Jump to content
Maestronet Forums

Scientific investigations of Stradivarius violins--an updated review article


Bruce Tai
 Share

Recommended Posts

I don't suppose it's truly ever possible to "prove" the issue...so we may merrily continue the debate! ^_^

And to confirm your guess, indeed, I have not spoken with Menuhin.

I see that sadly, Erica (Erika) Moroni's Davidov Strad is still on the lamb. Wonder whose attic it's going to be found on?

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 564
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

21 minutes ago, Rue said:

I don't suppose it's truly ever possible to "prove" the issue...so we may merrily continue the debate! ^_^

And to confirm your guess, indeed, I have not spoken with Menuhin.

I see that sadly, Erica (Erika) Moroni's Davidov Strad is still on the lamb. Wonder whose attic it's going to be found on?

 

Of course it's possible to "prove" the issue and it's already proven. We have statements from the users. No more proof is required. Here's an interview with Ehnes :

https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20093/9819/

Mid way he talks about his violin and all the history etc . Why would one presume he's lying ? And why would be reasonable to so presume ? 

"For me, I think that the great Strads and del Gesus have a level of refinement in the sound that pushes the player constantly to be improving themselves. Sometimes it really kind of gets annoying, on a Strad, where in order for it to really ring correctly it has to be played with such precision that is just sometimes gets frustrating! (laughing) You think, is this really worth it? There are certain great del Gesus – you can afford to be a little sloppy with them, and they'll still sound great. But you start sounding bad on a Strad really quickly. That can get irritating, but I'm always so into the idea of self-improvement. I appreciate having a violin that is constantly pushing me to try to achieve greater and greater levels of tonal purity, accuracy and intonation. I always try to take the attitude that if I'm playing on a great violin that's worth millions of dollars, it's probably better than I am. I want to do my best to try to keep up with the greatness of the instrument itself."

This is when reasonable people move on.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

16 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

Of course it's possible to "prove" the issue and it's already proven. We have statements from the users. No more proof is required. Here's an interview with Ehnes :

https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20093/9819/

Mid way he talks about his violin and all the history etc . Why would one presume he's lying ? And why would be reasonable to so presume ? 

"For me, I think that the great Strads and del Gesus have a level of refinement in the sound that pushes the player constantly to be improving themselves. Sometimes it really kind of gets annoying, on a Strad, where in order for it to really ring correctly it has to be played with such precision that is just sometimes gets frustrating! (laughing) You think, is this really worth it? There are certain great del Gesus – you can afford to be a little sloppy with them, and they'll still sound great. But you start sounding bad on a Strad really quickly. That can get irritating, but I'm always so into the idea of self-improvement. I appreciate having a violin that is constantly pushing me to try to achieve greater and greater levels of tonal purity, accuracy and intonation. I always try to take the attitude that if I'm playing on a great violin that's worth millions of dollars, it's probably better than I am. I want to do my best to try to keep up with the greatness of the instrument itself."

This is when reasonable people move on.

Nobody is denying there are great Strads and del Gesus

Link to comment
Share on other sites

29 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

" I always try to take the attitude that if I'm playing on a great violin that's worth millions of dollars, it's probably better than I am. I want to do my best to try to keep up with the greatness of the instrument itself."

Very interesting! I have a nice British Strad copy that I am willing to put a multi-million-dollar price tag on, for the benefit of some player of course. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

22 minutes ago, avandesande said:

Nobody is denying there are great Strads and del Gesus

Nobody you know, maybe.  I heard plenty people claiming they're nothing special and some were conducting the BPO.... 

Musicians are an interesting lot - some are not at all interested in the kind of tonal sophistication a Strad has to offer. A good example is the piano : pianos "evolved" into brighter and ever more monochromatic. But nobody can say why. End result is that our present day players sound distinctly different despite best efforts.  As I am not a piano player I can't even speculate on who's fault that is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 minutes ago, David Burgess said:

Better than some Strads. Drop by, play it, and see if you don't agree.

That's perfectly possible. I got taken a couple of times until I learned to check the label before listening. But then, the best of us make mistakes... 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

41 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

Of course it's possible to "prove" the issue and it's already proven. We have statements from the users. No more proof is required. Here's an interview with Ehnes :

https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/20093/9819/

Mid way he talks about his violin and all the history etc . Why would one presume he's lying ?

...This is when reasonable people move on.

I'll keep being unreasonable then...^_^

BTW, I have seen Ehnes in concert. :wub:Sat in the second row...he wore great shoes too!

I don't presume anyone is lying, even though that's always a possibly, but anyone can also believe something that isn't true. People can convince themselves of anything.

Not to mention, this isn't actually proof. This still qualifies as an anecdote.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, Rue said:

1. I'll keep being unreasonable then...^_^

2. BTW, I have seen Ehnes in concert. :wub:Sat in the second row...he wore great shoes too!

3. I don't presume anyone is lying, even though that's always a possibly, but anyone can also believe something that isn't true. People can convince themselves of anything.

4. Not to mention, this isn't actually proof. This still qualifies as an anecdote.

1. You're welcome but you run the risk some might discount your judgement. Nonetheless, we're all entitled to some opinion...

2. That's good to know. How did he SOUND ?

3. I see. You presume they are deluded. Based on what ??? Some past history ? Only because it disagrees with your preconceived ideas ? Which seems to be the case.

4. I assure you that is actual proof and will stand just fine in a Court of Law . This is not mathematics. Of course, you can try challenge his opinions but how will you do that ? What evidence can you bring forth ?

I drove A LOT of miles over some 40 years but I am not a good driver and I would definitely not try educate this one the kind of tools of the trade she should chose. That's because I have no expertise in the matter - by comparison, I am clueless :

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, David Burgess said:

What might be revealed if people put that much time and effort into learning to get the most out of any violin?

I think it's also fair to question whether or not Vengerov had an interest in the investment value of the violins he owned.

I like Vengerov a lot. But I understand your points. You don't pontificate.

For someone who neither plays nor makes violins to imply you do is delusional.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 minute ago, Three13 said:

I think we should all get together when the world goes back to normal and organize a double-blind shootout judged by the MN members who are most engaged in these debates. 

To test what exactly? Every violin is different. The physical properties of the wood can never be replicated from one instrument to the next because wood structure is so complicated. It is constantly trying to compete for light water and nutrients in ever changing weather and surrounding environment.

I'm sure it's possible for any player to fall in love with an instrument very quickly if they feel it has that perfect soundboard. Or very slowly as they learn to alter bowing technique for every note. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 hours ago, Jeffrey Holmes said:

First, I'll say this debate has been going on for generations.... and may go on for many more. 

I'd say it definitely WILL go on until such time as all violins on Earth have been in double-blind testing and evaluated by all players and listeners on Earth and tabulated and statistically analyzed.

Until then, this is all some opinions by some people about some instruments, with mostly uncontrolled tests by folks who know what the instrument is.

Just as a reminder: we DO have objective evidence of a sound difference, on average, between modern and very old violins.  What it means in terms of preference and "quality" is all opinion, no matter how many opinions you can collect.

BTW, I really liked the monkey business illusion.  I kinda knew what was coming, so I didn't count the passes, and watched for the gorilla.  I missed the exit of one of the passers and the change in color of the curtain :lol:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

Here's some better use of your time : a wonderful performance and not too shabby a recording either :

 

 

A lovely performance. I like almost everything Dvorak composed. I didn't even notice any gorillas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

5 hours ago, David Burgess said:

Very interesting! I have a nice British Strad copy that I am willing to put a multi-million-dollar price tag on, for the benefit of some player of course. :)

Vuillaume sold his best violins at the same price as the ordinary Strads in his shop. Not just for show. I am under the impression that those were honest retail prices. Strads were not that prohibitively expensive back in 1860s, nor were the finest French bows. That was a healthy and inspiring market. Was it the Golden Age of violin shopping?  :P

Vuillaume was all about secrets, especially the varnish.  He was passionate about experimentation: using old wood, varnish recipes, analyzing old instruments by taking them apart and removing wood, nitric acid wood treatment, patenting new gadgets, collaborating with scientists, etc. We know that many of his experiments failed, but a small fraction worked very well. Hilary Hahn and Mark O'Connor made great careers playing fine Vuillaume violins and don't feel the need to switch to Old Italian. Personally, I would like to see more virtuosos showing off their wonderful modern violins. 

Vuillaume, the genius, also figured out the secrets of Tourte. He turned it into a repeatable formula and trained the finest bow makers in France. It implies that we may one day figure out the secrets of Cremonese and turn them into a repeatable formula. I suspect that the wood was specially treated in these old French bows. Wood samples would be very welcome. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

image.png.b73ddca11324ddef100796bc471861d5.png

 

A small figure to show what we are doing right now (the Chinese caption is to avoid the problem of revealing data before publication). To the left we are spinning wood powders at world-record 150 kHz for solid-state NMR experiment. That's equivalent to tens of millions of g force. By comparison, the fastest commercial centrifuge in the world is only 1 million g force, made by Hitachi. Are we truly understanding the nanostructure of wood using such fancy instrument? Not even close. 

To the right you will see a top row of modern maples. Then we have three Strad maples from 1725, 1731, and 1717. The French 1750 quinton violin is also shown. You don't need a PhD degree in small angle X-ray scattering to see that the wood has changed a lot. What change is due to aging and what change is due to manipulation, we don't know yet. How do we interpret the X-ray scattering changes in terms of molecular alterations? We have been working on this for several years. This is new territory for science. 

The simplest polymer in wood is cellulose, which are chains of glucose. Hemicellulose and lignin are much more complex. Cellulose is synthesized as mini bundles by enzyme complexes with six-fold rosette symmetry. So the number of chains in each bundle is 6N, multiples of six. Scientists are still debating if the number is 18, 24, or 30. A lot of old textbooks say 36. We can take pictures of blackholes, but we can't count the cellulose chains in wood. Let's just say that wood research is not funded on the same level as the cosmology research. Sort of like a modern violin vs a Strad. We are trying to be the first lab to give a definitive answer on cellulose chain counting in normal woods. 

Even to the untrained eye, it is obvious that modern maples give a cross-shape signals. It's because most wood cellulose fibers are either vertically oriented or horizontally oriented, being perpendicular to each another. Aged maple have become more randomly oriented, giving oval-shape signals. The hemicellulose degraded and the cellulose fibers have room to rearrange. It is hard to imagine why rearranged wood fibers would not lead to altered acoustics. The best players may figure out how to make different sounds because the wood seems to have more flexible and rearranged molecular structures. Hard to prove the case on the sound being produced, but denying such possibilities based on flawed "blind tests" is unwise. Don't let the blind lead the blind. 

Modern maple are basically all the same at the molecular level. At the tissue level no two trees are the same and no two planks are the same. Aged, manipulated maples from Cremona are quite diverse and differ even at the molecular level. It is conceivable that the top players can feel these subtle differences and figure out how to create unique tone palettes using their extraordinary techniques. To me, they seem to be superhumans--Heifetz, Milstein, and Menuhin before WWII. As historical mono recordings become better restored, I am blown away by their performances on the Bach sonatas and partitas. You have to be super sensitive to be that amazing. Is it painful? God bless their souls. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

10 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

That's perfectly possible. I got taken a couple of times until I learned to check the label before listening. But then, the best of us make mistakes... 

  I hear VdA has a great Strad she can set aside for you. It says so on the label.  With her permission, feel free to check it yourself. Or is this another opinion masquerading as fact? 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

1. You're welcome but you run the risk some might discount your judgement. Nonetheless, we're all entitled to some opinion...

2. That's good to know. How did he SOUND ?

3. I see. You presume they are deluded. Based on what ??? Some past history ? Only because it disagrees with your preconceived ideas ? Which seems to be the case.

4. I assure you that is actual proof and will stand just fine in a Court of Law . This is not mathematics. Of course, you can try challenge his opinions but how will you do that ? What evidence can you bring forth ?

I drove A LOT of miles over some 40 years but I am not a good driver and I would definitely not try educate this one the kind of tools of the trade she should chose. That's because I have no expertise in the matter - by comparison, I am clueless :

 

 

 

Did you know that she died last month? The video of her doing the same circuit in a Ford Transit van is a wonder.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.




×
×
  • Create New...