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Stradivarius Violins

Antonio Stradivari was born in 1644, and died in 1737, and in his 93 years, he established himself as the greatest violin maker in the history of mankind
. He was born in Italy, to a very famous family, known for its production of violins, otherwise known as the Stradivarius violin and worked in Cremona for the majority of his life. Although he was Italian, he would inscribe his violins with Latin slogans, hence, the violins became known as Antonius Stradivarius violins, or merely Stradivarius violins, rather than Stradivari violins. His mentor was believed to be Nicolo Amati, who also came from a very famous family of violin-makers. 

Antonio Stradivari first began his business in the year of 1680. In the beginning of his career, his violins were not efficient and impeccable like those he made later on in his career, possibly during the years between 1698 and 1720. The reason why the Stradivarius violins are so expensive and famous, is because of the quality of their sound. Many musicians have not only owned the violins, but have preferred them over any other violin. The sound of these violins resonate beautifully, and produce very powerful tones. They are rich, refined, and deep in sound, and project very clearly over a distance. These violins are thought of as good-quality instruments, and musicians delight in playing them, for they are very easy to play on. They are responsive to the touch of a finger, and one does not feel like he or she needs to press firmly in order to produce a sound. Some of the Stradivarius violins differ in quality and sound, however. Not every single Stradivarius instrument sounds the exact same, or is as good as the other. There are some which are believed to be of better quality than others. No one truly knows exactly why the sound of the Stradivarius violins is so wonderful, but there are many theories as to what makes a violin a good violin. The quality of the wood is a definite factor, as well as the shape of the instrument, the thickness of the wooden plates that are placed in the belly and the back of the instrument, and the varnish of the wood. Even though no one really knows how exactly he formed his violins, or what methods he used, it can definitely be said that he incorporated advanced geometry and mathematics into his craftsmanship. He built over 1,100 instruments, but merely 650 of them survive today.

Further, it is believed that, for creating his violins, he utilized wood that contained spruce and maple. The spruce was used for the top and internal parts, while the maple was utilized for the back of the violin, the strip, and the neck. Minerals such as sodium, potassium silicate, Bianca, and potassium borate, were utilized to enhance the quality of the wood. These violins are extremely popular and well-known, as well as very expensive. Many Stradivarius violins were named after the musician who played them, or the owner who bought them. One such violin is the Aranyi named after Francis Aranyi, a collector of violins. Mercur-Avery is another violin, named after Jonathan Carney, who played in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Many of the Stradivarius violins are owned by foundations and organizations such as the Nippon Music Foundation, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Royal Academy of Music, the Donald Kahn Foundation, the Canada Council for the Arts, Austrian National Bank, the Finnish OKO Bank, the Stradivari Society, as well as the Library of Congress. One violin was even named after the Spanish city of Cadiz, and resided there as well. There are several violins which are stolen and missing, such as the Oistrakh, Ames, Lamourex, Davidov-Morini, Colossus, Le Maurien, and Lipinski. Many of the Stradivarius violins are currently being utilized by musicians and played for professional purposes. Several others are on loan to individuals, such as the Joachim, the Booth, the Dolphin, and the Kiesewetter. Most of these violins were created in the late 1660’s to the early 1730’s. Throughout this span, numerous Stradivarius violins were created and owned by prominent individuals of society

Musical Instruments in Auction
A Stradivarius violin made during the time period in which Antonio Stradivari lived is believed to be the most famous and expensive violins. If the violin was produced in the 1680’s, it could be worth more than hundreds of thousands of dollars today, if it were to be sold. If a violin was produced during the period between the early 1700’s up until 1720, otherwise known as the “golden period,” and the violin is in good condition, it is sold at very high prices. A violin produced during this period can be priced at over millions of dollars. Not many Stradivarius violins are sold however, for many of them are owned today by either musicians, or organizations and foundations such as the Stradivari Society. The highest price that a Stradivarius was sold for was $3,544,000, but this was merely the highest price bought at a public auction. The bidder’s was reported to be anonymous. This violin was called the Hammer, and was produced during the golden period, in the year 1707. Before it was sold at over three million dollars, the violin’s price was estimated to be no less than 1.5 million, and no more than 2.5 million dollars. But on May 16, 2006, the bidder bought the violin, and the bid was recorded into history as the highest price an individual has ever paid for the Stradivarius violin at a public auction. Private sales of Stradivarius violins have exceeded this price, however, so the Hammer remains merely the highest priced violin sold at a public sale.

Stradivarius Copy
Many attempts have been made to copy or replicate the authentic Stradivarius violins created by Antonio Stradivari. The violins of Antonio Stradivarius are believed to be of the best and most famous violins in the world, for they have impeccable quality of sound and were made with amazing skill. Although many people have attempted to recreate or craft the Stradivarius violin, they have not succeeded to exactly replicate it so that it will produce the same sound and quality that Antonio Stradivari was able to create through his craft. There also have been many theories as to how Stradivari truly crafted his violins. One such theory suggests that Antonio utilized wood from an old cathedral to create his violins. However, scientific research based on tree-ring dating proves that this theory is inaccurate and cannot be realistic. Another theory exists, suggesting that the wood utilized for the violins or instruments were from the little ice age and had thick rings. However, scientific research on the thickness of the rings in the wood proves that this theory is also inaccurate, for the wood contained thick rings, rather than thin rings, which would result from cold climates. Another theory suggests that the glue that Antonio Stradivari utilized had an effect on the quality of sound of the instrument. This theory has not been completely rejected, but is currently being investigated. Other theories suggest that the wood was treated with borax, or that the wood was left in salt water or sea water for some time.

Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh
City: Kolkata
Country: India
Date: July 15, 2010