Strads?What a Fiddle! Vintage Violins 'No Better Than the Modern Versions'

Daily Mail (London), September 11, 1998 | Go to article overview

Strads?What a Fiddle! Vintage Violins 'No Better Than the Modern Versions'


Byline: JENNY HOPE

VIOLINISTS who insist on using a Stradivarius would play just as well on a modern instrument, it was claimed yesterday.

Although 'Strads' are recognised as the world's finest violins, a scientist said the 300-year-old instruments are 'nothing special'.

The violins, which can fetch nearly [pounds sterling]1million, are status symbols that could actually be holding back the development of new, improved instruments, said Dr Bernard Richardson.

Although Stradivarius players include Nigel Kennedy and Yehudi Menuhin, Dr Richardson said there was no technical justification for their price or reputation.

He told the British Association's Festival of Science in Cardiff yesterday: 'Stradivarius is

played by the best musicians. It is a symbol that they have made it to the top. But they would play just as well on a good, modern instrument.' Dr Richardson, of the department of physics at Cardiff University, said modern instrument makers are haunted by the mystique of a Stradivarius.

'What makes these instruments so special?' he said. 'Did these Italian masters use any secret methods which have since been lost? These questions haunt modern makers who attempt to recreate the highly prized sounds of early Italian violins.

'But there is nothing special about a Stradivarius when you look at the research carried out on its tone and construction. The only element that remains elusive is changes in the wood over long periods of time. It could be fungal, whatever it is could make it sound more mellow. …

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