Playin' on a Strad?

July 31, 2006 at 05:02 AM · Hi guys,

I've got a friend wanting a recording of a famous violinist playing on a Strad. I was curious as to what you thought the best choices were? I know that famous people often have violins lent to them, so I want to be sure that the instrument they're using is a Strad-- if it can be noted for sure. Thanks!

Replies (73)

July 31, 2006 at 07:55 AM · Ugh Shaham uses one, Josh Bell too. A far better player than those two named Leonidas Kavakos uses a Strad also. There's always Milstein, early Heifetz recordings on Strads. Hilary Hahn uses a Vuill.. something (can't spell in Francais excuse moi) and she blows all of today's fiddlers and yes even Mark O'Connor (strad player) out of the water. It's the player not the equipment.

July 31, 2006 at 08:07 AM · Any recording by James Ehnes is on a Strad (except when he plays a P. Guarneri viola for the Hummel on one recording).

I. Perlman, G. Shaham, J. Bell, A. Kavafian, Y. Ma, J. DuPre, and so many others use Strads. Just about any major performer has recorded on either a Strad or a Guarneri. There are much fewer who do not, but are just as successful on instruments like Guadagnini, Vuillaume, Curtin, Amati, etc.


July 31, 2006 at 12:21 PM · Sarah Chang? Preston? What is she playing on these days, a Guarneri?

July 31, 2006 at 05:45 PM · Sarah Chang plays a Guarneri.

July 31, 2006 at 06:12 PM · Vengerov, Znaider, and Faust to add to those already mentioned...van Keulen has one but prefers her Grainer. In general the Strad craze is a bit puzzling to me. It would be justified if all of them were like Soil. In my particular case I like the Ruggieri that I am playing on far better than the "golden period" S I was using for 6 years...


July 31, 2006 at 06:10 PM · Soovin Kim.

July 31, 2006 at 07:03 PM · Adding a few more names to look for: Mutter, Repin, Amoyal, Oistrakh, Grumiaux.

July 31, 2006 at 07:50 PM · Viktoria Mullova and Maurice Hasson play on a Strad too.

July 31, 2006 at 07:58 PM · Yes Karin, and a very nice one at that.


July 31, 2006 at 08:08 PM · Julia Fischer, on her debut CD Khachaturian-Prokofiev1-Glazunov performed on the 1716"Booth"-Strad, on all others she uses her J.B.Guadagnini (1750)

July 31, 2006 at 08:36 PM · Ilya,

Ruggieri doesn't look as impressive in the last sentence of the artist bio as some miscellaneous Strad.


Pretty much every major soloist is playing on such an instrument right now... there's way, way too much focus on the Strad and Guarneri. I just read the stupidest review of Leila Josefewiz (sorry for the horrendous spelling). The whole time the esteemed critic refers to the sound of the Guarneri DG. She would sound quite the same on my violin. It's the same embarrasing, assinine fixation like those lemmings who all flock to photograph the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, and ignore the other wonders that surround them.

July 31, 2006 at 09:28 PM · Hehe, all this focus on Strads, Strads, and Strads reminds me of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank phenomenon.

I remember a thread here not too long ago when someone claimed that Joshua Bell's superior sound was more due to his violin than his talent, and someone---I wish for the life of me I could remember who, speak up if it's you!---said, "If you believe that, listen to me play his violin. I promise it will sound like, uh, dung."

August 1, 2006 at 12:11 AM · Hey Ilya,

You didn't by any chance get your Ruggieri from Ruening and Sons did you? I remember playing on one in their shop a few years ago that was just incredible....

August 1, 2006 at 07:41 AM · Ref Julia Fischer

In my post above I forgot to mention her DVD 4 Seasons (BBC-Opus Arte, filmed in Wales Botanic gardens, Norman Foster's futuristic glass dome) performed on Booth-Strad ... a banquet for the senses.

"Strad craze"...

yes, Karin, Pieter, Ilja, Strads. etc seem to be idolized.

from Germany cooling down - greetings.


August 1, 2006 at 08:08 AM · Nicholas,

No, not Ruening, nor the sons.


good point, however not so if you call it the "Ruggieri" Strad? Or perhaps the ex-Ruggieri? exes make the whole thing look just so much hotter...


P.S. Repin plays a del G

August 1, 2006 at 03:15 PM · Elina Vahala, Timothy Baker, Cecily Ward (Cypress String Quartet violinist and registred in and Barnabas Kelemen play on a Strad too.

August 1, 2006 at 05:18 PM · Ilya,

What year was the "golden period" Stradivari you played built in, and what "name" was attached to it?


John Thornton

August 1, 2006 at 05:26 PM · Nikolaj Znaider's recording of the Nielsen concert o and Bruch G- is played on a Strad (1704) "ex-Liebig".

It's very nice, more people should listen to the Nielsen.

August 1, 2006 at 05:42 PM · I thought Grumiaux used a del Gesu...

August 1, 2006 at 06:17 PM · I guess Grumiaux had both, but I think he used the Strad for his famous Bach recording.

Batiashvili has been playing on a Strad (but not on her CD, I think.)

August 2, 2006 at 01:47 PM · John,

the name better be ex-Gringolts by now...Actually, scratch that, it sounds awful.

It was 1721 ex-Kiesewetter


August 2, 2006 at 03:30 PM · It could be the Exilya strad, for naughty soloists who dont practice

August 2, 2006 at 04:25 PM · Can you hear the difference between Strad and Guarnerius simply by listening to a record ?

Clear (Strad) - Darker (Guarnerius) ?

It is mentioned in "The Art of the Violin" but it is not so obvious to me.

August 2, 2006 at 05:42 PM · Gluzman uses a Strad too (the Auer, to my mind, one of the best Strads)


When I met Repin, he told he was using a Del Gesu, but that he had 2 Strad at home. And that in fact he prefers playing Brahms on Del Gesu.



August 2, 2006 at 07:44 PM · I heard him play Lalo this year, it was on a DG.

August 2, 2006 at 08:07 PM · it's the violinist, not the violin. please stop the name-dropping. none of the soloists mentioned above would be worse for not owning a strad.

barry shiffman proved that to me years ago. he played on my 19xx 'ex-cardboard' and it sounded great. funny how it sounded like crabapples when i played it immediately afterwards.

August 2, 2006 at 08:43 PM · But the thread is *all about* name-dropping!. curios listeners want to know when it is a strad! :-)

(Personally I'd be very happy with a Burgess or a Curtin or an Alf or something. Heck, I like my Gliga just fine.)

Oh, BTW, "I'd switch to viola but I don't want to ruin that instrument's good reputation"

LOL, I switched last year for a few months--until my wife said to stop making all that dying cow noise.

August 2, 2006 at 11:04 PM · Hello D Wright,

Kindly take some reading comprehension classes.

Thank you.

August 2, 2006 at 11:49 PM · Ilya,

Did you buy the fiddle? That would probably have a bearing on your name being attached.

I don't think the fiddles Stradivari or del Gesu made care much about who may or may not owned them.

What particular aspect of the tonal characteristics did you NOT like?


August 3, 2006 at 05:36 AM · The quality of violin makes a HUGE difference, particularly at the top classical soloist level where performances are given in varying kinds of venues at a very intense pitch.

Were it so simple that the quality of violin truly did not matter, top pro soloists would not bother spending tens of thousands of dollars each year on insurance on instruments they don't even own!

The higher the level, the greater the need for a fine instrument. One does not race the Indy 500 in a station wagon.

August 3, 2006 at 07:17 AM · Unless you lost a bet

August 3, 2006 at 09:20 AM · I haven't tried many violins, but I did have the fortune of trying a Strad and it was miles ahead of any other violin I tried (and I haven't only tried cheap violins). It was very clear then how big of a difference a violin makes.

August 4, 2006 at 07:09 PM · Wow Pieter your are right, Znaider´s Strad sound amaizing in Nielsen´s VC, like me soo much and imo sound best than Perlman´Strad Soil. Are there anothers recordings? BTW the loan to Znaider was extended by the Royal Danish Theater, This Strad was owned and played for Wolfgang Sneiderhan, but in Znaider´s hands sound totally different. Thanks

August 4, 2006 at 07:55 PM · Znaider's Strad sounds glorious on recording but it's not the biggest projector. I am quite sure the Soil sounds better in the hall.

BTW does anybody know who plays the Red Diamond Strad now? I heard it was bought for someone to play a couple of years ago.

August 4, 2006 at 08:11 PM · hello pieter,

i don't respond to random call-outs.

thank you.

August 4, 2006 at 08:10 PM · it's true a fine instrument has a special tone that common instruments don't have. but a stradivari isn't a magic pill. the instrument will bring out more subtle colours in a player's tone but it won't make anyone better than they already are.

the players mentioned above are great violinists. i wouldn't scorn them if they never performed on a strad.

August 4, 2006 at 08:33 PM · great... but I always respond to blatant demonstrations of idiocy.

"thank you".

August 4, 2006 at 10:19 PM · Nobody scorned anybody for not playing a Strad. All anyone ever wanted to know was who happens to play on one. Also, nobody ever said that they're "magic pills"... I think that's an exaggeration.

August 4, 2006 at 11:15 PM · Red Diamond or Red Ruby?

Last I heard the Ruby was being played by Repin.


August 4, 2006 at 11:19 PM · The Ruby that is/was played by Repin is 1708.

The Red diamond is from 1732.

August 4, 2006 at 11:39 PM · A incredible Red Diamond´s history here:

August 5, 2006 at 02:42 AM · I believe the Red Diamond is in the hands of a Curtis student whose name escapes me at the moment...or maybe it's the Ruby. I have no idea.

August 5, 2006 at 03:25 AM · amanda, point taken. i was being harsh. carry on then.

August 5, 2006 at 03:38 AM · I hope nobody is playing on a strad

August 5, 2006 at 10:00 PM · I don't know why this idea of anyone thinking a player would be worse if they didn't play on a Strad even came up. No one is saying anyone wouldn't be as good of a player, the point is just that people sound better on better sounding violins... (duh).

About Znaider, his violin has an amazing sound. I don't know if the projection problem is the violin or him. It seems to me like his superfluous moving and pressing too much so that it almost chokes sometimes is what's impeding the projection and not the violin. Sometimes he moves so that he is completely facing the orchestra and then you can't hear anything.

August 5, 2006 at 11:43 PM · My experience playing Strads is that I'd take a lot more risks and widen my color range if I had one to work with every day.

The top soloist Vadim Gluzman raves on his website about how much the "Auer" Stradivari has helped him. That's exactly the way I'd feel if I had such an instrument to teach me.

August 6, 2006 at 06:25 AM · What am I doing up so late? :) There are things that are true for all instruments and then special considerations for special instruments. It's obvious that a great instrument can sound bad if played that way, but the upside of the best violins is unlimited. That's why the best players desire them. That and the fame!

I agree that in general, moving around a lot doesn't help projection. There was another thread about that re: Jacqueline DuPre. The most talented get away with it, and the less talented let it interfere. And some of the most talented eschew it anyway (Zukerman etc).

It's funny, Perlman once said a related thing about his playing (I'll have to paraphrase): After playing publicly for decades, by best nights don't get any better. But my worst nights are much better than they used to be!

I think the opposite is true for instruments: their bottom line remains unchanged, but the top end is expanded by the genius of the player.

August 6, 2006 at 03:14 PM · Hi,

What Nathan is saying is very true. To top it off, great instruments also sound great and improve when well-played; and paradoxically, refuse to be played badly! :) You can learn much from playing a great fiddle.

That said, Frank Peter Zimmerman plays on a Strad (I think the ex-Dragonetti). Stefan Jackiw is now playing on a Strad on loan from the Chicago Srad Society. The Tokyo String Quartet plays on a quartet of Strads that used to belong to Paganini (now owned by the Nippon Foundation). I thought that Znaider was playing on a Del Gésu, but I could be wrong. I saw Repin play this year, and his bio said he was playing a Strad. Nice fiddle.

Anyhow, some additions from the top of my head...


August 6, 2006 at 06:42 PM · Christian, Zimmerman played on the Dragonetti till 2002, now he play on the Earl of Plymouth Strad, this was owned and played for Kreisler between 1928-1946.

Zimmerman´s strad is a loan from Westdeutsche Landesbank in Germany.

August 6, 2006 at 06:46 PM · Repin said to us backstage gawkers that it was a Del Gesu.

It says in the jacket of my Nielsen/Bruch G- CD that he plays a Strad.

August 7, 2006 at 03:24 AM · That's interesting! For years Repin played the Ruby Strad. But I seem to remember some confusion this past spring when he played in Ottawa as to what he was playing on... sounding great of course. I was right near him but I can't tell these things by looking.

August 7, 2006 at 03:48 AM · I have no idea how to tell a great Strad from a great Guarneri... I just remember him mentioning a Guarneri, but this is odd since Christian heard him play Shostakovich like 3 nights earlier in Ottawa... it's doubt he'd change violins like that to play Lalo. I have no idea. Perhaps my memory is foggy.

August 7, 2006 at 05:16 AM · I was talking about Shostakovich as well... was that just a few months ago? I was playing as a guest up there in Ottawa. What a performance, at least from my seat! Totally unshakable.

August 8, 2006 at 09:55 PM · Vadim's situation is this: he still has the Ruby from B&F, but almost never plays it, as he has a DG from a Swiss what-have-you.

Hope this helps. I'll see you at practice.


August 9, 2006 at 12:37 AM · hear no evil, speak no evil

August 11, 2006 at 05:03 PM · what is the "Ruggieri," that Ilya was talking about?

August 11, 2006 at 05:11 PM · Hi,

Ilya - thanks for the info.

Nathan - yep!!! That was an awesome performance from the hall as well. You did a great job as concertmaster of the NACO that night too!


August 11, 2006 at 05:36 PM · Doesn't Stefan Jackiw have the ex-Kiesewetter now?

BTW, I can't help but wonder if all these "named Strads" will still have their same names in a generation or two. Example, will people still refer to the "Kreutzer" Stradivarius, or will it be the "ex-Vengerov"?

August 11, 2006 at 05:52 PM · When I met Corey Cerovsik after a concert last year he told me he plays on a Strad.

I do not know if he has any recordings of his playing on it though.

August 11, 2006 at 06:16 PM · Then who play the Wieniawski Guarneri del Gesu?

August 11, 2006 at 06:26 PM · Ok i just read that chinese violinist Lu Siqing actually play on a Wieniawski Guarneri del Gesu.

August 11, 2006 at 09:11 PM · If I'm not mistaken I was at the presentation ceremony for Mr. Lu's violin. It was in Chicago, one floor up from Bein and Fushi and their Stradivari Society. Four Chinese musicians were given Strads/Del Gesus that night, and it was one of the hottest concerts I have ever attended (summer, no AC in that room).

The highlight for me was hearing Chuan-Yun Li (he played for the movie Together) play... eerie. Total freedom of movement, even to the point of walking back and forth on the stage. At one point he tripped on a microphone cable while walking backwards, but managed not to fall and to keep Dance of the Goblins going!

Small world, Christian!

August 11, 2006 at 09:20 PM · Aha, the Chinese names reminded me.....Nai-Yuan Hu plays the "ex-Hubay" Strad, or at least he did last time I checked. Magnificent violin. Hubay played the premiere of Brahms sonata #3 on it.

August 11, 2006 at 09:23 PM · The "Ruggieri" I am referring to is nothing more than a Ruggieri:) These days you can't even say "Ruggieri" without people thinking it's a Strad. That's fine with me.

Stefan does indeed play the ex-wetter. Hope he has better luck with it, he's a great player


August 11, 2006 at 09:34 PM · you probably love that ilya... you're such a brand wh0re.

August 11, 2006 at 09:43 PM · you read me like a book Pieter


August 11, 2006 at 10:08 PM · I was at ENCORE with Stefan two years ago, before I had any idea he was a famous concert artist. (I didn't know him very well, I guess that's my only excuse for having no idea who he is...) Bit of a shock a few months after I got home to come across an old review (in The Strad I believe) of one of his concerts in the Royal Albert Hall!

August 12, 2006 at 01:08 AM · lol Maura, I remember playing cards with you and him and some other people in a dorm room in the A...i think i lost the game.

August 12, 2006 at 02:04 AM · was this a... sexy card game?

suddenly I feel really left out.

August 12, 2006 at 03:02 AM · Yeah, I remember that! It was something like the first or second day and I was all stressed out about my upcoming lesson with Mr. Danchenko. I can't remember who won the game, but I do remember the copious amounts of Goldfish crackers we were all consuming.....ahh, good times. :)

Pieter, the strip poker was in a different dorm...probably Wood House? :)

August 21, 2006 at 03:55 AM · Midori made a lovely cd of popular short pieces and encores in about 1992, playing the Jupiter Strad (1722). Her tone, aided by a hall with superior acoustics, is just wonderful. (She plays a Guarneri now).

Milstein's recordings are on a 1716 Strad. His Bach solo violin sonata set from 1975 shows it off well.

All Francescatti's are on a 1727 (Hart).

August 21, 2006 at 05:10 PM · Daishin Kashimoto performs on the Stradivarius 1722 "Jupiter" violin on loan from Nippon Music Foundation in this moment.

August 22, 2006 at 05:03 AM · Nathan said:

"I think the opposite is true for instruments: their bottom line remains unchanged, but the top end is expanded by the genius of the player."

How true!


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