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1. John Stein, Cardiff, Founder and leader of the orchestra of the Welsh National Opera for 40 years.
The quality of work carried out by Chris King of Cardiff Violins is best exemplified by my experience when Leader of the Orchestra of the Welsh National Opera.
During this period I was playing on a long pattern Stradivari of 1693 and had tried many different 'set ups' from the top lutiers of London and Paris.
After the work carried out by Chris King, the improvement in sound and ease of playing made the instrument a joy to play and, I believe, brought this wonderful instrument the closest to its true potential.
2. Geza Hosszu-Legocki, aka Gezalius
I came to Cardiff Violins and very much enjoyed the warmth of the people and the place. I spent a lot of time playing their stock of violins, and particularly loved their set-ups. I felt very comfortable with Chris and the way he was working on tonal adjustment to achieve different effects, and felt I could trust him with my Carcassi, so I asked him to set it up. I have never been so happy with my violin. The results are brilliant and unforgetable. The violin opened, became brilliant, and the intonation easier than ever to produce. That is what violinists want : an easy intonation. I have now seen a number of instruments transformed by Cardiff Violins' set ups, and strongly recommend you try them!
3. Richard Newington, 1st violinist in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Cardiff
Chris King was first recommended to me by a dealer in London who suggested I was making unnecessary journeys to the capital for work on my violin, when there was an excellent repairer in Cardiff. That was thirty years ago, and since then I have had major work done by him on my 1879 Audinot. He repaired the scroll after an encounter with a frenzied viola player's "down bow" left a nasty crack. He also restored the varnish on the back after the violin had been left in storage in 100 degree heat at Kong Kong airport, melting it and even fusing it to the case. Both repairs were immaculate. Over the years Chris has provided me with excellent bridges, tonal adjustments, bows and rehairs. He and Cecile always make time to remedy any problems I might have, and we are very lucky in Cardiff to have such a wonderful, friendly service close at hand.
4. Ruth Elder, London
"It is rare to find a shop where you feel you can relax and take your time; at Cardiff Violins they respect that choosing the right instrument can be a long process and requires a relaxed environment in which to make these important decisions. The staff are so welcoming, always at hand to help and advise or simply to bring you a fresh cup of tea, and they also know when to allow the customer some privacy in order to get to know their instrument of choice.
I had the luxury of being able to play the wide range of instruments that Cardiff Violins offer on a regular basis as I was once on their team of staff. Having gone through their extensive collection I simply could not take my mind off one violin in particular, which sadly at the time was out of my reach financially. There came a point when I could no longer bare showing other customers the delights of this violin as the thought of it being sold to someone else was too much, and neither could Chris or Cecile who very kindly allowed me some time to save up to be able to buy the violin of my dreams.
At the time I had only recently graduated from music college and this new violin certainly helped me to kick start my career, accepting a place at Southbank Sinfonia in London which has since led on to many wonderful opportunities. Having an instrument that you feel proud of and helps you to play at your best is so important and is something that all at Cardiff Violins are fully aware of. My violin and I have since performed at the Wigmore Hall, the Royal Albert Hall, the National Theatre, the O2 Arena, Glastonbury Pyramid Stage, not to mention various TV appearances, many theatres across Europe, and at Buckingham Palace for Her Majesty the Queen.
Therefore I am very grateful to Chris and Cecile at Cardiff Violins for their patience and understanding that enabled me to purchase my lovely violin which allows me to be the best I can be."
5. Ellen Casey, Cornwall, Argentina
You might walk through the Castle Arcade in Cardiff and never even realise there is a balcony, let alone somewhere as special as Cardiff Violins up there. But if you let yourself be led by the sounds of violins, violas and cellos that drift down and resonate through the arcade, as I did in 2003, what you will find is a treasure trove. And I say that not only because of the many instruments, but also for the knowledge and passion that Chris King has for his work, and the dedication of Cecile and the rest of her staff to really helping you find the right instrument for you.
What began as curiosity found me falling in love with a new cello, a Dheil copy by the British maker William Piper. This encounter not only gave me a great instrument to play and enjoy while I was studying, but also led to me working for Cardiff Violins for the following five years. The appreciation for instruments, their quirks, nuances and almost endless potential for different sound that I learned from working extensively with Chris is what I value the most from my time at Cardiff Violins. To be able to hear the hidden capabilities of an instrument is a wonderful gift, and to awaken them is a skill.
Towards the end of my time in Cardiff I was lucky to inherit some money, and I knew that it was to be for a cello. I had liked many cellos that had come and gone through the shop, but never fallen for one as Ruth Elder did with her violin. Chris and Cecile put every effort possible into looking for a cello that would have just the right character for me, and I am very lucky to now own a beautiful old English cello by Thomas Kennedy. Luckier still am I to own a bow by Benoit Rolland, made for me after his visit to Cardiff Violins in 2007. It is growing with me as I develop as a musician, and will forever be a part of me.
To pursue a dream of travelling around South America, I now live in Buenos Aires. Travelling with a 200 year-old cello did not however seem like the most sensible idea, so I have left my Kennedy on loan to the Welsh College of Music and Drama, and exchanged my Piper for a good quality Chinese “Belissimo” cello to take with me. So far we have been through deserts, across mountains and down into jungles travelling around Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. While the cello does of course react to the extreme climate changes, I have not had any problems. For a new instrument it has a very rich sound, and is a pleasure to play.
Although I am such a long way away, I still have a very close relationship with Chris and Cecile at Cardiff Violins, and I hope that it will continue for many years to come. They are the kind of people, and Cardiff Violins therefore is the kind of shop, with whom you can have a relationship for life.
6. Dr. John H. Watson
on behalf of Sherlock Holmes
221B Baker Street
July 28th, 2011
Cécile and Chris at Cardiff Violins,
I just wanted to say thanks on behalf of my friend Sherlock Holmes for the violin he recently purchased from you. He would thank you himself; only, well Sherlock doesn’t really do that sort of thing.
You were extremely patient with him, much more than he deserved which I should also thank you for, as a lot of people find him ‘difficult’. Thought you handled the situation very well, especially when he insisted on deducing the history of each instrument he picked up, in addition to identifying the rosin dust from each bow that had previously been used! Anyway sorry about that, he’s always like it and yes it does get annoying, but at least you don’t have to live with him.
I don’t know much about violins myself, but it looks a lovely violin to me. The sound it makes when Sherlock plays it is beautiful and the other evening he treated me to a rendition of Bach’s Partita No.1, which sounded particularly marvelous on it. He seems very pleased anyway, that is to say he hasn’t complained at all and tells me playing it helps him think, which believe me is high praise indeed.
Dr. John H. Watson
Hartswood Films Ltd
7. Julia Hwang, Bristol
"I have bought my wonderful Benoit Rolland and Joseph Arthur Vigneron bows from Cardiff Violins over the years, and I could not thank them enough for the enormous help and kind support they have given me. The bows are perfect for me, and make me enjoy practicing and performing even more.
My Vimercatti violin was acquired through Cardiff Violins four years ago. I was looking for a violin at the time and was contacted about an Italian violin which had just come in. It was made in the 18th century and has a beautiful rich tone. I am very happy with it and very fortunate to have it in my possession."
8. Conor Gricmanis, Shrewsbury, Shropshire
Finding the right instrument for one’s self is probably the hardest thing to do, for a Musician. I have always taken the Violin seriously, it’s something I’m completely devoted to – I want to study the Violin as far as I can, and I want it to be my profession. Not only has looking for ‘The right Violin’ been a long, exhausting journey all over the UK, it has also been a huge emotional journey. Stringed Instruments are not cheap. When I started Violin lessons with Michael Bochmann (leader of the English String Orchestra) I realised I needed an instrument that could give a promising tone, and help me advance as a soloist. After about a year-and-a-half of searching for ‘The right Violin’, I found Cardiff Violins. We gave them a ring, and we shortly agreed on a day to try out the stock of Violins. After being dis-heartened from so many other Violin shops, I thought the same would happen again.
How wrong I was. I was greeted SO warmly by the entire team, and they made me feel at home. I was so impressed by the amount of instruments they had in stock. The atmosphere was brilliant, and I was very relaxed whilst playing numerous Violins – the service, and the advice I was given by everyone who works there was so wonderful, and I’m ever so grateful for it. In the end, I found ‘The right Violin’. An Alfred Vincent, 1936. The condition and tone was perfect. But, that worried me! The price! I had the awful feeling it would be over our budget. Yet again, I was wrong. The price was within our budget – it made me realise that Cardiff Violins give honest prices, advice, and opinions on their instruments. Quality instruments, quality prices, and quality service. I have made a wonderful friendship with the team from Cardiff Violins! I can’t wait to take my Violin everywhere! I haven’t had it long, but it’s got a very fun life ahead of it. '
Where I play, and what ensembles I am in…
I’m the lead Viola player in the Shropshire youth Orchestra, lead Violinist of the Bishop’s Castle Orchestra, Lead Violinist of ‘Po’s Stringendo ensemble’ leader of many ‘youth quartets’. I won a quartet competition to have a master class with the Wihan Quartet. I have also played alongside the English String Orchestra in a workshop. I also play violin, and dance, for the Shropshire bedlams Morris Dancing team, through this I was given the opportunity to play the Cello on the T.V series ‘Victorian Farm’ for their final Christmas episode: http://www.bbc.co.uk/victorianchristmas/activity/carol-singing.shtml.
9. Teresa James, Cardiff
I accompanied my son Sam to purchase a violin from your shop and it was a lovely change to be greeted by welcoming and knowledgeable members of staff, and in particular Laura, whose passion for both the violin and customer service was clearly evident, as she spent over an hour with us to ensure my son was able to select the most appropriate violin to suit his level and style of playing.
Refreshingly, we did not feel pressured and we did not feel intimidated; instead we left feeling valued customers and confident with our purchase…….. and that is quite a rare thing today!
So, once again, thank you very much for your expertise & outstanding customer service and we look forward to shopping with you again in the future!
10. Ken Watkin, Neath
I just love my Luis & Clark viola. The sound is amazing and it plays easily and consistently. Each string is evenly balanced and equally rewarding, and the machine is physically a joy to work on.It blends in perfectly with tradition instruments and is just as responsive whether playing loudly or softly. A bonus is that Cardiff Violins have provided excellent support service and are always willing to advise and help. I look forward to many happy hours of playing this super viola.
11. Allan and Wendy Betts, Swansea
We would like to let you know how delighted we are with our violas by Don Tatem. Wendy bought her instrument form Cardiff Violins in June 2004. It bears the name "ANNOWRE", No 291 and is dated 1990 and has a full, rounded, smooth tone. The back-length is 15.5 inches.
When I needed to change my own viola a few months ago, I tried out a number of instruments from Cardiff Violins at home, and settled on another instrument by Don Tatem which I purchased in September 2011. This viola is No 427 dated 1998 and the label bears the name "JOANNA" The back-length is 15.75 inches.
Since I acquired my viola we have played about six concerts, amd innumerable rehearsals, with two busy local orchestras. I am equally delighted with the sound produced with my own instrument, having been Wendy's desk-partner, and admired her powerful smooth tone for years.
We would not hesitate to recommend Don's instruments to anyone. Try one and see. We cannot praise the beautiful sound and appearance of Don Tatem's instruments highly enough, and on our recommendation, an orchestral friend has recently bought a Tatem violin, with which she is very happy.
Our thanks and best wishes are due to all at Cardiff Violins who have been so considerate and obliging when we have wished to try out instruments.
12. Edgar Bailey, Cheltenham, London
I first met Chris and Cécile at Cardiff Violins about six years ago when, as a music college student in London, I replaced my first full size violin.
They are extremely friendly and helpful and their expertise is second to none. They have an extensive range of violins, bows, cases and accessories and I know that they are only a phone call away if I have a string emergency!
I am now a professional violinist and I have continued to use Cardiff Violins as my first point of call.
13. Nicole Wilson, London
Principal Second Violin, English National Opera
I bought my Gagliano violin from Cardiff Violins several years ago and was thrilled with the service they provided. Not only did they patiently help me through the very important and nerve wracking process of choosing the perfect violin but after the purchase they gave me wonderful support setting up the violin so it had the optimum set up for me. My Gagliano is part of me now - I can't imagine my life without it. Thanks Cardiff Violins!
14. Hans Bonzel - Violinist, Rotterdam, Holland
Destiny or coincidence?
My wife and I were having a short holiday for the first time in beautiful Wales early 2011. The week started in Dolgellau and the last day we spent in Cardiff. Walking around in a sunny but cold Cardiff we heard some violin music floating in the air in a shopping street! Like a magnet we were pulled by the music or was it also by the warmth, which came from somewhere upstairs in a shopping mall. The violin shop had a small entrance and a friendly man (Chris we heard later) asked what the purpose of our visit was, and that was basically none! After some stumbling words, Chris asked me whether I played violin, and yes I did (although I hadn’t played for a while). Immediately I was offered the opportunity to try out three beautiful instruments, which I accepted since we enjoyed the friendly and hospitable approach. It took a while to get my fingers warm, not only from the cold but also from not playing for months. One of the violins was a beautiful Sebastian Klotz violin mid 18th century, which I loved at once. A violin however is not something you normally buy as an impulse investment, so after a very nice hour or two of trying we left with doubt in our hearts. Back in the Netherlands I realized that I really was keen on the violin. I did some research on the net to find out more about Sebastian Klotz and expressed my interest to Chris and Cecile. On Easter monday I returned to Cardiff. Chris and Cecile were so kind to open the shop especially for me during their Easter holiday, and I played most of the day. Even their daughter came in and played for me so I could also listen and compare from a distance. It was a wonderful experience with a very friendly welcome in Cardiff. I bought the beautiful violin and with it a nice bow. Chris and Cecile, thanks for your warm hospitality and we hope to see you again when we are over in Wales!
Hans Bonzel and Jàn Hooper
15. Cara Williams,
"When it came to the time to buy the instrument to begin my journey through music college, I needed help and advice from someone I could trust. After an exhausting search across the UK for my perfect violin, Cardiff Violins really stood out - in all the right ways. From the moment you enter the shop you’re made to feel at home, and the staff are kind, honest, and always catering to your every need. The vast range of beautiful violins across all price ranges meant I was spoilt for choice, but when I was handed a beautiful Hubicka violin by Chris and played it I knew it was perfect for me, my decision was made! I couldn’t be happier with my violin and I love it more every day. I'm eternally grateful for the generosity and help that everyone at Cardiff Violins has given me. It’s not just a single purchase - it’s an ongoing relationship. Even though I’m away studying at Birmingham Conservatoire, Chris and Cecile always like to know how I’m getting on with my violin and would help me at the drop of a hat with anything I needed for my playing! They offer me support with everything I do.
Not only did I buy my violin from Cardiff Violins – but also my bow, case… even my shoulder rest, rosin and strings! They really have everything you could need, which means I would never need or want to go anywhere else. I couldn’t possibly recommend Cardiff Violins enough, and I look forwards to maintaining my relationship with them throughout my entire career as a violinist.
Whether you’re a beginner or a professional or anything in between, I completely believe there’ll be an instrument for you at Cardiff Violins and I know it’ll be an experience you’ll enjoy."
16. Philip Aird
First violinist at the Royal Ballet Sinfonia,
Director of The English Mozart Ensemble,
General Manager of the European String Teachers association
The folk at Cardiff Violins are simply the most professional, knowledgeable and friendliest team you could hope to meet, and I will be forever in their debt for the help, advice and patience they have shown me over many, many years.
I never hesitate in recommending colleagues, pupils or parents to the shop for whether buying, browsing or just in need of some advice. Customers will always find a warm welcome awaits them.
For the beginner, student or professional it’s a wonderful environment with the time and space (plus plenty of tea and coffee) in which to try out instruments - and you never feel rushed or hassled! They found a wonderful violin for me and have kept it in perfect playing condition ever since.
Thank you Chris & Cécile
17. Trevor Maplestone, Cwmbran
Violin and viola teacher
In a violin, I look for a working musicians tool. I need an instrument that is clear and resonant. An instrument that rings and responds back to you. I found such an instrument at Cardiff Violins, as a new violin made by Elspeth Rowe. Already designed and set up with no further adjustments necessary. I can project in a performance environment, and yet play so incredibly quietly as well. A good violin makes you a better violinist.
I recommend Cardiff Violins to my students too.Good instruments do not have to be old or expensive for a student to improve. Students need to be motivated and inspired by the tools they work with. What is important, is a good set up with all the upgraded parts in easy working order, comfortable to play, and a resonant sound.
One of my students has bought a new bow from Cardiff Violins and we can’t believe how much it has improved the sound of the violin! Previously, I was asking the student how old the strings were etc. because the violin was sounding a bit mellow and dull, when all along it was the bow. Her two previous bows had felt so soft, soggy and wrong. Amazing result!
18. Nicola Ramirez
Violin and viola teacher at the Conservatorio de Castello Branco, Portugal,
Violinist in the Sentica Ensembre, Portugal
I have known Chris and Cécile for almost 15 years now and even though I now live in Portugal, I am still able to enjoy their friendship and their never ending knowledge about violins.
As a student, I purchased several instruments and bows from their excellent selection. Although making such an investment is always a stressful thing, I always loved the fact that I was able to stay for as long as I needed, playing as many instruments as I wanted. I cannot think of any other shop in the UK where one would be able to do this. There is not such thing as a perfect instrument of course, but should one find a violin close to the ideal but with something missing (perhaps not enough bass sound or maybe too bright E string) Chris would then spend long hours on a one-to-one session fiddling around until finally a miracle would happen.
One such happy ocasion happened a few months ago, when my group, the Sentica Ensemble, gave a couple of concerts in Cardiff and London. I went to visit Cécile and Chris and took my Portuguese colleagues with me as they were looking for bows, wanted a check up on their instruments etc. We didn´t spend more time only because we had to catch a plane back! Chris and Cecile were absolutely wonderful and my friends were over the moon being able to spend time with two luthiers who shared their knowledge with such generosity. I was of course, very proud!!!!
I taught in Cardiff for 13 years and I believe over 500 individual students had lessons with me at one point or another. Of them perhaps half owned one example of the incredible range of student violins Chris and Cécile have at the shop. I can say with absolute certainty that it is not possible to find anywhere in the UK (or in Portugal for that matter) violins that have been worked on so, so well, that their sound is unbelievable and at very affordable prices. I miss their friendship and their expertise a lot. Having Cardiff Violins is one of the things the city must be proud of, and I hope many trips come by in the future so that I can pop in and spend some happy times at the shop.
19. Gwen Lewis, Aberystwyth
I really enjoyed my experience in Cardiff Violins. There was an extremely friendly service and no hurry to choose your violin or bow. I bought a beautiful old violin which has gone from strength to strength, and I’ve several compliments on its wonderful tone. I currently use my violin for solo, chamber and orchestral playing as it is so versatile – just what I wanted! I would recommend Cardiff Violins to anyone for knowledgable and helpful advice and plenty of choice of instruments, bows and cases. I couldn’t be happier with my violin, and I only have the staff at Cardiff Violins to thank.
20. Kate Bresner, Bridgend
My relationship with Cardiff Violins dates back decades to when I traded in my first ever cello for a beautiful old Saxon cello. My first instrument was reworked and remodelled to bring it to its full potential, and I considered buying it back. Years later I traded in the Saxon cello for a more robust modern instrument. I followed Chris's advice and tried a handmade Chinese cello and, without a doubt, it is one of the finest instruments I have played. I would never have found my perfect cello if I had not been willing to 'think outside the box'. Since I bought it I have returned for routine maintenance and tweaking to maintain the best possible sound.
It is always a pleasure to pop into Cardiff violins for a cup of coffee and a look at their latest acquisitions. As well as being a first class instrument dealership, Chris and Cecile love to share new innovations and ideas (as well as the latest music sensation trending on YouTube). They make every visitor feel very welcome and ensure that they will return time and time again. I would have no hesitation in recommending them to musicians of every level. Not only will you receive the best service, but you will probably make friends for life in the process!
21. Brigit Forsyth
My first visit to Cardiff Violins was to play on a wonderful cello that had belonged at one time to the cellist Beatrice Harrison! How this came about is a whole separate story, far too long to put here. Suffice it to say, I had a wonderful day there with Dale Culliford, who was my teacher and had suggested I do a show about Beatrice Harrison. I shall never forget playing that cello. On my next visit, a couple of years later I think, I fell in love with a Banks cello and ended up buying it in part exchange for my Craske cello. And the visit after that I bought yet another cello, a Kennedy, as felt needed two! It is a dangerous place, Cardiff Violins. Cecile and Chris are utterly charming and have created a wonderful relaxed atmosphere in the shop and you are surrounded by lovely cellos and violins, and they let you play them for as long as you want. Very seductive. I play in a band called the Fircones, and love the sound the Banks cello makes with the guitars and the mandolin and the violin and the bodrin. I am not sure I can visit Cardiff without calling in to see Cecile and Chris, but think I must try and not buy any more cellos. There was a lovely Smith last time….oh dear!
22. Nicky Enderby, Gloucestershire
By the time I went to Cardiff Violins I'd already been looking for a new violin for nearly six months with no luck. A couple of friends recommended that I try Cardiff saying that they were sure I'd be able to find something. Chris, Cecile and the rest of their team were all incredibly friendly and absolutely fantastic. Choosing the right instrument takes a long time but I never felt pressured to hurry the process. I'd come so close to finding the right instrument on several occasions but there was always something that wasn't quite right and I was delighted that that wasn't the case at Cardiff. I found an absolutely beautiful 1780 Viennese violin that I just fell in love with straight away - it just felt like the right instrument. I simply couldn't believe that it hadn't been bought before. Chris and Cecile were fantastic after I had bought it as well, checking to make sure that I was still happy and hadn't had any problems. Since I bought it, I've used it for operas, recording sessions, solo recitals, auditions and everyday orchestral playing and I couldn't be happier. I'm incredibly grateful to both Chris, Cecile and all of the team at Cardiff Violins - I couldn't imagine playing on any other instrument now!
23. Chiara Beebe, Guernsey
Royal Northern College of Music, Manchester
Growing up in Guernsey, it could be difficult to have access to a variety of quality instruments and services and it was completely by chance that I came across Cardiff Violins. My parents found the charming shop whilst visiting the city of Cardiff a few years ago and insisted I visited. I was so glad for my parents’ accidental discovery and the trip to the shop was well worth my while. Cécile and her team were absolutely fantastic in helping me try out different instruments without ever being intrusive or putting any pressure on me. They have a great understanding of the importance of each individual’s particular needs and were able to guide me to finding my perfect cello. I spent two days in the shop but came out with a fantastic instrument and case which I am as happy with now as the day I bought them.
The Ian Ross cello I bought from Cardiff Violins has been with me for a few years now, at first helping me perform locally in the Guernsey Eistedfodd where my solo cello performance won me the Prix D’excellence award, and getting me through my grade 8 exam with distinction. I also played the Saint-Saëns cello concerto with the Guernsey Youth Orchestra. Straight away people noticed a difference in my playing and the beautiful tone the instrument produces. I am now studying music at Manchester University where I have lead the University Symphony Orchestra and play with a variety of ensembles. I currently study with Simon Turner from the Hallé and am looking forward to my solo recitals as part of my course on the instrument. My Ian Ross cello has been to Prague on a recent tour and will soon be accompanying me to Europe again for the next summer tour. It will also have its first outing to the Bridgewater hall when my quartet plays in the lunchtime concert series there.
Performing cello will always be a big part of my life I see no reason why the cello I bought from Cardiff Violins should not accompany me through all of it. I highly recommend Cardiff Violins to anyone looking for personal service, quality and choice.
24. Gwen Richards, Neath, Cardiff
1st violin in BBC National Orchestra of Wales
Cardiff Violins has been part of my life since a young age. Cecile and Chris have always provided helpful assistance, a happy atmosphere and a varied and vast choice of bows and violins to try. I’ve been very fortunate to find my bow made by Benoit Rolland and Hopf violin (dated 1790), both of which I love and found through Cardiff Violins.
The shop is in a great location in Cardiff, making it very accessible to and from London where I was a student at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Chris and Cecile have always been exceptionally supportive and have always been helpful at every step of my musical development. They understand that taking time to find the perfect instrument and bow for you is important and needs patience, time and several cups of tea! Thanks to Cardiff Violins, I’ve found an instrument and bow that I adore playing every day in my work as sub co-leader of BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
25. Elen Richards, Neath, London
2nd violin in the Royal Philarmonic Orchestra
I have been a customer at Cardiff Violins for the past 15 years and they have always been the first port of call for any instrument purchase. Chris and Cecile have a wide range of instruments and bows, for any price range, and any time in your musical career. My first violin and bow from Cardiff Violins helped me obtain a place at the Royal Academy of Music, London and my current purchase of a Benoit Rolland bow is a great asset to my work in the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.
Chris and Cecile are so welcoming and accommodating. When I come home to South Wales I will often pop in to visit and they let me indulge for hours playing the instruments and bows they have on offer.
I can without any doubt highly recommend their work and I will continue to visit Cardiff Violins again for future purchases.
26. Nicola Thomas PPRNCM, Pembrokeshire
Benoit Rolland Bow Testimonial:
"I had no intention of purchasing a bow, however, when I visited Cardiff Violins and tried a Benoit Rolland I loved the sound it made and the fact that it seemed to suit the cello I play. I bought it! The Rolland has become my fulltime bow and I love finding more and more possibilities from this wonderful piece of craftsmanship.’’
27. David John, Cardiff
Proper stringed instrument shops are becoming an increasing rarity in the UK – foreign competition and the growth in on-line shopping have transformed the market-place so it’s gratifying to know that the traditional violin shop is alive and well in Cardiff.
At Cardiff Violins, knowledge and expertise are combined with friendly enthusiasm to create an environment for providing good advice and making satisfying purchases. Whether you’re a student or a professional musician, the team will always find time to listen to your needs, explain the options and assist in making the most appropriate choices. The stock of instruments is rich and fascinating, including examples of the finest work, past and present. Chris and Cecile also have a knack for selecting outstanding support staff – invariably talented young musicians who bring their own flair and charm to the business.
Apart from the abundance of practical benefits at Cardiff Violins, there is an extra, less obvious, bonus in visiting the premises – the enjoyment of its artistic ambience. With a little imagination, the place might feel like Vuillaume’s Paris salon – a centre for violin enthusiasts; or maybe one would not be surprised to see David Laurie calling in on his return from a trip to St Petersburg, bringing a case of Strads and Guadagninis - certainly the old masters would feel comfortable here and in good company.
28. Andrew Jones, Pembrokeshire
"I had been looking for a new viola bow for a little while when I was recommended to try one of Gary Leahy's. This bow stood out immediately. It is beautifully balanced and draws a lovely focused sound from the instrument; the workmanship is excellent. I am delighted with it."
29. Harriette Piesley, Rainham, Kent
Dolce String Quartet, Viola
I would like to thank Cécile for the great service from Cardiff Violins. I was initially looking for a viola at a moderate price range but after looking far and wide I was unable to find an elegant viola with such a broad sound. After much searching I was told by a tutor of the Kent County Youth Orchestra to try Cardiff Violins. Within a week I was sent several different Violas and Bows from the shop to play in my own environment. The service was fast and superb. Shortly after my purchase I played for a local youth orchestra in which our concert concluded with Mahler’s 4th Symphony. I played the solo on Don Tatems' Mischa and received many comments about the depth, tone and quality of such an instrument! Even the Mayor congratulated me on the elegance of my playing due to the sound I could produce of such a high quality lovely instrument and that it had a distinguished sound that had not resembled his expectations of a viola in the past. Now, where ever I go I am known as “that violist with a loud sound"… definitely a good thing!
30. Nicholas Jones, Cardiff
Violist and Teacher
"Well what can I say about the wonderful establishment that is Cardiff Violins? I have been going to Cardiff Violins since the age of 7 and now at the age of 31 it is by far my location of choice for all my viola requirements. Just about every instrument I have owned has been purchased from Cecile and Chris and I couldnt ask for more in terms of quality of service and most importantly the service and care given afterwards. Most recently I have purchased a wonderful English silver mounted viola bow (pictured) which i could not be happier with. Whenever my students are looking to purchase a new instrument I have always taken them to visit Cardiff Violins and Cecile, Chris and all their assistants always make myself and my students feel most welcome. The one thing i can say is that you never feel like an inconvenience when vistiting. Cecile and Chris, for all the help and support you have provided me with my instruments over the years and continue to provide, Thank you!"
"Having taken my viola into Cardiff Violins for advice as to what I should do in order to get the best out of my Viola, it was recommended that I should opt to have a professional bridge fitted in order for the viola to produce the best sound possible. I knew myself that the bridge I initially had was below standard however I was a little sceptical at first as to how much difference a bridge would actually make to the sound quality. I was assured by Chris that if the new bridge did not improve the sound quality then he would put my old bridge back on and iI would not be charged. I decided to take the plunge and having returned to test the results I was absolutely amazed! The tonal qualities that my Viola now produces is nothing short of perfect to what i was looking for, Chris spent at least half an hour with myself making sure it was exactly to how I wanted it to sound, a lovely caramel sound however still retaining the clarity and brightness that I have always preferred on my Violas. In my opinion, the cost of having the bridge fitted along with the consultation to make sure it is to my liking is well worth it!"
31. Susanne Hehenberger, Salzburg, Austria
Concertmaster of Sinfonietta da Camera Salzburg
Violinist and Violin teacher
Many thanks, last friday I got my pink violin and I am really happy!
I feel a little bit like a three year old girl.
My youngster, who is ten and plays violoncello, was very happy, too. He told everybody, he now would start to play the violin, the pink one for sure ;-)
I was very busy, so I could not really test it very long, but I think, my pupils and I will love it! I really wish, I could come to Cardiff soon to visit you and the shop and your experts. I Have to see, how to manage that!
Studied at Mozarteum Salzburg with Prof. H. Kienzl, Prof. Irmgard Gahl and Benjamin Schmid.
Master classes with Lynn Blakeslee (USA), Ljerko Spiller (Argentina), Jürgen Geise (Salzburg) and the Bartok – Quartett (Budapest).
The violinist from Salzburg is the concertmaster of Sinfonietta da Camera Salzburg and the principal violinist of a number of ensembles and moreover is involved in the training of young talents. Her many performances of chamber music have led her to three continents where she could gather valuable experience when working with Heinrich Schiff, Ernst Kovacic, Thomas Zehetmaier and Justus Franz.
32. Helen O’Reilly, Ely, Cambridgeshire
Just a quick note to say a huge thank you, yet again, for your support and help with the purchase of violins, violas and accessories. It was lovely to visit Cardiff Violins last week as the care and service you provide is second to none. In particular I would like to say how tremendously helpful Magda was in attaining an excellent violin set up for Ioan. Her care, attention, communication and expertise when dealing with both children and parents is marvelous and left both Ioan and I feeling truly spoilt. We are both thrilled with the result of our visit and Ioan is now even more excited to get out his violin and play!
33. Nigel Walker, Oxford
Stick Shift (Contradance band)
“The Luis & Clark violin surpassed all my expectations in sound quality; acoustically the violin has the power to fill a hall, while not being too penetrating for a small room. This superb violin has strength and balance from top to bottom, lots of volume while remaining easy on the ear. It is visually stunning and feels great to play. Being a folk musician, I seldom use higher positions – however the tonal clarity and feel of this instrument almost tells me where to put my fingers. When on stage using a small, attached microphone – it simply works better than anything I have tried previously. Overall this instrument has opened up opportunities to improve and enjoy playing. I was lucky to find Cardiff Violins to import the violin from America so I could try it before buying – they have a wonderful shop, friendly people and have set up the violin beautifully”.
34. Christine Riley, Tewkesbury
During the summer of 2011, I made several visits to Cardiff violins in order to replace items which had been stolen. Each time I was given excellent personal attention and as much time as I wanted to try instruments and bows. The viola I eventually purchased was expertly set up to my specifications and the choice of bows was extensive-something for all budgets.
I cannot fault the care, help and enthusiasm (especially with the merits of cases!) given to me by both Chris and Cecile and would recommend Cardiff violins to all string players.
35. Delphine Coleman, Machen, S.Wales
The Old Violin.
The violin laid in its old case of faded worn blue felt and rusty locks, it had not been played for 40 years or so and had belonged to my late husband who was a very keen violinist. He was one of 3 brothers whose parents must have been very thrifty to have paid for piano and violin lessons for them in the late 1920’s.. Those were days of great hardship in the Welsh valleys, and my father-in-law worked as a railway ganger which was not a very well paid job. They all played in a local orchestra, the leader of which was their qualified violin teacher. The orchestra practised every week in the nearby Workmens’ Hall and gave concerts at local venues, mostly for charity, which gave the boys added skills and experience. They also performed at chapel gatherings as a trio. The eldest, an excellent organist is still playing in his parish church at the age of 91!
My husband became a teacher, and when we married in 1950, musical evenings were very popular, he would play, and I would accompany him, and friends would join in. A lovely way to enjoy music in your own home at no cost which was an important factor after the war for quite a while. He told me all those years ago that in his teens, he had played the Second Movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto before Paul Robeson. How I wish I had asked more, but I do remember it was one of his very special memories.. His brothers recall it but only vaguely, and all my efforts to discover more have not been successful. Information gathered seems to concentrate only on Robeson’s speeches, rather than any concerts. He visited South Wales many times and was very respected by the mining communities with whom he had a great affinity. Maybe someone somewhere might remember although it is such a long time ago in the mid 1930’s.
I am now 85 years old, and have been widowed for 13 years but am blessed with a loving family and 4 great grand children, the eldest of whom is 10 years old, and has just passed his Grade 3 violin exam. His sisters aged 8 and 5 years have also started lessons. Young Jacques is also a cathedral chorister so I think there must be a few musical genes around! This made me think about the old violin, could it still be played, should I seek advice about having it restored, and would it be worthwhile?
This is where Cardiff Violins enter my story. A visit there was to prove a lovely experience. The time and expertise given to advise and show what was necessary in such a friendly atmosphere was amazing, so lacking in today’s busy world. I was told that the violin was in relatively good condition, was about 120 years old, was probably made in the Vosges region of France, and was certainly worth restoration.
My granddaughter and her husband, (Jacque’s parents) were thrilled to think that in time he would be able to play his great-grandfather’s violin so it was obvious the path I needed to follow, and the work was put in hand.
When we went to fetch it a few weeks ago, Jacques had no idea why we were going to Cardiff, and what a surprise it was for him! Once again every effort was made to ensure that everything was as it should be, in fact, he would soon be able to play it. We chose a new case but my grand-daughter insisted on keeping the old one with its white painted initials on the cover
It was a very happy and emotional occasion, enriched again by the whole ambience which surrounded us. I know my husband would have been delighted and proud to know that his treasured violin would be in good hands, and that it had passed down to the fourth generation of the family. So if anyone has a budding musician in the family, and maybe an old instrument tucked away and forgotten, please give it some thought. It could well have a new life, and give much pleasure to others.
Once again, thank you Cardiff Violins, how glad we all are to have found you!
36. Meryn Hellier, Herefordshire
When I took my ancient cello to Cardiff Violins for a major repair, it was very fragile and weary. It has come back strong and beautiful with an even, fuller tone.
I've also had a set-up on a new cello, which has created new depths of beauty.
37. Peter Copper, Thatcham, Berks, Reading
Choosing a new bow from so many available is difficult.
Will it play well with the violin? Does the balance feel right? Is its range of tones and responses right for me?
Does it look like a piece of art to be admired as well as used?
Being presented with twelve or so bows in my price range, £2-3000, and slowly reducing them down to two over an hour or so wasn't easy. However, as soon as I picked up Anne-Cecile’s bow, it felt right… it was that wow feeling. The first notes and scales on the violin just left me smiling.
A number of phrases later and I couldnt decide between two French bows. Both felt perfect! I chose Anne-Cecile’s on price, appearance and of course, its richness and sound variations in combination with my violin. It is a true piece of art I never tire of looking at and playing!!
38. Alex Woodwood, Swindon, Cardiff, Bristol
"I have tried several of Ian's cellos and they are all beautiful instruments. What I've noticed about them is that they have a great all round sound as soon as they start to be played, even in the lower register. In addition to the sound they produce, they look fantastic with real care taken to make the varnishing look older. The cello I now own is a Vinnacia copy. Over the 9 months I have had it, the sound has developed to provide a really tone end that stands up to being in large cello sections. I've lost count of the number of times I've had positive feedback around the way the sound projects and also how beautiful the cello looks…including being asked how old the cello was!!"
39. Michael Edwards, Cardiff
40. Elizabeth Elliot, Cowbridge
Until I lost my hearing, the violin was my life and my beautiful Italian instrument had gone faithfully with me throughout my career as a performer and Suzuki teacher. But recently I came to realise that I would never play again and that it was time to find it a new home in which it could be played and loved once more.
After reaching this sad decision it was a huge consolation to me to be able to place it in the hands of Chris at Cardiff Violins so that it could be restored to a perfect condition before putting it up for sale. After completion of the restoration I spent a very happy morning with Chris and Cecile at their beautiful showrooms. Briefly reunited with my violin I was so happy to find it once again in a glorious condition and sounding magnificent thanks to Chris's excellent craftsmanship. I know that Chris and Cecile are in the best possible position with their fine reputation and experience to find my violin a good home, for which I shall be for ever grateful.
41. Mark Aitchison, Bridgend and Gloucestershire
My relationship with Cardiff Violins has developed over that last 20 or so years.
I purchased my first viola from Chris and Cecile aged 14, then aged 18 they advised me and helped me to select the instrument that would allow my playing to develop through university and with the National Youth Orchestra of Wales. Then in 2008 I decided that for my performace to be enhanced, I would need to invest in a better instrument. Over a period of 5 months, I visited Cardiff Violins and both Chris and Cecile were extremely accomodating; these visits occured when I had a spare hour before a rehearsal somewhere in the city. Fortunately for me, the same viola was always there, proudly waiting for a play. Making the decision to purchase it was one of the best I have ever made. An Ian Ross viola from 2004, with the most sublime tone across the entire register. Without the patience of Chris and Cecile it would not have happened.
They then helped me purchase my first violin, when I decided that I needed an instrument that I could teach beyond grade 3 violin on. A very difficult task on the viola. They pointed me in the direction of a very capable and inexpensive instrument that fitted the job description perfectly. So well in fact, several of my students have visited Cardiff Violins and enjoyed the advice and knowledge of Chris and Cecile in the purchase of their "first" instrument.
42. The Petfield Family, Newport
Purchasing George’s violin was a wonderful experience enjoyed by the whole family. Magda and Cécile ensured that our afternoon spent at Cardiff Violins was a highly successful one where we were able to purchase a beautiful instrument for George, which was clearly of a far superior quality compared to anything seen previously.
The environment and pleasant ambience of the premises lends itself perfectly to the occasion and allows you to easily concentrate on the matter in hand without distraction. George was able to play each violin in turn, (including a duet with Magda), until he was satisfied beyond doubt, that he had found his favourite.
Each part of the whole process was taken as carefully as the last; whether it was selecting the violin itself or the shoulder rest, bow and case.
A welcome benefit was that the purchase was aided by the 'Assistance Purchase Scheme', which enabled us to save on all the VAT for the sake of two minutes spent filling out a brief form which accompanied our payment.
Most importantly George loves his new violin to bits and plays it at any opportunity. The difference in his playing is obvious and makes us all wonder how he managed so well previously? Thanks again for all your help and we look forward to seeing you soon.
43. Maddie and Anne Fowler, Bristol
When you first enter the Violin Room at Cardiff Violins you find yourself in a wondrous Aladdin's cave of violins, the walls lined from floor to ceiling with row upon row of instruments, and there is the feeling that surely you will find “that special violin” here. There is a warm welcome to settle you in with reviving cups of tea to brace yourself for the task ahead, and Chris is on hand to tell you about the different instruments and their histories. They also have a violinist available to play for you, so that you can hear how your selection sounds from a distance, and how well it projects. When you need a break there are plenty of little cafes nearby where you can sit and discuss and mull over the decisions you might make.
Maddie fell in love with a wonderful old english violin, and I was also so inspired by one of the instruments (sadly beyond our price range) that I decided to start to play the violin again. Cecile and Chris were able to find me a lovely old instrument that suited my hands. So now Maddie and I play duets together!
The next fun task is choosing a violin case. Choosing a violin case is easy with such a variety of cases to choose from – once again one is spoilt for choice – from the simply sumptuous to the functional. Seeing your violin in a beautiful case that sets off the wood is inspiring and just makes you want it pick it up and start playing.
So although we set out to purchase one violin and ended up with two, we went through an amazing journey of discovery, our lives are the richer and our music making enhanced! Thank you Cardiff Violins!
44. Florence Altenburger
Violin teacher at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, Junior department
Head of Individual lessons at Faulkner House Girl’s school, London
“Cardiff Violins have been taking care of my violin since I moved to England 2 years ago. I have spent such a long time with Chris to find the best my violin could offer, and it now sounds wonderful. I trust them for anything, from working on my violin to selling violins to my students. I am very grateful for their superb honesty, timeless availability and endless generosity. It has made a real difference and I feel I can come back anytime to look for the same perfectionism, "amour du métier" as we say in France!"
45. Orla Mooney, Co Clare, Republic of Ireland
Cardiff Violins could not have been more helpful when I decided to purchase a Luis and Clarke Carbon Fibre Violin. I was an adult returning to music after a twenty year absence and Cécile was wonderfully patient and helpful in swiftly answering my endless questions. The violin looks absolutely beautiful is a pleasure to play. The exquisite tone it produces flatters the player and even my most sceptical wooden violin aficionado friends have been converted upon playing it. I particularly enjoy their incredulity at the extremely high quality sound for the comparatively low price. Cardiff Violins took care of the importation of the violin from Luis & Clarke and offered invaluable advice on the purchase of a suitable case, rest and carbon fibre bow. If my playing of this gorgeous instrument ever matches the customer service I experienced when I purchased it, I will have exceeded my wildest dreams!
46. Ginny Small, Surrey
I needed to buy a new cello because I had outgrown my ¾, so needed a full size. When we arrived at Cardiff Violins, Cécile was very helpful and friendly and I was given very good help and advice. Angharad played a few cellos for me so I could hear them and so I could see what they could do. I also played them all myself. Angharad told me which instruments she preferred and also changed many strings for me to see if that helped. It took roughly 2 1/2 hours for me to decide, as there were so many! It was brilliant because we were able to take the cello home on “trial”. Angharad also gave us lots of advice and help in choosing a bow and case. I was very happy but mostly excited when I left the shop! It was a wonderful experience and with Angharad’s help, I chose the right cello first time!
47. Leena Oh , Godalming, Surrey
I purchased two beautiful French violins about a year ago from Cardiff violins for my daughters 11& 9 years old and we have been absolutely delighted with them. The girls love their violins and it's evident in their playing and it's a joy to listen to the wonderful sounds coming from the violins.
From the moment I contacted Cardiff Violins, they have been extremely helpful, friendly and accommodating. Before I visited the shop, Cecile sent me many photographs of the violins she sourced for us and provided us with lots of information. Their professionalism and expertise at Cardiff Violins is second to none and the customer service is simply outstanding. Cecile and Chris are the kindest and warmest people ever. They provide good honest advice and run the type of business whom one will have a relationship with for life.
A year on, and they have continued to provide excellent support and service and nothing is ever too much for them. A big thank for all your help and I will not hesitate recommending Cardiff Violins to anyone.
48. John Senter, Principal Cellist in the BBC National Orchestra of Wales
When I came back from an orchestral tour of the USA with my cello in pieces, having split as a result of the dry atmosphere, it was to Cardiff Violins that I turned. Chris and Cecile immediately provided me with a cello to play on for which I was extremely grateful, and after a few weeks I was back in their shop trying many of their cellos, with a view to buying another instrument. They both showed incredible patience, giving me their undivided attention, as well as several cups of tea! Eventually at their suggestion, I brought away a cello by Henry Jay to try for a few weeks, so that I could play it in the orchestra, and see how it felt playing solos. At first I wasn’t certain that this was the instrument for me, but as I gradually adjusted to it, I realised that they had seen that this cello would probably suit me before I did. It now feels almost part of me, and I only wish I had found it 25 years ago!
49. Dee James, Bath
I bought a viola from overseas and the tone was most unpleasant to the ears. I contacted Cardiff Violins after finding out about them via the Web and from the onset they were extremely helpful and very patient. The viola has been completely reset and the tone is now superb. if you have an instrument that seems unplayable, I would definitely recommend the Cardiff Violins shop to transform your instrument. A big hearty thank you to all at the shop for my viola. It is a joy to play again.
50. Richard Crabtree ARCM
Prof Viola & Violin, RWCMD Cardff & Trinity College London
I can't thank you enough for the considerable time and trouble spent on restoring and voicing my violin and viola.
Your quest in satisfying my demands on workmanship and tone production with these instruments, is both reassuring and very much appreciated.
51. Sebastian Rudnicki, Freelance Violinist, London
I am so pleased with the violin I bought from Cardiff Violins. The shop was recommended to me by a friend, so when playing in Cardiff recently, I decided to visit the shop and try a few instruments. Cecile, Chris and their assistant Magda made me feel very welcome indeed, I was given lots to try and never felt under pressure. Simply to try and enjoy. They were so helpful and on hand to give advice and adjust the instruments if necessary. Chris also did a set up of my own modern violin and changed the bridge, which has transformed the instrument so it sounds better than ever.
I very much look forward to visiting Cardiff Violins when next in Cardiff, they really did make the whole experience a very nice one and the violin I had been looking for all these years is now mine thanks to Cecile and Chris. Thank you so much.
52. Hazel and Henry White,
We visited Cardiff Violins in January 2012 on the recommendation of my son's violin teacher. Henry spent a couple of hours trying many instruments with your patient, knowedgable staff. Having narrowed down the selection, we went for lunch and returned to consider the few violins we had chosen. With more patience and a variety of listening opportunities, we took two instruments home to try with his teacher. Since this was Henry's first full size instrument, we apprecaited the guidence and humour of your expert staff. This made our journey worth while. Within a month of proudly owning his 'new', old violin, Henry used it to gain a music scholarship to the senior school he will start in September 2012.
Thank you all at Cardiff Violins!
53. Nicholas Thompson,
As a student, I was borrowing the University's Baroque violin and bow, which was of fairly basic quality. As I progressed, I wanted to purchase my own, looking for something of great quality. After giving up many days for travelling and trying out over 17 different Baroque violins, I came to the conclusion, with a second opinion from my teacher, that this wonderful 18th century Scottish violin was 'the one'. I would like to thank Cardiff Violins, in particular Chris and Cécile, for such a friendly and helpful service. My parents and I received a very warm welcome and were given some expert advice on what to look for in theinstrument and information on prices. I was given time and space to try out the violins they had on offer, and assistance was there when required. What particularly impressed me was the after-sales customer service. Having just bought a very recently, beautifully made bow from the famous French maker, Monique Poullot, I encountered a slight problem with it, and Chris explained to me how to overcome it, and it has been absolutely fine since. Even after that, I received numerous phone calls ensuring that everything was in working order and to my satisfaction. Once again, I would like to thank Cardiff Violins for their excellent service, and that I am extremely content with my purchases!
54. Alex Woodward, Cellist,
Swindon, Cardiff, Bristol
'I recently came across an Italian cello which needed considerable work undertaking to correct the neck angle and realise the playing potential of the instrument. Chris and I spent considerable time going through the options of what would be possible and also cost effective. I must admit that I was nervous when Chris explained the work he recommended, but I was amazed at the level of craftmanship that Chris and his team achieved, and in fact, you would never know that a repair had been done!
I'm always impressed by the work that Chris and his team undertake and I have huge respect for the values that they work by - a real passion to do the right thing for the musician and also to ensure the instrument can perform to its full potential, which mine now does!
55. Danielle Bruckert, United Arab Emirates.
I had only ever played student cellos, and had been looking into an upgrade for some years, but lived in two countries without Cellos and without weather for cellos. Fate, a long weekend, Luis and Clarke, and Cardiff Violins came into my life, and I finally have a great instrument that will last the weather and my progression.
Here's some brief notes on my experience:
I was so impressed by two points, Chris and Cecile made me feel at home, and since I was so nervous, this was the best treatment I could expect, I had my own room, and even my own coffee mug. Second I was amazed at how they treated all clients the same, whether you were coming to buy a £ 6,000 Cello or a £ 5 piece of rosin, they treated everyone the same, and I thought this was really great.
The Cello professional, Angharad, was in and out all day to help me with bows, cellos, and cases, she was always not far off when I needed her and let me be in peace when I didn't, Chris helped me with wolfnote devices and advice on bridge setting, and let me play several wooden Cellos in my range and some way out of my league for comparison. For someone who had only ever played student cellos, this was amazing.
I was considering buying a Cello from Cardiff without seeing it, if I did not get the few days away, as they said they will ship, especially in circumstances like mine, and after being there I would be happy buying an instrument from them prior to seeing it. However I am so glad on the experience I had, and the knowledge I gained from the day at the shop, if you can get there, I highly recommend it.
Regarding the Luis and Clake - I am really impressed, it is perfect for someone in my situation, it sounds great, is weather durable, rugged, but still plays like a similarly priced wooden instrument, and I have to say, looks cool on stage for jazz and rock. I always thought it was retail jargon that if you buy a better instrument, your playing will improve to match it, but so far, I am finding at least my practice has improved immensely, I can now play without the limitations of my student Cello, and I've managed to resurrect a few pieces I'd given up on as not being able to play well. The resonation is so much better, and it is much easier to get a good sound. I am extremely happy with the instrument I now have.
Here's a pic of me looking very nervous at my first public performance.
We were only at Cardiff for a couple of days, but we made some friends, I found a great instrument and learnt a great deal, and we definitely want to go back.
56. Jules Coomber, Herne Bay, Kent
My first encounter with Cardiff Violins was not, in fact, for the purpose of purchasing a violin, but researching the instruments used in the BBC drama Sherlock, for the website Sherlockology. Having played the violin from a very early age myself, the subject was of particular interest to me and I was excited to learn more about the instruments chosen for the television series.
Chris and Cécile were exceptionally helpful, giving detailed descriptions and accounts of the violins used onscreen and why they had hand picked them amongst countless others. It was fascinating to learn the history of the 19th century German violin chosen for the second series and its journey to Cardiff Violins, and then onto the Sherlock set to be played by actor Benedict Cumberbatch while portraying Sherlock Holmes in the episodes ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ and ‘The Reichenbach Fall.’
Thanks to Cardiff Violins, today I find myself the current custodian of this very special violin. It is a magnificent instrument and from the very first moment I played it, I fell in love and understood why they had chosen this one in particular. Not only a beauty aesthetically, it possesses such a rich and mellifluous tone, that every violinist who has heard me play this violin, has immediately asked if they could play it themselves!
Living in the south-east of England there is a severe lack of experienced string instrument suppliers and restorers in the area and it was wonderful to finally find Cardiff Violins, with whom I had confidence that I could entrust my own violins and bows that had been passed down to me from generations in my family. They have since fully restored two such bows and I am absolutely thrilled with them both; they look spectacular and it is a joy to play with them. I have another violin that is in desperate need of being brought back to life, and would not dream of taking it to anyone else.
I am very pleased to have found such patient and dedicated individuals, who have both the passion and knowledge to ensure whether you are a novice or experienced musician, you can leave Cardiff Violins reassured you have found exactly the right instrument for you. And if you believe as I do, that finding ‘the right violin’ is like finding your life partner, then in my opinion, there are no better matchmakers than Chris and Cécile.
57. Roseanna Jones, Spain
I would like to thankyou for the promt & friendly service that I have received from you. I bought a Violin bow from you on Wednesday 25th July, and it was delivered to my home in Spain on Friday 27th.
I look forward to visiting Cardiff Violins when I am next in Cardiff.
58. Alessia Beebie, Guernsey
It was three years ago that I first visited Cardiff Violins. I was overwelmed by the choice of string instruments and accessories on offer. Already an accomplished violinist, I was looking for a new bow of excellent quality to complement my violin. I didn’t have to go any further as Cardiff Violins stock a wide selection of bows. I finally set my eyes on a Manuel Francisco bow of exceptional quality. After trying a number of bows at my own pace and taking Chris and Cécile’s excellent advice, I never looked back. I was also conscious about taking care of my violin as I travel considerably and Cardiff Violins also stock a significant selection of high end cases. I chose a HIMA violin case because it was robust and practical for air travel. Additionally, it has a special music slot inside the case which was just what I was looking for.
I am a qualified musician having recently graduated from the University of Southampton and am a regular player with local orchestras in Guernsey. Since being back in the Island, I have performed as a soloist as well as string quartet events for various functions. Being a primary school teacher by profession, I also provide private tuition lessons in piano and violin.
59. Katie Davies
We purchased a full size violin and bow for our daughter Katie.Laura was so kind and very patient with Katie we did not feel pressured at all Laura made Katie feel very comfortable. Laura and Cecile, thank you so much for your expertise and outstanding customer service. We would recommend Cardiff Violins to everyone.
60. Osian Dafydd: Royal College of Music & Drama
My name is Osian Dafydd and I am 18 years of age. I am currently studying the violin at the Royal College of music in London. I hope to pursue a professional career in music and preferably the violin as
a primary instrument. I am also hoping to study voice at the Royal College of music. Currently I am a very proud owner of a great instrument made by a man called Henry banks, along with his father Benjamin banks who were both very gifted violin makers that lived during the 1700s and 1800s. It was this violin that was introduced to me by Chris and Cecile last year at Cardiff violins that made me realise I wanted to pursue a career in music and therefore I am extremely grateful to Chris and Cecile for introducing me to this violin.
When I arrived at the shop to purchase a new violin I instantly realised the warm atmosphere created by the building and also the welcoming staff who were very considerate and kind. It was also apparent that Chris and Cecile had a great interest in me and in my happiness of finding the right instrument. I had the opportunity of trying many violins, each one being unique in its sound and characteristics. It was a very long procedure to choose a violin but Cecile and Chris showed endless patience and true care.
It is very apparent to me that Chris and Cecile greatly enjoy their business, they are also very open to helping you adjust your violin to your preferred sound. Chris being an excellent craftsman does excellent jobs of repairing your violin if necessary and it is also possible to place complete faith in his dexterity. I recently had my violin completely re-glued, involving hours of Chris's time, when I went to pick up the instrument and offered Chris a sum of money he quickly rejected it. I believe that this demonstrates his love for the instrument.
To conclude, I have received many wonderful experiences from Cardiff violins and would happily advise everyone who wants to buy a new instrument whether it is a violin, viola, or a cello or whether you wish to service your instrument to go to Cardiff violins and truly have a great experience.
61. Ted Wilson: St. David's String Quartet, Former Member of The Orchestra of Welsh National Opera, and violin Teacher
I have known Chris King since 1977, when he was a student at the, now defunct, srting instrument making school at Abertridwr; and I was a member of the Orchestra of Welsh national Opera. It is with the greatest pleasure that I have observed Cardiff Violins grow and become such a great asset to Cardiff, British and internationally based string players.
During the past 35 years Chris has never lost sight of the fact that as pupils usually start playing with a small size, modest instrument, they then grow and need a larger instrument and if sufficient progress is made a fine instrument might be purchased. Cardiff Violins offer an excellent trade in scheme which allows pupils to upgrade to larger and better quality instruments. Over the past 35 years I have been delighted with this service.
The variety of instruments available at Cardiff Violins is large. The cheapest instrument I have ever bought for a pupil cost £35 and an ex pupil of mine recently purchased a fine old Italian instrument at a cost which would have bought a reasonable house in Wales!
As well as instrument sales, Cardiff Violins has an onsite workshop. Here new instruments are correctly prepared for sale and other instruments are repaired. I have always found the quality of work to be excellent.
There are numerous rooms at Cardiff Violins where instruments and bows can be played, at your leisure in pleasant surroundings.
Dear Chris and Cecile, I hope you will continue to look after us for many more years.
St David’s Quartet
62. Alan McClure, Co Antram, Northern Ireland
I am a freelance violinist /violist and am a bit hard to classify…
I enjoy being versatile as I love many styles of playing in many different contexts. I regularly work as an orchestral player, recitalist, baroque violinist, jazz violinist/violist, quartet and session player. I have always been interested in string playing from many parts of the world, from Cape Breton fiddling to Indian ragas!
I have just purchased a marvellous bow by American maker Lee Guthrie. Beautiful craftsmanship, powerful, superb playability and draws out colours and sonorities from my instrument I didn't know were there! Cardiff Violins have been extremely helpful and a pleasure to deal with. The Lee Guthrie is the third fine bow they have sold me. The others are a wonderful Baroque bow by Jacques Poullot, gorgeous and full of nuance and the renowned "Spiccato'" by Benoit Rolland- powerful, smooth and versatile. I use it for many styles including jazz..
63. Ivor Cox
I was in your shop recently and purchased a composite violin bow (and some very posh rosin). I can report I am very pleased with both and am being especially mindful of not overplaying - something the new bow makes easier.
While there you expressed interest in my family all being string players and asked for a picture. Attached is a scan of a photo taken at the last Victorian week at Llandrindod Wells. From the left:
Al the best,
64. Nicolas Ramirez, Conservatorio de Castelo Branco, Portugal
Blind date with a baroque violin!
The Early music scene is rapidly growing in interest here in Portugal and I was recently lucky enough to successfully audition for the Concerto Iberico Orquestra Barroca, one of the top portuguese Early Music groups. Up to that point I was borrowing a fiddle but decided the time had come to invest on my own one. Budget was not large, so knew from the start that it would need to be a Chinese copy, which didn´t worry me at all as I have witnessed the excellent quality of some Chinese violins in the past. I looked on the internet and suddenly panic started to appear: the amount of makers, dealers, websites selling chinese baroque violins is enormous, it is a bit of a jungle. I looked at some shops here in Portugal but somehow didn´t trust the product I was being offered. After weeks of frustration, I finally opened my eyes and saw that the answer to my predicament had been in front of me all the time : Cardiff Violins!
I have enjoyed a wonderful friendship with Chris and Cécile for the past 15 years. They were always there for me at the start of my career and during my 13 years in Cardiff, and colleagues and pupils have enjoyed the outstanding quality of their violins, bows and accessories here in Portugal too.
Due to professional commitments it was impossible for me to go to Cardiff personally, and on the other hand, I needed the fiddle urgently. So I experienced the best thing Cardiff violins has, its customer care. For the past few weeks, Chris and Cecile have patiently replied to the dozens of emails I sent them with all my requirements.
As the budget was so limited my expectations were not high, but I wanted to get the absolute best value for money. Exactly on the day Chris and Cecile promised, I received an absolutely gorgeous violin. I literally couldn´t believe my eyes how beautiful the fiddle was. Then I started playing and the sound was wonderful, right from the start a clear round sound, very easy to play on all the strings. The violin was fitted with an unbelievable bridge (my friends in Portugal are sending their violins to them for new bridges all the time!) which makes all the difference and all my requirements in terms of thickness of the neck, weight. everything was just as I wanted.
In short, Cardiff violins are on to a winner with this range of baroque violins and, if you are as specific as I am, you WILL NOT get better customer care anywhere else in the U:K
Conservatorio de Castelo Branco, Portugal
65. Simon Rees
I bought a newly-made Baroque-style violin from a Chinese maker by eBay, and received it packed neatly and with the sound-post and bridge down. It looked smart, with a nice shape and good varnish, so I brought it to Chris King at Cardiff Violins and asked the simple question: ‘Is this a Baroque violin?’ ‘It will be when I’ve finished with it,’ Chris said, and made some critical comments about the set of the neck, the shape of the bridge and other matters he felt he could rectify. ‘How much do you think that will cost?’ I asked, and Chris told me to expect to pay about as much as I had spent on the violin. In the end, his bill came to around £350, which was what I had paid the maker, and the instrument was a great deal closer to my expectations of a Baroque violin, and I have been playing ever since with great pleasure, although no expertise whatsoever… I continue to come to Chris’s shop to buy strings, rosin and other accessories, and always enjoy the opportunity to try out instruments in the practice room, and chat to Chris and Cecile about matters violinistic and musicological. Cardiff Violins, in its picturesque arcade setting, is a wonderful place to learn more about the whole violin family of instruments, and acts as the hub of a network of contacts among musicians throughout Wales and the West Country.
66. Michelle McNulty, Yorkshire
When I was looking for a new Intermediate violin I found Cardiff Violins and having read the testimonials and seen what they had to offer I arranged to visit and try some violins. Fortunately my partner and I had already planned to go visit the Millennium Center so this provided the excuse to drive over from Yorkshire.
I was not disappointed. Everyone at Cardiff Violins is very focused on helping you find the right instrument. I spent two hours there trying a selection of violins in one of their trying out rooms. I finally selected a 'Con Fuoco'. It's a great violin and I have had many compliments over it's tone and appearance. I can wholeheartedly recommend Cardiff Violins.
67. Gavin Stoddart, Burnham-On -Sea
I have been playing some of the Bach Cello Suites this week - and the tone and resonance is outstanding. Not sure what you did with the new bridge, and sound post placement, but it has made a good instrument exceptional.
I have now just got to learn how to get the best out of it.
So major thanks!
68. Bill Robinson, Rochester
Cecile and Chris were a pleasure to meet and so helpful when I was trying to decide which instrument to choose. Being a mature `enthusiastic amateur` as apposed to a `pro`, meant a certain degree of nervousness on my part, but I was very quickly put at ease by their friendly and supportive manner. Their service was just perfect, I couldn`t fault it at all. Now as the proud owner of a beautiful Don Tatem viola, I couldn`t be happier. However, Chris, I do have one problem with it : at a recent rehersal, I still could hear wrong notes! Any suggestions !!?
City of Rochester Symphony Orchestra, and ‘Caliband’.
69. Philip Heyman, Principle Viola at Welsh National Opera
Well, there is not a lot I can say that has not already been said! Going to Cardiff Violins does not feel like going to a shop…it feels like looking up old friends – who happen to know a lot about what you need! Good advice is always there, Chris never screams at my latest discoveries…such as Pellegrina violas or the Luis & Clarke instrument (which I affectionately call Captain Plastic!). They know I love innovation…and colour…which is why Cécile knew I would be perfect for one of BAM’s less subtle cases! They also introduced me to Arcus bows, which I now use all the time. It is so easy to take for granted the convenience of having a place where you can go and try stuff and discuss ideas…something the internet cannot compete with.
70. Freya & Cathy, Brighton
We just wanted to say how delighted we are with the new violin. It looks beautiful and the tone is like velvet! It makes a big sound, as well, for a 3/4. Up to this point, Freya's played whatever I could find second hand and locally, but this is a violin to fall in love with. It's really enhanced her
Thank you to Cecile and Laura for your excellent personal service. We were nervous about buying a musical instrument online and relied totally on your expertise and advice in making a selection. When Freya grows out of this one, we shall definitely be back for a full-size - maybe in person, this time. Many thanks.
Freya and Cathy, Brighton
P.S. Freya's exams before Christmas went very well, she got distinction for her violin exam (grade 5, 135) and for her grade 5 piano too. She is thrilled. I'm quite sure her new violin helped!
71. Lauren Alexandra Haley, New York
I am infinitely grateful to Cardiff Violins for introducing me to my Thomas Smith violin. As a violin performance major, my violin means absolutely everything to me. I cannot imagine how different my life would be without it. I had started my undergraduate degree as a viola performance major and re-auditioned at my school (the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York) as a violinist because I could not stand to go a day without playing my violin. While most of my friends dream of someday owning their "soul mate" instrument, I know I've found mine.
Lauren Alexandra Haley
Eastman School of Music '13
Rochester, New York
72. Judy Powell, Sydney, Australia
I just wanted to let you know that the case arrived safely a couple of days before Christmas! Thank you so much for organising all that process - it all went very smoothly. And it was an excellent price - even with shipping, it was by far the best price we could find either in Australia or elsewhere online for the Bam cases.
My daughter is thrilled with it!
73. Carol Paige, Violinist, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra
I am lucky enough to be the playing the beautiful Brandini violin that belongs to Eleanor. I am so enjoying playing the instrument, getting to know it and hearing it open out more and more as time passes. The violin has such an interesting sound which for me is so exciting and I am still finding new colours as each day passes. Just before Christmas I noticed that the instrument had opened up slightly on one of the shoulders so this has been glued now - pretty inevitable for older instruments as they get used to being played again I imagine? I have been using Evah Pirrazzi strings on the violin but have just treated myself to a Christmas present of their new 'Evah Pirazzi Gold' strings. These have gone on today and I can't wait to see how they settle in as one of my colleagues raves about them.
Many thanks for sourcing and selling such a beautiful instrument to Eleanor and Ray, it has made so much difference to my playing.
Eleanor & Ray, Violin Owners
We are so glad that Carol is finding that the Brandini is making such a difference to her playing, as this was the intention, to give a player an instrument that would allow them to progress their talent in a way that they could not afford without such help. We would encourage others, who are deciding how to invest some money at this time of uncertain markets, to consider doing the same.
74. Chris Holland, Cello Teacher, Germany
Thank you for all the time and skill you have lavished on my cello. I am still discovering its full potential but it is already clear that the tone quality is now better accross the entire register than it has ever been before and the ease with which the instrument responds is a transformation and a joy. My pupils are always greatly inspired and practise far more when they have one of your cellos. I now find myself sharing their experience. Thank you so very much!
75. David Hornberger
In June 2012 I started cello shopping. Having just finished my postgrad at the Royal Northern College of Music, I knew that, in a few months time, I would have to give back the lovely cello they had loaned to me for the past two years. I knew that the next instrument I purchased would be a serious investment, and I could only stop cello shopping when I’d found the one. I’d been trying out various cellos over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year, and I had yet to come across an instrument that made me not want to put it down. So, we arrive at September and I’ve given the cello back to the RNCM. I had been to Cardiff Violins once before and loved it – it was back in 2010 when I just popped in for a nose (I ended up trying some cellos then too!), and I was excited by the fact I could go there again! I was due to be working in Cardiff around mid-September, so sent an email to Cécile asking if I could come and try out some cellos whilst I was down there. “We would be very happy to meet you and show you our cellos”, she said! Brilliant, I was going to Cardiff Violins!
Cécile was a tremendous help; she had prepared many cellos that suited my budget, so when I arrived they were all perfectly tuned and ready for me. There were two girls who also assisted me; they brought fresh coffee and gave me a selection of bows for me to try. This was a brilliant thing to do as not all bows suit all cellos, so they gave me the freedom to find an instrument that would shine. So there I sat, well catered for, for 2 hours! Time flies.. I asked to not know the prices of the cellos because sometimes this can get in the way of finding an instrument that you like when you have a budget.
And then that moment came. I had found the one! A cello by the Scottish maker, Colin Adamson, made in 2006. It was brilliant. I loved the sound, the feel and even the look! As much as looks shouldn’t really matter, it’s always a bonus if your chosen instrument is pleasant on the eye! It was beautiful in every way. After I had tried all the cellos, Cécile insisted that I take the Adamson away to try – I was immediately very fond of it! Cécile contacted me over the next week to see how I was getting on and I told her how I just had to have it. It was at the top end of my budget, but I didn’t care.. I would find a way! I assured Cécile that I would definitely be purchasing the Adamson, and unfortunately hit brick wall after brick wall when investigating loans/grants/scholarships etc.. What was a horrible few weeks of decline after decline, eventually turned into success! I cannot thank Cécile and Chris enough for their patience and continued optimism in my search for funding. They were also extremely generous to lend me a case for the whole time, and I cannot explain how warming it is to have a shop be on your side; they wanted me to have the Adamson as much as I did!
So now I have a cello which I’m very proud to own, and it’s all thanks to Cécile and Chris really. Next time I’m in Cardiff I’ll be popping into Cardiff Violins – not to try out cellos for 2 hours, but instead to have a catch up with the lovely friends that I made during my time spent at Cardiff Violins; although, I guess I’ll be the one making the coffee this time!
76. Adam Robinson, Violin & Violist
As a violinist and violist, I have been playing on a friend's Don Tatem viola for the past 3 years in a variety of settings. I find it a very easy instrument to switch to from the violin and really like the strong, even tone across its range. I came to Cardiff Violins specifically to buy a Don Tatem for myself and found a similar instrument in size to the one I was playing that I really like and am looking forward to playing. I have tried quite a few instruments much higher in value yet none have seemed quite as nice as Don's! Thanks to Cardiff Violins for helping me.
Here is a video of the viola multi-tracked in a new composition:
77. Janice Blackiston, Haverfordwest
I am loving the violin and have had a go (required) at tuning it – the pegs are excellent – a far throw from my student instrument. I can hear the sound interval when moving the pegs and am having reasonable results when checking with my tuner – great crash course from Chris! Having such a beautiful violin is going to be a great learning aid for me, I feel it leads me, I am so fortunate to have it. Big big thanks to Cecile and Chris!
78. Allegra Gaspardis, Udine, Italy
I’m Allegra, I come from Italy and I’m 17 years old.
I play violin since when I was 9 years old but there was a moment when I’ve thought that that wasn’t my way. Then I’ve been so lucky to attend for a couple of years the LMFL International Summer music courses in Landovery, in Andorra and in Cadeillan as well.
So I’ve met my wonderful teacher, prof. Crabtree as well as Arlette Herrenschmidt, director of the LMFL, both of them, but Prof. Crabtree in particular, helped me to understand better my potential and what music meant for me.
My professor, last summer, suggested my to try the viola, I was so keen but also a bit afraid of the instrument cause it meant a new beginning and I was feeling a bit blue and frustrated having spent so many years with the violin.
Prof. Crabtree chose the instrument in Your store and I was so excited when I’ve received in Italy before last Christmas, such a wonderful instrument, the sound is melodius and light as a river’s flow, I feel the warmth and the sweetness of this viola, I really love playing it.
I practice every day and twice a week, through skype I have lessons with my teacher, and I feel the viola almost as a part of me. I think that I didn’t choose this instrument but it did choose me and it has overwhelmed me as well.
When I play it there are good as well as bad moments, and my very patient teacher knows it well, sometimes it’s difficult, I feel like I’m not good enough but then I know that I’ve my special instrument that helps me fighting all my music and life’s difficulties.
79. Lorilea Jadeborg, Denmark
My Don Tatem viola is a charming and gifted musical personality. Even with possible lingering "jet-lag", Syrena produced a delicious, even, and full sound, with a nuanced timbre that bodes well for future development. I have no doubt that her voice - like that of the best contraltos - has the capacity to easily fill a room full of people, but still send a personal message to each individual listener. She doesn't demand attention, but will get it anyway - one won't be able to resist her!
80. Chereene Allen, No. 5 1st Violin BBC Concert Orchestra
If you would like to take your hard earned cash (or well deserved loan) to a dealer who might be pompous, have his heart only half in his job, know little about the craft and the musicians he serves, then do not come to Cardiff Violins. Buying an instrument is a very emotional, unique and often lengthy process. To be treated with respect whilst being shown great patience is a rarity and I had this in abundance whilst dealing with Cécile. Cardiff Violins was recommended to me by a colleague and after several lengthy and very informative telephone conversations with Cécile I bought a wonderful Benôit Rolland bow and Bam violin case. Cecile impressed me with her knowledge about the makers and their bows and spent a long time discussing this with me. Nothing is too much trouble for her. I could not recommend Cardiff Violins highly enough.
81. Samuel Bossart, 1st viola in a surrealistic funfare, Belgium
I must thank Cécile Limon and the Cardiff Violins eam for their sense of service. I bought my bow (Viola Spiccato Solo, Benoît Rolland) without coming to the shop. Cécile gave me the needed time to try it on stage, and answered all my questions with rapidity and professionalism. I must say I have not been disadvantaged by the distance to make my choice, on the contrary. I warmly recommand Cécile and her team. And many thanks: this bow is simply amazing!
82. Sarah Eales (Sarah Loveridge), Freelance Violinist and Teacher & Leader/Administrator of the Ardeton String Quartet, Chipping Sodbury, Bristol
I’m still completely in love with my beautiful violin after all these years, and it seems to get better and better each year! I’m so grateful for your help when I first bought it, and I’m so glad I found it, as I can’t imagine ever having a different instrument.
83. Frank Thomas, Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Violin case arrived today, less than 24 hours after ordering. Amazing service. Thank You