Wednesday 4 January 2012

Taking pot shots at Stradivari

Another month, another Stradivari story.  Of course, the ludicrous prices don’t help, but the press and public at large are fixated on the idea that Antonio Stradivari of No. 2, Piazza San Domenico, Cremona, is the One True Luthier.  It’s been done before, but a recent blind test suggesting musicians can’t tell the difference between megabucks Strads and newer instruments is being widely reported.  The press love an ‘emperor’s new clothes’ story, so it’s a relief to have Steven Isserlis jumping to the rescue with a reasoned response to the reported experiment, pointing out that a musician’s relationship with an instrument might be more complex than a five minute sound test.  The usually excellent Radio 4 news Programme PM had a go at reproducing the experiment in their studio last night, though the results of this dismaying simplification of the argument seemed to be that while two violins do indeed sound different, doing it in the PM studio with microphones set up for speech was like comparing Titian and Turner through frosted glass.   

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