AND RARE INSTRUMENTS
Some years ago, Nova did an in-depth investigation into the
mythology of the redoubtable output of the Cremona masters,
and came up with some interesting conclusions that cast suspicions
on the validity of the lore that attends these legendary fiddles.
Surely it was the varnish that accounted for the incomparable
tone, and of course the wood, the design proportions, and
the craftsmanship.... what else could it possibly be?
But they had access to it all, except for the "lost varnish
So what did they do? They scoured the best makers and
submitted all the quality violins they could find to exhaustive
tests. Woods were compared, as were construction and
design styles down to f (F) holes and string materials. Audio
experts dissected sound output patterns and the welter of
arcane sub-harmonics, etc, Different players were chosen
to comment on blind tests, and it came off as a sort of wine
tasting thing, with highly personal evaluations that often
differed remarkably. The same instrument was found to
be both shrill and warm on the highs, while the lows were
both booming and rich. Whatever all that means. Middle ranges
were something else altogether: both passionate and
Finally, they convinced a very nervous Strad owner to allow
them to make measurements of the top (sound board?) portion,
nonintrusively through the f (F) holes with a specially designed
calipers, and they determined that it was the cunning control
of the varying thickness of that board that did the trick.
To confirm, they bought several raw fiddles from a German
firm that massed produced them for routine players. They weren't
junk, but they were real violins. These were completely
disassembled and modified to conform to the Strad's dimensions,
and when tested, performed incredibly close to the Strad's
standards, as judged by both the "wine tasters"
AND the audio experts! They were confident that with
better raw materials and more time spent on modifications,
they could equal any Stradivarius, Guanerius, or Amati.
What do you think of them apples?
much of it is hype, and/or the result of good playing, assuming,
of course, GOOD instruments at least? I certainly don't
know, but I surely wonder now.