Had you ever had the chance to play a Strad?

January 28, 2008 at 12:30 AM · First of all, I made in into Michigan's All-State Orchestra, as a second violin, which is ok, but I know I would have had a better chair if I actually practiced for the audition! Anyway, there was a man who was selling new and old violin, violas, and bows. The students of the orchestra could try any violin or viola that we'd like. I heard a rumor of the $2.5 million Strad that he had, but of course he wasn't selling it! I went over to the area where he was, and asked him if it really was a Strad. Yes, he said it was, and he said a lot about it, most of it I don't remember because there was a Strad right in front of me. Many people had already played it, and I really wanted to. I was scared about dropping it, because he said that if you did, you would have to pay the $2.5 million. So I picked it up, with my hands shaking awfully, and I played it, and wow! did it sound amazing!! I wasn't really sure what to expect, but it was definitely way beyond any of my expectations. I can't believe had I had this experience to play a Strad! It was so exhilerating!

Has anyone else had the chance to play one? If so, what was it like for you? :)

Replies (25)

January 29, 2008 at 05:01 AM · And a nice delGesu. Just got back from dinner at my stand partner's house. After dinner I got to

play his Lupo, Pressenda and a very nice Vuillaume. I found the Lupo hard to play while he said it was easy for him. Each had a different quality sound and timbre. A most enjoyable evening. Interestingly my wife, a non musician, picked out the Vuillaume as sounding French without knowing who the maker was.

January 30, 2008 at 12:27 AM · I've played a Da Salo and Maggini. Which are like the Strads of violas being like only 5 Strad viola still exsist. I really wanna play Zukkerman's viola!!!!!!!!!!! but I dunno I can always dream about it.

January 31, 2008 at 12:57 AM · I think violas are different beasts and just because it's a Strad doesn't mean it's a fantastic instrument. When I was at college the then viola player with the Brodsky IVtet (Alex Robertson?) used to play on a cheap box and still made it sound great.

But another friend was playing in the 250-yr anniversary in London and said that with a Strad you could do what you wanted and the instrument would still take it.

January 31, 2008 at 06:24 AM · I got to play the Millanolo strad a few weekends ago in a master class with Corey Cerovsek. A few minutes into my lesson, he was advising me on the color of some of the really high g-string passages in Tzigane, telling me they needed more grit. Then he said, "Hey, everyone is afraid of those notes. Why don't you try it on my violin?"

The Strad was amazing. I felt a bit on the spot trying to find my way around a new instrument in front of an audience. But the tone was so pure, and the G string spoke readily and beautifully. Tzigane took on whole new dimensions. It didn't solve my problems; actually it made me more aware of the rough edges in my playing because the violin is so responsive to every nuance. Corey played on my violin for the rest of the class, and he got an amazing sound out of it. My violin is nice but nothing too special, but the way he made it sound was amazing.. so I guess I really have no excuse. :)

What an amazing exeperience, and really awesome of Corey to let me play the violin for the entire master class! I'm trying to hold on to the memory of playing that Strad.. I don't know if I'll ever get an experience like that again!

January 31, 2008 at 06:36 AM · I tried the "Viotti" Strad. Great violin!

October 23, 2012 at 12:10 PM · I'm playing a concerto in about 4 weeks time, and I'm renting a top grade instrument for it. When trying instruments out, I was given a Strad to try, and I have to say I didn't like it too much. Perhaps you have to bear in mind it was a composite instrument (the top was fairly new but the back and ribs were original Strad). But to me, it sounded rather weak. Strads do require a really refined right hand technique to get the best sounds out of it, something which I am still working on, but even when it was played from a distance by the wife of the owner of the shop, it still sounded rather weak. Perhaps it could have sounded much better with a different set up, but it wasn't to my taste and I wouldn't be able to get used to it in the short time in which I am being loaned an instrument. I eventually settled on a J B Vuillaume violin, which was much easier to play and was far more open sounding. It's a fantastic violin and I'm very lucky to have the opportunity to play it! I'm not looking forward to giving it back...

October 23, 2012 at 12:17 PM · I never played a strad. The most expenisve instrument I've played was a 900k italian violin, and I don't even remember who the maker was.

October 23, 2012 at 12:57 PM · damn....lol I wish they had a strad/guanerius showing for amateurs...

October 23, 2012 at 01:43 PM · old thread. just fyi

October 23, 2012 at 02:20 PM · No offense to amateurs, but I'd be afraid to let them handle such expensive instruments (which are usually very heavily insured, of course), without a C-clip on each bout. Even very famous players and luthiers have done a lot of damage to fine instruments, such as the infamous case of David Garrett and his Guadagnini, or of Joshua Bell scratching up the "Kochanski" del Gesu when trying it out..

October 23, 2012 at 02:26 PM · Many people got to try out the Baron von der Leyen Stradivarius when it was consigned at Tarisio; some liked it better than others - I personally felt it to be quite an exemplary instrument, and my favorite of the nine or ten Stradivari violins I've tried, all of which were in good condition and adjustment (except for one). In general, I find that I prefer Stradivari's instruments over the others that I've tried (I've tried two Vuillaumes, four by Guarneri del Gesu, three Gaglianos, a Rocca, two by Rogeri, a Grancino, a Testore, and a Camilli).

October 23, 2012 at 03:26 PM · The only case i know of of an amateur damaging a Strad was Gerald Segelman, who put the Rode Stradivari under his bed. The springs were sagging and the case got dented to the point that the top of the violin cracked.

The next time I play a Strad or Del Gesu i promise i won't put it under the bed. The first time you play one of those it feels like you want to put on a tuxedo before touching it. Besides that Strads are stunningly beautiful to look at.

But after a bit of playing you focus more on the sound and what you can do with the fiddle.

I have never dropped a violin but have dropped my bow once. I was actually more worried when playing a Tourte ; you drop and break one of those and bye bye 200,000 plus dollars.

October 23, 2012 at 04:46 PM · If I am ever given a chance to try those babies, it would of course be under screening by experts and guards to minimize any damage.

and it was kinda shocking to see some professionals

being so careless about these priceless instruments.

I think we'd actually be more careful cause we don't see them on a daily basis and the chances are so rare :)

October 26, 2012 at 07:38 PM · I was playing The Messiah Strad in front of Itzhak Perlman, until my mother woke me up.

October 26, 2012 at 09:39 PM · LOL! In fact several days ago I really had a dream in which I got hold of a Strad, an Amati, and the ex-Rosand, ex-Kochanski del Gesu! I was about to try them and compare, and the excitement woke me up!

OK, to the OP, I have tried about half-a-dozen Strads, 2 del Gesus, some Amatis, Guadagninis, etc. In the blog/pol section there is the subject, "What makes a Strad a Strad", where I and others go into some detail on the subject.

October 27, 2012 at 08:51 AM · Tripping and falling down stairs is an accident, but Maxim Vengerov, leaving an irreplaceable violin in an open case, in front of an open window.....In the rain. The mind boggles. What was he thinking!

October 28, 2012 at 04:13 AM · All the Strads in the Library of Congress, two decorated Strads in the Smithsonian (The Hellier and Sunrise?), an ex-Schneiderhan in a shop in NYC, several Amati's and the ex-Kreisler in the LOC. Great instruments.

My favorite of all was The Tuscan viola in the LOC.

October 28, 2012 at 04:38 AM · @Theresia Sheridan: by He hmmm...did you mean, Iskandar Widjaja? (just curious and just guessing :)

October 28, 2012 at 10:31 AM · Wish I were able to...

October 28, 2012 at 01:25 PM · @Theresia Sheridan: oh okay. fyi, a young player or older player, age doesn't matter, professional player means someone who got paid for playing, Iskandar does.

November 12, 2012 at 02:32 PM · I played a Guaranari once for a recital in college. It was great, but I can't see owning a fiddle that costs more than my house.

November 12, 2012 at 06:57 PM · Years ago when I was a young violin student,my Mother purchased a violin for me from William Moennig & Sons. Bill Moennig III and I became friends over the years when I would take the violin to his shop for it's check up. Once when I was there he said that he had a fiddle that I might want to play.

We went up to the upstairs room where I am sure many of you have been when trying out violins and there on the table was a beautiful violin. I about fainted when he told me that it was a Strad made in 1691 not long after Stradivarious had finished his apprenticeship. It was made for one of the daughters of the then Russian Czar, thus named the Russian Strad, and during the revolution was taken apart and sent to France in laundry bags and reassembled there. I played it for about 30 to 40 minutes and that was one of the greatest moments of my musical life. Beautiful violin!


November 12, 2012 at 08:43 PM · I never did but I was wondering what it would be like. I think your explanation is exactly what I was thinking it must be like. Thanks for sharing!!

November 12, 2012 at 08:53 PM · Interesting Note. If I recall correctly Scientific American said there was nothing unusual about the wood or varnish on a Stradivarius. Stradivari was just a great craftsman. I can't imagine making something that would be so highly valued for hundreds of years.

December 20, 2012 at 06:23 AM · There is something unusual about the wood... compared to today's violins, the wood in a Strad has been seasoning and drying for 300 years. We don't know what a Strad sounded like in 1712.

The other thing about the wood in a Strad is it may be denser (slower growth) than many of the violins made today.

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