It's always been assumed that if a violinist wants to turn professional, he or she needs to get hold of a Stradivari or Guarneri instrument. These violins are so rare that they cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, meaning that potential concert violinists have a harsh reality to face in the future if they want to continue making music.
But what makes these rare and ancient instruments produce such beautiful music--is it some tiny subtlety in their shape or perhaps the density of the wood that was used? Modern violin-makers have even used computer scanning to try to duplicate them, but feel they haven't succeeded (but maybe they HAVE).
In the January 3rd edition of the New York Times, Nicholas Wade quotes acoustics expert Claudia Fritz as saying, "I don't think there is any secret, except in people's minds."
Fitz tested a group of violinists attending an international music competition and had them compare three high-quality modern violins with a Guarneri and two Stradivari instruments. They all had to wear goggles so that they could not identify the violins by sight, and when they did, they couldn't tell the difference between the older instruments and the new ones. In fact, a Stradivarius was the least popular among the participants and a new violin was the one they liked best.
Wade quotes violin maker Sam Zygmuntowicz, who has made instruments for Isaac Stern, Yo-Yo Ma and the Emerson String Quartet, as saying that this study is "highly credible" and "puts cold water on some old myths and should certainly be good news to young musicians who yearn for violins that they will never afford."
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