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Thread: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

  1. #1
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    Default Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Got my weekly email from Bernunzio Uptown Music in Rochester NY. ( https://bernunzio.com )
    It mentions that they have a bunch of nice Neapolitan-style mandolins, including this one by Umberto Ceccherini, a name I don't know but assume people in this forum will. Fancy!
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    Last edited by jesserules; Nov-06-2017 at 10:05am.

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  3. #2
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Very nice upper end Ceccherini but I think $4,000 is a bit optimistic for that one. You are paying for the extra glitz and rarity. I believe the simpler models sell for under $1000. It does look like it is in fine condition and I have to admit that the fluted back is very attractive.

    Many Ceccherini are also know to have an internal secondary top similar to the Virzi concept. Those small brass "staples" behind the bridge connect to the internal soundboard.
    Last edited by Jim Garber; Nov-06-2017 at 11:20am.
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Ceccherini's are nice, I have one myself which cost < $500, no bling except for the fret markers and scratchplate, and those are simpler than in the photo.
    If it was me I'd take a look at the F. Vinaccia, sadly no picture, although it does say there's a crack.
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  6. #4

    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Years ago I had a double-soundboard Ceccherini, which I sold at cost ($750) in 2006, simply because I was not playing it. Judging from that one and others that I have heard over the years, they are fine-sounding instruments. They have that oh-so-Neapolitan feel, their geometry is just so, the way the fretboard feels under the fingers, the neck in your hand, the cant under your forearm...

    Now, if you see the instrument itself as a work of art, as a thing of beauty, then of course the sky is the limit it terms of price. If you just see it as a musical instrument, something whose beauty is its voice, its sound, then you can get good quality for far less money. Those are deeply personal choices. If a visually splendid instrument inspires you to pick it up and play, who's to argue?

    Cheers,

    Victor
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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Ceccherinis are very nice. I have owned three of them at various times, and have kept the best of them as my go-to bowlback. I also have an Embergher and a Vinaccia, both very nice instruments. The Ceccherini can hold its own with them, and I probably play it more often than either of them. I agree with Victor -- it's just so Neapolitan.

    I don't think their inherent value in terms of musicality or craftsmanship is any less than the more famous luthier names. However, it is a fact that Ceccherini has considerably less name recognition and therefore attracts a much lower market value than (say) an Embergher, Calace or Vinaccia. They're reasonably common in the UK -- most likely all of Ceccherini's output was sent to Alban Voigt in London, whose name appears on all labels as sole distributor -- and therefore usually quite affordable. In that context, the asking price for the one at Bernunzio is rather steep, even for this higher-grade model.

    Nice mandolin, though!

    Martin

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    "Gilding the lily" comes to mind.

    Mick
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    This Kid Needs Practice Bill Clements's Avatar
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Quote Originally Posted by vkioulaphides View Post
    Now, if you see the instrument itself as a work of art, as a thing of beauty, then of course the sky is the limit it terms of price.
    Victor, I definitely need you to speak with my wife before my next mandolin purchase!
    "Music is the only noise for which one is obliged to pay." ~ Alexander Dumas

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    True confession: most of the Neapolitans at B are mine.

    That said, a few comments about Ceccherinis in general, and the one above in particular, might be in order.

    First, the photo above does not come close to exhibiting the bling on that mandolin. The adornments are over-the-top. I've only seen one other of a similar level of ornament. It was sold by Fred Oster at Vintage-Instruments in Philadelphia, and the theme on that one was birds; flowers are the main theme in the one under discussion. I always wondered if they were meant to be a pair, but I'll never know.

    Second, it's worth pointing out that the particular chime-like tone of these instruments is characteristic. Both the examples I've had, despite the huge difference in ornamentation, were nearly equal in tone and playability. I've had in past the opportunity to opine that Italian makers of the period seemed to produce instruments of similar quality, despite the level of ornament. A poor man's Ceccherini will not embarrass the player alongside the fancier models. I salute the Italians for this.

    I don't know how much the doubled soundboard contributes to the particular sound of these instruments, as I've never played one with the single board. I believe at least one member here has such an instrument.

    Finally, I feel that however ornate the above mando may be, it is firmly within the Italian tradition. The ornamentation seen on the instruments from earlier centuries is of a comparable level, though the ornamentation probably contributed to their survival over time, while player-quality instruments would have been "used up" and replaced, rather than surviving as museum pieces. (This is of course conjecture on my part, but it still seems a valid point). With luck, the above mandolin will remain able to impress future generations of mandolinists with the talents of early 20th century luthiers, surviving merely because of its unique ornamentation, while lesser examples will have long since disappeared from the scene.

    A pity that excessive ornamentation would not have the same effect on you and me.
    Last edited by Bob A; Nov-08-2017 at 3:48pm.

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    "Gilding the lily" comes to mind.
    In this case I would agree with Bob -- Ceccherini had much better aesthetic sense than (say) De Meglio or indeed, dare I say it, Vinaccia or Calace, and unlike those other builders his upper-range models are generally still supremely tasteful. Most importantly, he did not paste decorations onto acoustically active parts of the mandolin so that the decorations don't detract from tone.

    It is a beautiful instrument and for the right collector worth the price: while Ceccherinis are pretty affordable in the UK, almost all of them have an intermediate level of decoration, more elaborate and finer workmanship than a De Meglio Model 1A, but nothing like as much as the one at Bernunzio. These are seriously rare, and this one looks in pristine condition.

    Martin

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    "Finally, I feel that however ornate the above mando may be, it is firmly within the Italian tradition."


    Thanks, Bob and Martin. I wasn't really speaking to the amount of ornamentation just bringing a designer's eye to how the ornamentation is deployed. The 1890s were a tough decade for design and ornamentation in general, imho.

    I feel the same critique applied to architecture and the decorative arts--applying an ornamentation unsuited to the form beneath--holds for the mando-bling from this era. Italian art critics from this period: Piacentini, Giovanonni, D'Aronco etc take this aspect of the "Italian Tradition" firmly to task.

    Mostly they (and I) agree that the various Arte Nuova trends that followed the turn of the century clearly were a vast improvement in how applied designs (lines, shapes, patterns etc.) worked with the underlying form: in architecture, furniture, automobiles, and mandolins.

    I think this is where Calace, in particular, and also Cristofaro, from the '10s and '20s did the best work in trying to integrate ornamental design and a complex 3 dimensional object like a mandolin. Giovannoni, in particular, went on to champion the rural, vernacular arts and architecture of the "Italian Tradition" to move away from applied decoration of any kind. And he wasn't a Modernist.

    As an aside, since we've been spending much of our year in Michigan we've come to know a slew of designers from over in the GM Tech/Design center. I've gotten an earful or two from them about that last topic relative to auto design as compare to something as supposedly "simple" as designing buildings...

    I agree whole heartedly with Martin that UC's attempts at gilding the lily were a clear improvement over GDeM's, but both seem quite unnecessarily heavy handed to me, given their particular unique beauty of their take on the underlying bowlback form. But certainly within the expected "tradition" of bling from the era. Not that would in itself make it necessarily good looking. Just familiar .

    I do think that UC refinements of the DeM basic bowlback form are more subtle and pleasing. All the more reason for me to groan about the relatively clumsy bling.

    CF Martin is another example for me. Their instruments, like Ceccherini's, have a very subtle and special form to them -- as epitomized to me by the shape of the Embergher bowls . CF Martin's attempts at high levels of bling in their #5 and #6 models are pretty ghastly to my eye. I feel the same about LE's ornamentation. It's like putting on a clown tie with an Armani suit.

    I'm not aiming to change anyone's mind with all this--not that I would likely--but to give some background on what might seem like a flippant comment of mine.

    "A pity that excessive ornamentation would not have the same effect on you and me."

    Certainly not with me....You haven't been out to Southern California lately, have you, Bob? The strategery seems alive and well.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Interesting! I restored one very similar to that a while back, it didn't have a fluted back (in fact I've never seen a fluted back Ceccherini so far) but the top was the same - and not at all over the top at all for my eyes - and some very nice marquetry round the "skirt". It was in rather less good condition when I got though, so a fair bit of the MOP had to be replaced. Very nice mandolin though.... I still dream about that one

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Clements View Post
    Victor, I definitely need you to speak with my wife before my next mandolin purchase!
    The only appropriate, and highly scientific formula for you to apply in order to determine the optimal number of mandolins in your possession is

    n + 1 < W - 1

    Namely, always one more mandolin than you currently have, yet one less before your Better Half ejects you from your house.

    I have applied this rule to good effect in managing my own household so I hope and trust that it will work equally well for you.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Quote Originally Posted by vkioulaphides View Post
    The only appropriate, and highly scientific formula for you to apply in order to determine the optimal number of mandolins in your possession is

    n + 1 < W - 1

    Namely, always one more mandolin than you currently have, yet one less before your Better Half ejects you from your house.

    I have applied this rule to good effect in managing my own household so I hope and trust that it will work equally well for you.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    I and my instruments have been ejected from the house






    However I now have a posh shed in the garden and we are all very happy, wife included (probably)
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  24. #14

    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Quote Originally Posted by derbex View Post
    However I now have a posh shed in the garden and we are all very happy, wife included (probably)
    Glad it all worked out for you and yours.

    Having stayed with only my modern Calace as my daily mandolin at my New York home, my next, highly ambitious project is to actually find some time to spend with said sweet thing on a daily basis. One step at a time...

    To curb the natural tendency of these threads to digress, I return to the original post. These are glorious instruments and should make anyone happy. A basic psychological truth: if you get to own and truly love one of these, that's happiness enough.

    Cheers,

    Victor
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  25. #15

    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Wow. I need to find more time for this forum again.

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    I know the feeling . . .

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    You both ought to; we miss you.
    It is not man that lives but his work. (Ioannis Kapodistrias)

  28. #18
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    I just remembered the attached advert for Ceccherini mandolins, which appears in the back of Philip Bone's 1914 book "The guitar and mandolin : biographies of celebrated players and composers for these instruments" (free download).

    This looks to be pretty exactly the same model as the one at Bernunzio, and is listed as "No. 304" (with a faint small "3/4" behind it, for whatever reason). This is interesting for dating purposes, as it may put this particular model -- and possibly a fair number of other Ceccherinis -- closer to 1914 (the date of the book) than to the 1890s.

    Ceccherini, unlike (say) De Meglio, didn't put dates on his labels, so the 1890s estimate for his other models tends to derive from historical context (Leopoldo Francia moved to London in 1895 and there endorsed Ceccherini mandolins) and from the fact that the scratchplate designs are broadly similar to De Meglio models from the late 1890s and early 1900, before De Meglio changed to more Art Nouveau designs from about 1905.

    I also note that the mandolin in the advert and the one at Bernunzio both have a fretboard extension, whereas the one that John posted does not, and neither had any of mine. De Meglio (again) didn't have extended fretboards until about 1910, so this may be a late-period feature in Ceccherinis. Finally, the address on the advert is "Beare & Son" in Rathbone Place, London (off Oxford Road, near Tottenham Court Road tube station) as the "sole whole sale agent", whereas all Ceccherinis I have ever seen were distributed as "sole agents" by Alban Voigt in Edmund Place, London (a site now occupied by the Barbican Centre). That again may be a late-period feature. Bob: do you know what the label at Bernunzio's says?

    Martin
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Quote Originally Posted by Eugene View Post
    Wow. I need to find more time for this forum again.
    Duh......

    Mick
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Got myself a new baby. Fancy double top Ceccherini, number 2350, I guess Circa 1915 or so. Not as fancy as the one sold by Bernunzio, not fluted and with short fretboard, but with the same ornaments on the neck and head and in an absolutely pristine condition, fit for a museum, really. It didn't need any interventions, except for new strings. I had an set of Savarez Argentine, they are soft and not too heavy and I have put it on and WOW, it sounds just great. The sound is very strong, shiny and with lots of bass. The instrument has spent most of it's life in a collection not being played. I have been playing it all day and it has certainly woken up after a couple of hours of playing and is now ringing like a silver bell. I am impressed.

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    Last edited by vic-victor; May-25-2021 at 4:42am.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Wow, Victor. Fair play to you.

    That looks amazing.

    You know me....I'd love to see even more photos.

    And tells us more about how it plays and sounds as you get acquainted with one another.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    That’s bling done well. Hope it sounds as good.
    Play it like you mean it

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

    Hey, I saw this guy on Facebook! Cheers!

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    Default Re: Neapolitan mandolins at Bernunzio

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