Matthias Zeller

Violin

Now that I have done an intense exploration of carbon fibre bows, I want to share my results with everybody involved and interested...

For my trials I had 5 carbon fibre bows: Coda, Righetti and Arcus, the reference being my very good Dölling bow which I bought at 1,000 € a while ago.

The Codabow "Classic" got sorted our right away. The workmanship is so bad, I could hardly believe it. It looked and felt like a crude stick. (At the end of my trials I played it anyway and found it doesn't sound to bad.) This left the Righetti (Sartory model) and Arcus (2 Sinfonia octagonal and 1 Sinfonia round).

Righetti: A true aesthetic pleasure... The stick of the "Sartory" shows the total mastery of the material. It is slim and lean, the fibres are visible and lightly iridescent. Over all a very warm appearance with some similarities to wood. The grip feels good too. It feels good in the hand, the balance is perfect. The sound: Very impressive how the "Sartory" draws over the strings. One can handle it very easy, the sound develops as very even and "creamy". It can also jump, not so easy though (although made from carbon fibre it is build with the same weight as a wooden bow). ... A friendly and comfortable bow which executes with elegance what's being asked of him

But then the direct comparison with the Dölling shows a little different picture. The claim that it performs in different league does not hold true here, especially when taking in account that the Dölling is even a little cheaper. It does not reach the brilliance of the Dölling. The sound is rather muffled and the sound spectrum is not nearly as rich. Spiccato: the Dölling is much more stable on the strings, while the "Sartory" jumps back and forth and is pretty capricious. The sound is also more scratchy.

Conclusion: A very good bow, but not as good as my 1,000 € Dölling. It may be unbreakable, but still is not really a "catch". ...

ARCUS: ... from the Musikmesse 2000 I already knew that one can not play these bow "just like that". They have a different concept and one has to adapt to it.

But instantly I recognized that something about them has changed since then. In contrast to the "show-shock" I can get much faster to a feel for the bow which allows me to control it nicely. ... With the first sounds it becomes instantly clear that here the promises hold true - it develops a big sound and a rich timbre. Any listener realizes at once that this is the bow which delivers the most powerful sound. One can really dig in deep! All strokes work really fine, due to the light weight of the bow miraculously easy and without any effort. Here I see totally new possibilities unclosing which are the main reason for me to take a dive into this new technology. It was never before so easy to go from detachè to spiccato. Finally one can play Baroque with a modern bow. Mozart, Bach,... all this finally works with a "normal" violin and a "modern" bow. Until now I pulled out my baroque bow on such occasions.

>The comparison to the Dölling: At first the playing qualities seem to be similar. Both deliver a clean spiccato, without much noise. Both draw a round and rich tone. The Arcus is the clear winner when it comes to combine fast strokes in forte. One can give the strings some real big lashes. It is light, takes a lot of force and the response is just so much faster. Thus I can just get a lot more out of my violin. It is very impressing how much pressure you can apply. After some more hours of playing there is so much brilliance and richness. Both detache and spiccato can be executed in a way that delivers a perfect sound, the extremely fast change of bowings is for me a novelty in the technique of the violin play.

Back to the Dölling I find this is still a fine bow, but does just not have quite the fire of the Arcus. Of course, it is more heavy, which is nice when you want the bow to play by itself, but you are just so much more agile with a light bow! And it can pull even more powerful sounds... also the piano sounds fine with the Arcus. Yes, you have to adjust your way of playing quite a bit...

Conclusion: A fascinating bow which opens many options and opens a larger potential in the violin. Time will tell how much you get out of it when you develop the complete control of the bow. Definitely a welcome opposition to the Dölling, really not a bad copy but a true completion. ...

Final words: To me the future and potential of carbon fibre bows is not in copying wooden bows but in making use of the possibilities this material offers. Once you have explored the new "way of lightness" of these bows you won't want to miss it ever again. Arcus has just the right and convincing concept. ... The possibilities which lie in an Arcus bow are leading the way. Maybe it is up to a new Paganini to establish a new technique with it. To me it is absurd to make bows from this ultra strong material as heavy as wooden bows, especially when you feel that it is at least as strong, only because we are used to it. Technique realizes possibilities and expresses them - the Arcus concept offers these possibilities! ...

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