Thursday, January 05, 2012

In Classic vs. Modern Violins, Beauty Is in Ear of the Beholder

What gives a violin made by Stradivari or Guarneri del Gesù its remarkable sound? Researchers have examined the wood preservatives, varnish, even the effects of the Little Ice Age on the density of wood, for anything that might explain the instruments’ almost magical properties. Claudia Fritz, an expert on the acoustics of violins at the University of Paris, has arrived at a different explanation for the secret. Despite a widespread belief in the old violins’ superiority and the millions of dollars it now costs to buy a Stradivarius, the fiddles made by the old masters do not in fact sound better than high-quality modern instruments, according to a blindfolded play-off she and colleagues have conducted. more

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