New lamps for old?
Recently I have been asked quite a lot about my opinion on what my thoughts are of the following article:
Basically there was a test involving 6 violins – 3 of which were modern and the other 3 were famous old italian violins (2 Stradivarius and 1 Guarnerius del Gesu)
Now I don’t know who these “21 professional violinists” were but some research showed up 2 names, current students from my alma mater: The Curtis Institute of Music – a school which has turned out incredible musicians in the past decade such as Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Lang Lang, and Yuja Wang just to name a few.
Now I don’t want to put down any of my colleagues, but let me tell you that it takes a lot of experience to know how to play these fine instruments. Even Strads and del Gesu’s have different ways of being played.
I happen to play on a Strad myself – the 1721 “Macmillan” Stradivarius which is a very fine instrument indeed. I also had in my possession another Strad which was the 1708 “Huggins” Strad which I recorded my first album with Sony Classical on. I’ve also tried many other old italian violins and have to say that it takes a while to get to know an instrument of such calibre.
So let me just state the following factors which may have affected the “test”:
- the Strads and del Gesu violins were not played in a while and were still “asleep”. This happens when you don’t play an instrument for around 2 months, the violin for some reason needs a few days of intense playing before the sound opens. An instrument that has been sitting in a museum for a lengthy amount of time would fit this category.
- what strings one chooses to use. Hopefully they stuck to Dominant strings which in my opinion lets the violin sing most naturally. If the player is not used to the strings and only has 10 minutes to try the instrument, then it’s like throwing someone who doesn’t know how to swim in the deep end.
- How experienced the violinist is. 2 years ago when I was a student at Curtis I probably would not have been able to tell the difference even though at this time I had 2 Strads. Just because you drink good wine all the time doesn’t mean you instantly become a wine connoisseur. Things like this take time.
- According to the second article, the study was apparently conducted in a hotel room. Enough said.
All this being said, I’m glad to hear that modern makers are making violins that are comparable to the old italian masters, although I’ve yet to come across a modern instrument that sounded better than my Strad. Just sayin’.
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