Last year I read a book by Toby Faber…Stradivari’s Genius. I picked it up a gain a few days ago, and flipped through the pages. It’s an interesting read, I’ve read 2 books on Stradivarius, and this is the better of the two. This book chronicles the life of 5 violins and a cello. Sounds like a road trip to me, but it interesting to read about the 300 year lives of these instruments. It’s a 233 page book that has some wordiness to it.
The book is less about Stradivari, and more about the instruments, tracking their ownership through the centuries. Enjoyed by kings and the masters, these instruments are probably the longest lasting playable instruments in the world. The most immaculate pre WWI Brazilian Martin, and it might fetch 1/10 the price of a Strad. The highest price fetched at a public auction was $3.5 million.
Think about this: Stravivari built the best violins of all time with the tools of his time. No CNC’s, power tools, or even electricity, just God given talent and passion for his work. He spent his teen years learning his trade, and the rest of his long life perfecting it. He made roughly 1100 instruments including guitars harps, violas and cellos in his career, about 650 are still survive today. Companies like Taylor, Martin, Fender and the others can bang out that many instruments in a day or week. They employee 1000’s of people, and the quality is superior, but the feel and the “foreplay” that go into making the one off instrument is missing. To this day the tone of his instrument has not been re-created. No one knows exactly what he did to make his violins sound so sweet. So the next time you see a vintage Strat up for a sale, or you try to get every last bit of tone out of your axe think of the guy that created the original Strad…Antonio Stradivari.