Anyone who knows even a tiny amount about violins will know the name Stradivarius. In fact, even if you know next to nothing about musical instruments, you have probably heard the name. Stradivarius violins are regarded to be some of the best in the world. But just what is so good about them? The answer isn’t exactly clear-cut; there are various opinions on why a Stradivarius is so amazing. It’s agreed that the violins produce a fantastic sound, but there’s no clear consensus on exactly why. The history of the violins and their significance today is still very interesting to consider.
Who Was Stradivarius?
Antonio Stradivari (or Stradivarius) was an Italian luthier – a creator or repairer of string instruments. Although most famous for his violins, he also made other string instruments, such as violas, cellos, guitars, and harps. Born in about 1644 in Cremona in the Lombardy region of Italy, it’s estimated he made over 1,000 instruments in his lifetime, most of which were violins. Approximately 650 have survived, including an estimated 450 to 512 violins. Stradivari’s ancestors included notable citizens of Cremona who can be traced back for several centuries. He probably started an apprenticeship with Master Luthier Nicola Amati when he was 12 or 13 years old.
The History of Stradivarius Violins
The instruments that Stradivari made from 1700 to the 1720s, known as his golden period, are generally regarded to be better quality, although he had already begun to gain a reputation by 1680. He changed his style around 1690, when he began making larger violins and using a darker varnish. He switched back to the smaller style violin in 1698. The instruments that he made from the late 1720s until his death are regarded to be slightly lesser quality than those made in his golden period, showing signs of his advancing age, but they are still seen as good quality.
What Makes a Stradivarius Violin Different
Opinions on why a Stradivarius violin is as good as it is vary. One theory, posed by researchers at MIT, is that the long and narrow ‘f’ holes on the front of Stradivari’s violins are what makes the difference. The longer the holes are, the more sound the violin can produce. Other experts put the sound quality down to the shape of the violin, which Stradivari experimented with during his career. The varnish he used is another possible element. Even the colder period in the 17th century might come into play. Scientists say that the colder climate could have caused slower tree growth and therefore denser wood.
How Much Is a Stradivarius Violin Worth?
Considering only around half of the instruments that Stradivari made have survived, or perhaps a little more than half, it’s understandable that they fetch a pretty penny. In fact, they are worth millions. The highest price paid for a Stradivarius violin is $16 million, which sold at a charity auction in 2011. Most of the highest selling violins in the world are made by Stradivari, with only a few coming from other makers.
Stradivarius violins are famous for a reason. They’re regarded to be some of the best quality, and produce incredible sound.