Strads (or violins made by Stradivarius in the early 1700s in Cremona, Italy) have been in the news a lot recently. An uncommon number have come up for auction, with some surprising results. (The record price paid for a Strad was in 2006 when the violin nicknamed ‘the Hammer’ went for a massive £1.75 million pounds.) An equally unusual number have had some surprising adventures in taxis and trains. (I mean, losing your umbrella’s one thing but come on…)
And now someone else thinks they’ve discovered the root of the unique Stradivarius sound. There have been some interesting theories over recent years including the use of secret wood treatments or varnishes and using wood from extremely old structures such as ancient churches.
This time it’s a mini ice age (seriously!). Apparently the density of the wood from this period of the 1700s is very even, whereas modern trees grow faster in summer than winter, making a less uniform pattern which one can see would make a difference to the sound production across the instrument. This idea was floated back in 2003 but this month, researchers in the Netherlands have used CT scan analysis similar to that used on emphysema patients to create clear comparisons with modern violins.
Maybe all of these scientists have a point and the combination of all of these factors which have been researched individually play their part in creating the heart wrenchingly beautiful and entirely individual sound we expect from each Stradivarius creation.
By the way, if you don’t have a couple of million quid to spend, Antoni Debut Violin Packs offer great value for money. Violin is a great instrument for children to start on as it’s available in a massive range of colours and sizes and is relatively cheap. It also suits loads of different styles of music including classical, folk and pop.
My only remaining question is this – who lets scientists try out these crazy theories on their Strad???