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March 10, 2014
Did you hear the one about the Milwaukee thieves that tried to relieve an orchestra concertmaster of his violin? Fortunately it didn't work out so well for the thieves. The violin was recovered and the thieves were arrested. On the surface, this might appear to be a story fit to buried in a community newspaper rather than the Eye. Of course, what gave it international prominence wasn't the crime, but the instrument involved--a famed Stradivarius violin. This wasn't the first theft of a Stradivarius and likely won't be the last.
And to know why, you need to understand that any violin, viola or cello made by Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) that still graces this earth can sell for millions of dollars--$16 million at last count. Unlike objets d'art in the fickle international art market whose value are dictated by taste and trend, the majesty of an instrument made by Stradivarius is rarely denied by those who know one.
Dr. Jon Whiteley, Historian at the Ashmolean Museum puts it this way:
"Everyone who plays a great Stradivari violin, (and there are great and less great violins by Stradivari) will tell you that it has a responsiveness, a sweetness of tone, a carrying power--an ability to speak, to sing almost without prompting, that places it in a class of its own."
That sweetness of tone of a Stradivarius is typically attributed to its construction--a masterful melding of softwood, hardwood and what some people consider to be the big difference: a secret cocktail in the wood containing chromium, fluorides, iron salts and the preservative borax. I think I'll pass on that concoction and opt for a gin and tonic and generous helping of Paganini Violin Concerto No.1 in D, with or without a Strad.
Where am I going with this? To a remote island in the Banda Sea. And if you were too, and had just 10 tracks on a CD or iPod, what would they be?
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