Johann Ascher is a young man with strong interests in both music and the arts of crafting instruments, especially stringed instruments. Since 2009 he works in the Hamburg branch of Yamaha, the famous Japanese manufacturer of musical instruments. He has had a chance to visit the violin workshops at the Yamaha headquarters in Hamamatsu and experienced the deep expertise that Yamaha´s violin makers are representing. “It´s all very craft-oriented” he tells us in an interview, “no factory-based process is involved, it´s pure hand-made work executed by highly experienced luthiers”. What Yamaha has been working on in the last couple of years are its new technology called A.R.E., which uses insights from acoustics, biology and living musicians who know (and hear) about all the subtleties that century-old violins are capable of.
Mr. Ascher represented Yamaha on two days during the 2nd violin masterclasses in Kronberg.
The main aim was to build relationships with the young violinists and answer questions of interested musicians and visitors. On display in one of the rooms of the city hall was a original Yamaha violin, model YVN500S, adapting the A.R.E. technology. A.R.E. stands for Acoustic Resonance Enhancements.
So, what is this new Yamaha technology all about?
A.R.E. is an original wood reforming technology made with woods which were processed with this technology. Yamaha´s claim is that the tonal richness of the instruments should be equal to famous old instrument ( e.g. type Stradivarius). A.R.E technology uses precision controlled humidity and temperature to manipulate the molecular properties of the wood into a more acoustically ideal condition (similar to the molecular characteristics of woods in instruments that have been played for years). The process is chemical free, thus an environmentally friendly process. Certain alterations lead to corresponding ideal conditions of those woods (all coming from Europe). A.R.E. will constantly be optimised.
As a result, Yamaha’s high-end violin YVN500S is produced as a new violin, yet with tonal characteristics of an old masterpiece. A few artists have evaluated these violins and stated to possess the ability of very old instruments with characteristics of solid and bright sound, especially in the higher registers.
Mr. Ascher is in charge of developer relations, that means he maintains contacts to leading musicians who want to be involved with the technological developments to be adapted for the optimised crafting of stringed instruments – pertinent to young musicians who can´t afford those precious old instruments. He was admitting that the market for violins is one of the toughest in the musical instrument domain.
When the Academy team learned from Professor Zakhar Bron, one of our teachers within the “Kronberg Academy Masters” study programme. that he was involved with the conceptual design of a new type of violin at Yamaha, we invited Yamaha to present some of those violins to the broader public during our 2nd violin masterclasses and concerts. Professor Bron is providing feedback to the violin developer team of Yamaha for roughly 5 years. His prime interest is the improvement of the acoustics of brand new violins affordable for young, talented musicians. Mr. Ascher has the major task in his product management role to exchange views with the artistic developer partners such as Professor Zakhar Bron and concertmasters Mischa Nodelman ( Neue Philharmonie Westfalen ) and Rainer Küchel (Vienna Philharmonic). In North America violinist Pinchas Zukerman is one of the prime development artists..
According to Mr. Ascher Yamaha has sold about a dozen of those violins and that the company is very patient with the further development of this segment of high quality string instruments. The violins are priced between a few hundred Euros to some 15,000 Euros for the most advanced piece (here the wood is about 10 years old, for the affordable instruments the wood has an age of about 5 years).
While musicians, young violinists and visitors could take a look at the Yamaha Violin on the first floor of the city hall, many musicians stopped by at the giant violin that luthier Ekkard Seidel and bow maker Daniel Schmidt had brought to Kronberg from Markneukirchen.
To summarise, large and small violins attracted a lot of traffic from musicians and visitors alike during successful eight days of the second violin masterclasses and concerts in Kronberg.