The question of the secrets of Stradivari and, Guarneri del Gesu have been discussed at length for many years and remain fascinating. However, I do believe that over the last three centuries there had to have been luthiers of equally superior talent but were not as known for a host of reasons.
Of course, it is very possible that the varnishes will forever remain unique formulas never to be decoded, the treatment of the wood and its sourcing will never be quite understood, but does that not predispose that Stradivari and Guarneri both had to know that whatever their secrets were, would impact their creations decades and centuries later? It just seems odd that they happen to know something no other luthier knew and today's luthiers struggle to discover. All the reverse engineering that has been done never seems to unlock the secret. Is it possible that the secret can never be achieved since no luthier today has the advantage of fast forwarding their own work 300 years? Perhaps there was no secret other than superior skill and circumstance? How many times have we heard of the blindfolded face off where another luthier's violin was preferred which invariably is followed by the argument that the comparison test was flawed?
Besides borax, shrimp, insects and whatever else Nagavary has suggested for the brew that may approximate Stradivari's secret, an ingredient that he can never stick in the spruce and maple syrup is history and time with a tiny pinch of myth. Isn't it true that occasionally a luthier in Cremona financially benefits from these ingredients over his or her equivalent from any other location?
This posting is in no way even suggesting or considering that Stradivari and del Gesu were anything less than brilliant or that their works are undeserving of their enormously high regard. It is suggesting, however, that past and present luthiers may not be fairly compared since they can never have the advantages that time and legend seem to do for one's work. The excitement of the journey often outweighs that of the destination. Maybe the secret is that there is no secret.
I am very curious to the views of others.
This discussion has been archived and is no longer accepting responses.
Violinist.com is made possible by...
Discover the best of Violinist.com in these collections of editor Laurie Niles' exclusive interviews.