being away from my family. I have been playing the violin for nearly 50 years and have studied with some very famous violinists over the years. I have played in community orchestras, chamber groups, in churches, for weddings, and as soloist with orchestra.
I have played on violins costing a few thousand dollars, and on violins costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. I also apprenticed for a short time in a major violin shop in New York City, learning about proper set ups. I know good violins. In short, I am a violin buff.
I have owned Italian, French, German, Bulgarian, Romanian, American, and Chinese violins over the years. Some violins have been good, and some have been very good, but none in my opinion were great. I can honestly say that this Pawel Migiel violin is a great violin.
After playing on violins from Romania, Italy, China, and Bulgaria - I was at a loss. The $5000 range is nice, but really could not take me to where I wanted to be with violins . Still, I was limited to a range below $10,000. I had heard and read very good things about the Topa violins, but they were still a bit out of my price range.
Searching the internet and researching violins and makers, I came across violinmaker Pawel Migiel. I learned that Pawel Migiel was a student of Topa in Zackopane Poland and was producing very fine violins that almost rivalled his masters.
While his violins can fetch prices as high as $11,000, I saw that Fiddleheads had a very reasonably priced violin of his for less than $8,000. It was literally thousands of dollars less than any other shop. I emailed the owner, Rhiannon, and she replied back within a couple of hours.
When I contacted Fiddleheads and spoke with its owner, Rhiannon, about the violin, I immediately knew that I had made the right decision. We spoke on the phone and she listened attentively to what my playing needs were. Because she is also a violinist and performer, Rhiannon knew that the Migiel violin would be the perfect partner for the Bruch Concerto.
Rhiannon is the consummate professional! She is so willing to help and accommodate you with a trial period, that I really had nothing to lose. She arranged for a trial period of her 2018 Migiel Guarneri model violin.
I was a bit leery about purchasing a violin from another country, even if it does border the USA. I had always dealt with shops from within the USA (Shar Music, Southwest Strings, International Violin, Johnson Strings, etc.). I have to say that this experience beat them all. From the exceptional price of the violin, to the customer service, packing, 2-day shipping, and trial period, everything went smoothly and better than expected.
I had a couple of sleepless nights worrying about the violins journey to the US, but after receiving the violin and seeing the way it was packaged and shipped I knew my worries were all for naught. The violin came in a couple of days.
The way that the violin was packed was unlike anything that I had ever seen before. It was in a "violin dart shaped" box inside a bigger rectangular box! The outside box was completely enclosed in brown wrapping paper and was marked with "Fragile" stickers all over it.
On the box was a handwritten note from Rhiannon to me about the violin. Once I opened the main box, the smaller violin box was encapsulated by reused Styrofoam walls and plastic bubble wrap. There was also a note to me on the violin box.
When I opened the violin box, the violin was in a beautiful violin sack, surrounded by smaller air filled plastic pillows. The neck of the violin was cradled in a Styrofoam block designed to prevent the violin from moving around in the dart shaped box. This was truly a sight to behold!
Upon unpacking the violin (which was meticulously packed and shipped in a manner I had never seen before), I stood amazed at the sheer beauty of this violin. It wasn't red, or orange like so many modern violins, but a beautiful shade of brown over a golden ground. A very transparent deep varnish. Beautifully figured maple (a one-piece back) and a tightly grained spruce top.
It was tastefully antiqued and very reminiscent of a what a golden period Cremonese violin looks like today. I quickly tuned the violin and proceeded to play it for nearly five hours that first day.
I wrote this to Rhiannon straight away:
"I must admit, I think this Violin is worth the money just by sheer looks! (It even smells sweet!) The Migiel is a beautiful, beautiful violin!! After playing it for a minute I could tell it blows away my Dimitrov!!! I can never play this violin in an orchestra... I would not want to chance it getting injured by a careless player!!!
"I am so happy!!! I feel like my heart is going to burst through my chest!!! This is definitely a better Violin than any one I have previously owned!!! I even tried and considered a Topa about three years ago and this Violin is better than that one!!
"Yes, yes, yes, yes!!!! She is a keeper. And now back to my new baby!!"
I made this violin my own after only a couple of hours of playing it.
This is truly the violin of my dreams - a marvellously rich tone, dark and broad in the low register, and brilliant and soaring in the high register. It's hard to believe that this is a brand new instrument. The set up is meticulously done, and the instrument is a marvel to look at. It looks like a well preserved violin from the golden period of Cremona.
The Migiel violin just sounds like a well maintained old concert violin. I cannot believe that it is only a one year old violin?! It can play the softest pianissimo, and is capable of producing voluminous sound. I cannot wait to play the Bruch on it with orchestra!
Rhiannon's and Fiddleheads set-up of this violin is equally amazing. Pegs that turn smoothly and hold in place. A well- shaped top nut, perfectly planed fingerboard, well-made Milo Stamm bridge, perfectly cut and positioned sound post, proper bridge to tailpiece string after-length, and Evah Pirazzi Gold strings. In NYC I would have to pay close to $1,000 for this type of a set-up.
While I had a two-week trial period, I arranged for the balance of my payment to be made the first day. The violin has that dark desirous Guarneri sound. It is thick and full on the G and D strings. The A and E strings are equally impressive for the quality of their tone. The E string on this violin rings like a bell all the way up the fingerboard.
Back to customer service -- Rhiannon is a complete professional.
Customer service was first rate. Rhiannon is a pleasure to deal with. She is a total professional and knows her violins! She thoroughly answered the many questions I had about the violin both before, during, and after the purchase.
She also sent me a beautifully written letter about the condition, origin, and value of the Migiel violin for insurance purposes.
Her price on this marvellous instrument was thousand less than anywhere else. Couple that with an excellent trial period and it was totally stress free experience.
The Migiel violin is a phenomenal instrument - deep rich tone, brilliant in the high register, with plenty of power -- truly outstanding instrument, best I have ever owned (and maybe even played too).
I brought the Migiel to my luthier in NYC and he was amazed by the quality of build and sound of it. He said that for me to get an equivalent hand-made violin in a shop in NYC, I would have to spend at least $20,000.
I highly recommend this shop and Rhiannon.
I am eternally grateful and indebted to Rhiannon for all she has done for me with regards to my Migiel violin. She's a great business person and offering excellent customer service and products.
I am sure she has made many musicians very happy since she started Fiddleheads in 1997. She is a true gem! I will definitely be recommending musician friends to here from here on in.
So there you have it, I cannot wait to get home from work each day to play this magnificent violin and unlock more and more of its as yet undiscovered potential.
I highly recommend Pawel Migiel violin from Fiddleheads.