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Antonio Stradivari, the most famous violin maker of all time.

Stradivarius or Stradivari?

Antonio StradivariWhat is the correct term: Stradivari or Stradivarius?

Both are used regularly and they actually mean exactly the same. The famous maker's name was Antonio Stradivari, but it was customary at the time to latinise names, hence Stradivarius. He used Stradivarius on his violin labels and therefore it has become almost customary to refer to a violin made by Stradivari as a Stradivarius. In fact it has almost become a superlative expressing the absolute best, i.e. to be the "Stradivarius" of any field means to be the best there is.

The same applies to the Amati family, i.e. an Amatus violin, or the Guarneri -- Guarnerius.


A rational look at the classical Italian coatings

This article appeared in the VSA papers, summer 2005, and it really is one of the best I have seen. I follow the author, Koen Padding's advice quite closely in my own work. The article is downloadable in PDF format for registered users here.


This article describes the author’s thoughts about varnish and his approach toward understanding the puzzle that classical Italian varnish has become. Significant clues were derived from both the physical appearance of the surfaces of classical Italian violins and observations of the visible fluorescence from their varnishes when irradiated by an ultraviolet lamp. To illuminate the influence of earlier painting techniques on the surface coatings applied by Italian violin makers from ca. 1550 to 1750, the author refers to two historical documents from the 12th and 15th centuries that describe varnish composition and methods of application. Correlation of observations, scientific studies, and historical records has led the author to the conclusion that the Byzantine finishing system is the likely original conceptual basis for the classical Italian coatings.


Zeitgeist and violinmaking

AchemistOne of the leading proponents of the scientific approach to violinmaking is Martin Schleske. In this article he touches on the subject of the state of scientific discovery around the time of the Cremonese era.

The full article in PDF format can be downloaded by registered members here. 



Mineral preservatives in the wood of Stradivari and Guarneri

Here is an article that is hot off the press. One of the authors is Joseph Nagyvary, a scientist/violinmaker from Texas that has written a lot on the theory that the Cremonese masters used a special wood treatment on their violins. In the past he has put forward several theories, including soaking the wood in water, urine, borax, shrimp shells, etc etc. All these theories and some sensationalist coverage by the press have not done his reputation in the violinmaking community much good. Nevertheless, he is an experienced scientist and his work and results are some of the best available. This paper contains some very interesting stuff. It seems more and more likely that there was a 'silver bullet' wood treatment that makes the Cremonese instruments different. The article was published in a scientific journal and it is not light reading, but well worth the effort.

The article is also available to registered users in PDF format here

Joseph Nagyvary1*, Renald N. Guillemette2, Clifford H. Spiegelman3


Blind Faith

What's in a label? Would a Strad sound as sweet by any other name? Blind tastings, popular in the wine world, offer a method of objective evaluation, but the string world doesn't believe in such tests. Alan Coggins wonders why.

By Alan Coggins (Published in The Strad, February 2007) 

The appreciation of fine violins is often likened to that of great wines. Both have the ability to stimulate and please our senses. Experts, connoisseurs and enthusiasts enjoy sampling and discussing their respective merits - a great Bordeaux vintage is treated with as much reverence as a golden-period Stradivari. The common wisdom is that both wines and violins improve with age. As John Townsend Trowbridge wrote

Violins ripen with age like wine?

With years a richer life begins,
The spirit mellows:
Ripe age gives tone to violins,
Wine, and good fellows.


Kavakos on Del Gesù and Stradivari

This is a quote from Leonidas Kavakos from the January 2009 Strad magazine:

Image"A great instrument is one that inspires the player to different directions in their playing, but doesn't force them to certain directions. That's the problem with many instruments by 'Del Gesù', and why if I was able to have one I probably wouldn't. This isn't the same with Stadivaris, although they have their own problems. Some are too bright and don't offer you the darkness of a 'Del Gesù'. Many Sradivaris have a silvery sound that is penetrating, with beautiful harmonic overtones. I've played quite a few violins by 'Del Gesù' and I find that with few exceptions, they direct the player to a certain approach and that is something I don't like. The instrument has to able to offer freedom." 





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.


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


Stradivari 'Le Messie' at

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