5/6/08

The Stradivarius Violins


$3,544,000

This is the highest publicized price paid for a Stradivarius violin, during a public auction in 2006. Reports indicate that some private sales have eclipsed this value.

Why such a high price for a single violin?

The sound. The tone. The nuance. Musicians and audiences familiar with violins have felt throughout the years that the Stradivarius, along with the lesser-known Guarneri violins, have something special in the tone.

Born in 1644, Antonio Stradivari set up his own luthier shop in Cremona, Italy in 1660 after an apprenticeship under Nicolo Amati. His best work or “golden age” is considered to have been from 1698 through 1720 – these are the instruments valued in the millions. Fewer than 600 violins were made, along with smaller quantities of violas, cellos, guitars and mandolins. Each instrument was even given a sobriquet or nickname, usually having to do with whom the instrument was made for.

So what exactly made these instruments so impressive…so unique?

Over the years dozens of musicians, luthiers, physicists and the like have spent hours researching and trying to duplicate the sound. Possibly the most successful attempt was performed in 2003 by a biochemist whose research showed that the wood may have been soaked in brine, or seawater. Of course, the bottom line is that several factors come in to play here – the high density of the wood (from the cold climates of the time), the glues and varnishes used, the design and construction… Or is there some lost secret?

Whatever the case may be, if Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell or Yo-Yo Ma (cello) come to town, grab a ticket and there’s a good chance you will get to hear for yourself the sound of a “Strad”.

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