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Stradivarius remains the absolute reference

Stradivarius
remains the absolute
reference

by chantal de senger

All the musicians and luthiers interviewed by Bilan recognise the legendary instrument as an unrivalled authority, rejecting any doubts expressed by a study in 2014.

That year, Claudia Fritz, an acoustics researcher at the CNRS in Paris, published the findings of her study comparing the quality of Stradivarius instruments with that of new violins. Six out of the ten distinguished jury members selected a modern violin and only four a Stradivarius. Enough to shatter the myth of the Cremona masters' famous instruments? Certainly not, maintain the musicians and luthiers interviewed by Bilan. Hence, the great violinist Fabrizio von Arx performs with Antonio Stradivari's 'Madrileno' made in 1720, during what was known as the golden age. He believes that comparing a Stradivarius to a modern violin is like comparing one of Michelangelo's works with a contemporary artist's painting: simply absurd. "You cannot be categorical about something which is 90% based on subjectivity," explains the Genevan luthier François Lebeau. Sound quality is indeed subjective, the only measurable information being sound projection and volume. In addition, when a musician plays, a whole array of variables come into play such as the musician's build, how they hold the instrument, the balance between the strings and the movement. "Musicians take on average six months to understand their instrument and its possibilities fully," comments Fabrizio von Arx. "So it is impossible to play perfectly during a thirty-minute blind test."/p>

Not making use of all the senses is also an aberration according to the experts interviewed. Vision for musicians, just as for their listeners, is very important. It is also important to consider the emotional state of the musician as well as the audience, who will no doubt be more attentive if they know more about the history of the instrument.

Indeed, these violins have been played by the greatest musicians in the world, and cared for by the most skilled luthiers, which no doubt influences the performance of the musician and the attention given by the audience.

The soloist Fabrizio von Arx further points out the importance of the three types of resonance which make the sound: that produced by the instrument, by the body of the musician, and by the musician's musical intention. As such, the sound produced by the same instrument will be different with each musician. "The most important thing is the emotion which is conveyed to the audience. With a Stradivarius, the range of expression is limitless.

Modern violins have been attempting to replicate the incredible resonance of the instruments made by Cremona masters for a long time, without ever fully succeeding," maintains the virtuoso.

"In the end, making a violin is like producing wine: ultimately you never know exactly what kind of sound - or taste in the case of wine - will be produced," explains the violinist and conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy. "What is quite extraordinary is that Stradivarius violins still work perfectly three hundred years later. I would challenge anyone to find a tool which would work as well after three centuries," points out the luthier François Lebeau. "You cannot match the beauty of these instruments," concurs Kaspar Maurer, another luthier from Geneva. "The story and experience of an instrument cannot be quantified scientifically." So, some Stradivarius violins have an artistic value and quality which no modern violin could ever achieve. It is important to remember, however, that not all Stradivarius instruments are equally worthy, and a great many are of the same quality as the best modern violins. Indeed, Stradivari (1644-1737) had three distinct periods. During the second, known as the 'golden age', he made some 50 classical violins of exceptional quality. Some 300 other violins made by the Cremona master are today on display in museums, kept in investors' safes, or played by the best soloists who thankfully continue to bring them to life like no other instrument.

Rennosuke Fukuda Rennosuke Fukuda  

Rennosuke Fukuda Rennosuke Fukuda  

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