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Why do Stradivari's violins sound sublime?

29 November 2006 by Paul Marks

A wood preservation technique was probably responsible for the exquisite sound produced by violins of the 17th-century Italian instrument makers Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppe Guarneri.

Chemical analysis of wood shavings scavenged from two instruments while under repair has given fresh clues as to their exquisite acoustics.

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Time to Tie a String Around That Strad

They talk about these bundles of wood and string as if they’re an extra limb, a repository of their DNA, a conduit to the very depths of their soul.
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Pegbox crack repair

The violin has a nasty crack from the A-peg hole to the edge. It is repaired using a spiral bush made from a thin maple shaving. The spiral bush will absorb the considerable force applied by the peg trying to open the crack again. (Many of the pictures were taken by my 10-year old daughter, Emmie)

A complete photo essay of the repair is available for download (670kb) in PDF format here.

To see the bigger images, click on any thumbnail below.

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A Comparison of Wood Density between Classical Cremonese and Modern Violins

This article is available for download in PDF format for registerd users here.

The densities of five classical and eight modern violins were compared, using computed tomography and specially developed image-processing software.

Berend C. Stoel1, Terry M. Borman2

1 Department of Radiology, Division of Image Processing, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2 Borman Violins, Fayetteville, Arkansas, United States of America

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Tools and techniques are circa 1700, but the violins are new

Tools and techniques are circa 1700, but the violins are new

The sign on the door says simply, “Guy Rabut, Violin Maker.” Behind the door, a 17th-century craftsman in 21st-century clothing spends his days in the company of knives, scrapers, chisels, sanders, handsaws, glues, varnishes and other materials needed to create violins, violas and cellos.

By VINCENT M. MALLOZZI

Guy RabutThese are my assistants,” Mr. Rabut said, speaking of the tools of a trade that first took center stage in the late 1600s, when Antonio Stradivari began making stringed instruments; he later emerged as the world’s most famous at the craft, the Picasso or Rembrandt of violin makers. Stradivari did his best work between 1700 and 1720; the violins he produced then earned a reputation for superior beauty and sound.

“He did not have the luxury, as I do, of power drills, computers or electric lights,” Mr. Rabut, 55, said of Stradivari. “That aside, most of my tools and techniques are identical to those he used to build these instruments back in his day.”

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Albertus Bekker 2007

This is the model that most of my current violins are based on. This one has a beautiful and highly prized ‘bear claw’ flame on the front. The last picture is one of Zanta Hofmeyr, the well-known South African violinist taking it for a spin. She loved it!

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Contact details

76 seventh street
linden, johannesburg
2195
south africa

tel: 0829035832
fax: (011) 2948849

e-mail: albertus@bekkerviolins.com