Stradivari and High-end audio!?

Our ears are our mind tools?

Interesting reference and analogy, that might more then easily fit within high-end audio.

From Joseph Nagyvary:

Most people would say the sound has made the Stradivarius the gem that it is. Undeniably, the very essence of the violin is its sound, but this ethereal commodity is too difficult to grasp. Dealers can tell you it never enters into the arcane formula that determines the market value of fine old instruments. Musicians, audiences and critics often profess their preference for a certain tone quality—a late period Amati, a mid-period Strad, or a late 'del Gesu'—but anecdotes abound on how easily they can be misled. I have personally witnessed several amusing cases, one of them involving a concert of a famous string quartet whose players had just a year before switched from the customary mix of antique instruments to a matched set of four Strads. Alerted to this rare occasion by the press and the program notes, many aficionados entered a state of nirvana induced by what they believed to be the most homogeneous fabric of string voices. The intermission was buzzing with variations of oohs and aahs, and the newspaper critic also found it to be a once in a lifetime experience. In reality, there was no matched set in play; two of the four Strads had been left at home for maintenance and replaced with other instruments. 

Actually, scientific tools to describe and identify the intimate sound of a particular fine violin do exist, but, ironically, they are used more often to hearken for the messages of advanced civilizations from outer space, and to measure engine noise. Despite the available technology, there is no rush from the price setters of the antique business to adopt such high-tech methods which would remove the evaluation of tone quality from the murky waters of subjective opinion.

There may also be a more abstract legacy to sift through. There is a moral to the story of this wildly temperamental man who dedicated his work to Jesus Christ, which should inspire those who have chosen his métier. First of all, the luthier should serve the violin players, no matter how lowly their professional, or amateur status, nor how little they can afford to pay. Such dedication may not bring instant gratification, but it may in time earn honor and a lasting name. del Gesů's example also reminds us that the essence of the violin is not in its visual appearance, but in its sound which should be rich, mutable and expansive, like the voice of a dramatic soprano. There should be freedom to sculpt the violin in many variations, and one should not surrender to those who think greatness can be confined to fixed measurements and templates. 

 By our contemporary standards, Guarneri del Gesů could be viewed a loser in his life time. Yet a violin maker is not a loser if his violins are played by good professional players. The comforting legacy of del Gesů is in not having to reach top price in order to be appreciated for extraordinary service. It is the acceptance of the fact that the real star of the violin is not its maker but the performer. One wonders whose act is harder to follow: Stradivari's or del Gesů 's?

Matej Isak Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine All rights reserved, 2012