Stradivarius violins, cellos, violas, and guitars, some of the greatest in history, were made a by single master luthier, Antonio Stradivari. They were created in Cremona, Italy, between 1666 and 1737, the year of his death. The product name “Stradivarius” has been adopted from the Latin form of Stradivari.
Antonio Stradivari, born in 1622, may have been apprentice to Nicolo Amati, grandson of famed luthier Andrea Amati. Already trained in woodworking, Stradivari’s first stringed instruments are thought to have been produced around his age 22. Antonio soon surpassed his training through his experimentation with shape and varnishing of the sound box and other innovations for the instruments he made.
More than 1,100 Stradivarius instruments were manufactured during Stradivari’s lifetime. Around 650 survive to the present day. Their sublime sound has made them also extremely expensive to buy. Many have names, such as Messiah, Lipinski, and Khevenhuller.
Fame and Scarcity Make for Astronomical Prices
The Messiah Stradivarius has been estimated to be worth over $20 million. All genuine Stradivariuses are at least $500,000 these days. Thus, not only the expense, but the chance of forgery or theft are an obstacle to many wanting a true Stradivarius.
There have also been several 21st Century blind comparisons of the sound quality of true Stradivarius instruments to the best made today. They have consistently found that, when compared to the best contemporary instruments, no significant advantage was found in favor of the Stradivariuses. Nevertheless, for historical or other reasons, the Stradivarius maintains its allure as always. Being “best in class” always commands a premium price.
The exact methods used by Stradivari to create his instruments are still a subject of debate among experts, but it is widely believed that he used a combination of high-quality materials, including spruce, maple, and ebony, and an innovative approach to design and construction.
Stradivari’s instruments were highly sought after during his lifetime, and continue to be highly prized today for their exceptional tone and playability. In fact, many musicians consider Stradivarius violins to be the finest instruments ever made, and they can sell for millions of dollars at auction.
Interestingly, Stradivari’s instruments were not always considered to be the best in his own time. They were highly valued, but there were other luthiers who were also highly respected. It wasn’t until the 19th century that Stradivari’s reputation as the greatest maker of stringed instruments really took hold.
Today, only around 650 Stradivarius instruments are believed to still exist, and they are owned by some of the most prestigious musicians and institutions in the world. The mystery of their incredible sound and the legacy of Antonio Stradivari continue to captivate and inspire musicians and collectors around the world.
The exact reasons for why Stradivarius instruments sound different from other high-quality instruments is still a subject of debate among experts, and many theories have been put forward over the years.
One of the most widely accepted theories is that Stradivarius instruments have a unique combination of materials, design, and construction techniques that contribute to their exceptional sound. For example, it has been suggested that Stradivari used a type of wood that was aged for many years before being used in the construction of his instruments, which could have contributed to their tonal qualities.
Another theory is that Stradivarius instruments were designed with a slightly flatter arching and a slightly longer string length than other instruments of the time, which could have contributed to their powerful, yet nuanced sound.
It has also been suggested that the varnish used by Stradivari was a key factor in the sound of his instruments. Some researchers have even analyzed samples of Stradivari’s varnish and found that it contains a unique combination of natural resins and oils that may have contributed to the tonal qualities of the instruments.
Blind comparisons of Stradivarius instruments to other high-quality instruments have been conducted over the years, and the results of these tests have been somewhat mixed.
Some studies have suggested that professional musicians and listeners are not able to reliably distinguish between the sound of Stradivarius instruments and other high-quality instruments when they are played in a blind setting. For example, a study conducted in 2014 by researchers at the University of Paris-Saclay found that listeners were not able to consistently identify the sound of a Stradivarius violin when compared to the sound of other high-quality violins.
However, other studies have suggested that there may be some subtle differences in the sound of Stradivarius instruments that are difficult to detect in a blind setting. For example, a study conducted in 2010 by researchers at the University of Texas at Austin found that professional violinists were able to consistently identify the sound of a Stradivarius violin when compared to the sound of other high-quality violins, but that these differences were relatively small and difficult to quantify.
Overall, the results of blind comparisons of Stradivarius instruments to other high-quality instruments suggest that the sound of these instruments is highly subjective and can be influenced by a variety of factors, including the listener’s expectations and preferences.
While Stradivarius violins are perhaps the most well-known and highly prized of Antonio Stradivari’s instruments, he also made a variety of other stringed instruments, including violas, cellos, and guitars.
Although Stradivarius violins are generally considered to be the most valuable and highly prized of his instruments, Stradivarius cellos and violas are also highly sought after by musicians and collectors. In fact, some Stradivarius cellos and violas have sold for even higher prices than some Stradivarius violins at auction.
Stradivarius guitars, on the other hand, are much rarer and less well-known than his stringed instruments, and they are also much less valuable. However, they are still highly prized by collectors and musicians, and a few notable examples of Stradivarius guitars have survived to the present day.
- Year Started: 1666
- Year Ended: 1737
- Origin Of Name: Latin version of the artists name Stradivari
- Location Sales: Worldwide
- Brand Name Predecessor: N/A
- Brand Name Successor: N/A
- Owner Original: Antonio Stradivari
- Owner While In Use: Antonio Stradivari
- Owner Successor: N/A
- Year Resurrected: N/A
- What’s Popular Today: Yamaha
- Naics Code: 339992
- Location Headquarters: Cremona, Italy