The legend of the superiority of violins made by the 17th-century master luthier Antonio Stradivari is almost as old as the instruments themselves. Stradivari’s instruments sell these days for millions of dollars, and, for a rising young player, the gift or loan of a Stradivari violin, viola or cello is like a stamp of greatness (or potential greatness). But over the last few years, a few holes have been poked in the legend, culminating in this study from a few years back that suggested that, not only were Stradivarius instruments not necessarily all they were cracked up to be, but that modern instruments were perceived as sounding better from a musician’s perspective.
Well, this week the authors of that study published a follow-up that suggests that audiences feel the same way. Of course, there are holes in their conclusions that you could drive an entire double-bass section through, as this commentary points out, but at the very least the study gives hope to modern-day instrument makers, musicians and parents that older is not necessarily better, and that you don’t have to have millions of dollars in your pocket to play on an instrument that sounds beautiful. My conclusion? Trust your own ears!