In an experiment, concert violinists were unable to pick out two Stradivarius violins from modern instruments, based on their sound alone. The findings were published this week.
The violins might differ in price by more than $1 million but the virtuoso musos opted for the cheaper, modern versions.
It is potentially bad news for Australian Chamber Orchestra's Satu Vanska, who last year became the custodian of the first Australian-owned Strad. It is even worse news for the lead benefactor of the investment fund that bought the 400-year-old, $1.79 million instrument, the fashion designer Peter Weiss.
A researcher at the University of Paris, Claudia Fritz, asked 21 musicians attending an international violin competition in Indianapolis to play different violins: three modern instruments and three made by Italian master craftsmen - one by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesu about 1740, and two made in Antonio Stradivari's workshop about 1700.
Dr Fritz dimmed the lights and passed the violins in random order to the musicians. Each had time to play and rank them on playability, projection, response and ''tone colours'', a measure of the quality of the sound. To mask any telltale aroma from the old instruments, each chinrest was dabbed with perfume.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr Fritz and her co-authors said their findings were a ''striking challenge to conventional wisdom''. The violinists mostly preferred new instruments, and overall they were least keen on one of the two Stradivarius instruments. The three old instruments had a combined value of $10 million, 100 times that of the modern violins.
''They are beautiful instruments, but the prices are insane,'' Dr Fritz said. ''It doesn't matter if the violin's old or new; all that matters is whether it's a good violin or a bad violin.''
A violin maker in Victoria, John Ferwerda, agrees. ''It has always been known that not all Stradivarius instruments are preferred by players,'' he said.
As a rule of thumb, Mr Ferwerda said, new instruments ''have a newer sound, a crisp, clear sound, while older instruments have a deeper, more mellow round sound''.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/music/stradivarius-may-be-bit-of-a-fiddle-at-more-than-1m-say-researchers-20120103-1pjk2.html#ixzz1iTZXTSvU
Stradivarius may be bit of a fiddle at more than $1m, say researchers