What is a Stradivarius?

Short answer? It's a make of violin... but read on to find out why they are so coveted, and who made them.

Published: February 24, 2020 at 12:03 pm

Back in 2011 a violin known as the ‘Lady Blunt’ was sold at auction for a little under £10m, just one of several instances of a violin fetching a high price.

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It was made by an Italian luthier (or violin maker) called Antonio Stradivari, who was born, lived and worked in Cremona from 1644-1737.

Stradivari was taught by another master luthier called Nicolò Amati and took his place as the go-to violin maker in Cremona when Amati died in 1684.

He made hundreds of instruments, many of which have not survived; it is this rarity and the craftsmanship that have given the surviving examples such value.

Generations of people have searched for the secret of Stradivarius, attributing the sound of his violins to the shape, the wood, the varnish and even less probable things.

Stradivari was very much an experimenter and didn’t just make violins; he also crafted violas, cellos and guitars!

His two sons learned the craft and continued the family business until their own deaths a few years later, in 1742 and 1743 respectively.

It’s not known how many Stradivari instruments are out there – and there are many fakes, too – but some are owned (or on loan) to some great violinists, including Itzhak Perlman, Joshua Bell and Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Anne-Sophie Mutter on her Stradivarius violin

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Joshua Bell performs JS Bach on his Stradivarius violin

Authors

Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of MusicfromtheMovies.com. He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.

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