Why are Stradivari violins sooo good?

Believe it or not, there is opinion that it is because of borax, chemical that Stradivari used to protect wood from wood worms.

Who got such idea? Professor emeritus of Biochemistry at Texas A&M University Dr. Joseph Nagyvary. On his www.NagyavaryViolins.com homepage we can read

It appears that the art of violinmaking in Cremona during the Golden Years ( ~1550-1750) was shaped by historical coincidences in wood acquisition and preservation. Stradivari and his colleagues were likely the beneficiaries of a local technology without being aware of it. For protection against woodworm and mold, chemists were known to apply a chemical solution to the surface of the wood, and this solution was often a slurry made with a powder the alchemists called “the salt of gems”. According to historical accounts from Cremona collected by V. Grivel, these sophisticated materials were provided by the local apothecary to a variety of wood workers. Presumably, neither the apothecary nor the violinmakers were conscious of the profound acoustical effect of the chemicals which were used routinely on all fine furniture.

On that site you can find mp3s that are comparing Stradivari and Nagyavary violins. For me very interesting were those comparison frequency diagrams.

Be sure to check out article Stradivari ‘owes it all to worms’ on telegraph.co.uk

And what Wikipedia says on Stradivari violins, well, check out by clicking here. Also, especially interesting is article about famous violin duel in September 2003.


9 Responses to “Why are Stradivari violins sooo good?”

  1. suburbanlife Says:

    I am so glad to have found your blog, and have subscribed to it!
    This one hits so close to home. My father, now deceased, was passionately partisan to things violin -,lore, composers, compositions, musicians and instruments. As Dr. Nagyvary, he was also Hungarian, an amateur violinist, and collected stinged instruments. The Storioni, Amati , Guarnerius violins along with a Guarnerius cello were treasures our family carried over the border to Austria in the aftermath of the Hungarian Revolution in ’56. These are all, now, in the possession of several very capable North American musicians, which is just, as they were meant to make beautiful sounds by capable hands. The article of the duel between the Strad and Nagyvary violins was fascinating. It’s great to know that the tradition of making fine instruments is carried on, with the added benefit of modern scientific research!

  2. dreams.corner Says:

    Thanks for such kind comment. I am so glad to hear that your father was a collector of instruments – I always like to hear stories about musical instruments that are giving joy to people. And when someone is a collector it means that he has far more trained ear for subtleties and delicacies of music than musician with one instrument, or just mere listener (that applies to other fields also, I know many collectors of watches, old cameras, and my father is collector of old books).

    I thought it would be interesting to write something about Strad, since only millionaires can buy them. Consolation to me is that I might buy good copy of Strat (fender stratocaster electric guitar) and I hope I will one fine day.

    Thanks for sharing story about your father. I admire such people, and the image of man who is surrounded by many high quality violins and cellos, who cared about highest levels of aesthetic perception – is a delight that makes my day beautiful!

  3. suburbanlife Says:

    Thanks for your reply back! I hope you are able to acquire a good copy of a fender Stratocaster. My husband collects electric guitars and dreams of finding a lost Strat somewhere. Meanwhile, he noodles on all of his guitars and is teaching me about the differences in sound and why this happens. Life is good!

  4. dreams.corner Says:

    It will not be easy for me to get good guitar because I am left-handed, and here in the shop they act like there are 0.1% lefthanded people out there, and not estimated 15% (in another words, there are very few guitars that are not for right-handed people). I tried one Squier, it was nice, but I did not like the colours. I would like to have royal blue guitar, which would sound so good that I would give her name, ah well.

    It seems that Hungarian people have good tradition of collecting. I read in Wikipedia that famous Dr. László Polgár has collection of over 10000 books about chess. Now, it is not easy to collect ten thousand books on different subjects, but can you imagine such big collection on just one topic – chess!

    I wish your husband all the best in his search. As shiny diamonds are somewhere deep in the ground, so also there are lost Strats somewhere out there – one just have to be persistent in search.

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