This letter appeared in The Guardian Weekly Feb.1, 2012 under the heading "Is it a Stradivarius or not?"
----- Original Message -----
From: Leslie Dreyer
Sent: Thursday, January 12, 2012 5:40 PM
Subject: "Stradivarius? You don't say?"13.01.12 Shortcuts page, Ian Sample ---Modern violins vs. old violins
Since a hotel room is not a concert hall, how can the carrying power of a violin be properly judged? The acoustics of a shower stall, for example, can make a factory fiddle sound as resonant as a Strad, while a Strad played in a bedroom (with thick carpeting, heavy drapes, and velvet wallpaper) will sound muted. This is why some unscrupulous applicants for a symphony position submit an audition tape recorded in a tiled bathroom.
Another troublesome question raised by Dr. Fritz's experiments is obvious: How will the modern instrument sound 300 years from now? While the ancient Cremonese violins appear to improve over the centuries, many modern instruments lose their initial brilliance and tonal quality within a few years. Consequently, the criteria of durability must be included along with "response and tone colours" to prove the superiority of one instrument over the other. And of course this is impossible.
So I conclude that happiness for an elderly violinist is an old fiddle and a young wife---but definitely not a young violin that might not outlive its player.
(Retired violinist of the Met Opera Orchestra)
(917) 670-6865 180 West End Ave. NYC 10023 U.S.A.