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Review: Stradivari by Stewart Pollens

Review: Stradivari by Stewart Pollens

Reviewed by David Gusset

Originally published in American Lutherie #103, 2010

by Stewart Pollens
ISBN: 978-0521873048
Cambridge University Press, 2010

For over 200 years, Antonio Stradivari has been universally regarded as the greatest violin maker who ever lived, yet it is not widely known that he made virtually every kind of bowed and plucked string instrument popular in the Baroque period, including lutes, guitars, mandolins, viols, harps, and bows. And what do we actually know about the man and about his life and times? For a start, Antonio Stradivari (the Latinized form of his name “Antonius Stradiuarius” can be seen on the labels he inserted in his instruments) lived and worked in Cremona, Italy. He was born sometime between 1644 and 1649 and died in 1737 and was the successor to three previous generations of Cremonese violin makers of the Amati family.

What do we know about Stradivari’s working methods, about how he designed and built his instruments? Certainly a lot can be learned from studying the more than 600 of his instruments that still exist, although many of us regrettably may never have the experience of studying firsthand his instruments inside and out. Furthermore, almost all of those surviving instruments have been altered in the process of repair and modernization.

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