Posted by: jkirkby8712 | January 13, 2012

Thursday, 12th January, 2012 – a story about the Stradivarius violins.

Slept a bit longer than anticipated, after waking quite early this morning [as with yesterday’s time] and reading for an hour. Quick rush to the Swimming/Gymnasium Centre for an assessment to get into the new Lift for Life Program that I wanted to enrol in. I couldn’t complete the assessment today – wasn’t told to come dressed for gym work, though I was just completing the paper work!!!  Back again next Monday!  Into town, bit of shopping, and as with yesterday, stopped for an iced coffee in the Brook Street restaurant – probably something I ‘should not’ be drinking too regularly, but it is one of the few ‘coffee style’ drinks I can enjoy these days!!

I was pleased to hear from, friend Bev today  – she has been having health problems for the past 12 months, and computer problems over the past month or so, but they were finally hoping to get the latter sorted out today. Well that must have happened –  and she had some advice regarding my ‘medication problem  – ‘As I said in my ‘phone message, Kamal went to 2 chemists & neither had  Cartia. However one pharmacy said a substitute was Astrix. However,  you must have it after a good big meal, even if you have to change your
time of taking it’…………………unfortunately, it was the Astrix which appeared to be causing me some discomfort, so while appreciating the information, it didn’t really help me a great deal!    I had been feeling fine this morning, then had a bit of a rushed lunch –  been feeling off colour eve r since. Rather annoying. Seems to be a problem with the digestive system, not sure, will see how it goes for day or so, then follow it up.

Susie went off on ‘her road trip’ this afternoon – via Footscray where she was going to pick up Jodie, and together they were heading towards the beaches of the South Gippsland/Phillip Island area. I just hope the weather warms up a little for them both, though the amended forecast tonight was not too promising. I didn’t expect to hear from the girls tonight, though I did notice on one of their Face Book sites, that they were in the Lang Lang area, so at least they had managed to get well beyond the city area during the peak hour of traffic. I thought they would have been better off to head away this morning [expected them to actually], but apparently Jodie had to work today, which was where Susie picked her up from.  In fact, Melbourne’s weather yesterday, where the temperature didn’t get above 18.8 degrees [at 5.30 pm] in a day in which, throughout Victoria we had midsummer storms which dumped snow in some of the alpine regions [in the middle of January!!!], and gave the city it’s coldest January day in three years. No wonder, I have been wearing a pullover off and on over the past 24 hours! But things should be more normal by the weekend, expected to be back up in the 30s. Just hope the girls get some good sunshine before they return home on Sunday!

I noticed an interesting story the other day relating to the famous Stradivarius violins.  Reported in the Limelight magazine, we find that the  results of an experiment comparing violins by contemporary makers with two Stradivari (c1700) and one Guarneri del Gesù (c1740) have shocked string players around the world.  The blind test, conducted at the 2010 International Violin Competition of Indianapolis with findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has yielded some surprising insights into the quality of modern violin craft and the way a performer values an instrument and rates its sound.   Claudia Fritz, an acoustics specialist at the University of Paris, worked with Luthier Joseph Curtin and a team of researchers to gather 21 professional violinists for the study. Participants were given two tests: the first required them to play six violins and nominate the one they would like to take home. In the other, they played and compared pairs of violins, not having been told that one in each set was a valuable Italian rarity while the other was a new fiddle.   Tests were conducted in a room with dimmed lights and a dry acoustic; players wore modified welding goggles and handled the instruments through a dividing curtain. The chin rest of each violin was scented with perfume to prevent the odour of the wood from giving the game up.  To the chagrin of antique instrument dealers everywhere, one of the Strads was the least preferred in the series of pairs. In the six-violin test only 8 out of 21 subjects chose an old instrument and one of the newer offerings came out on top as the most preferred.   Prized for their resonant tone and exquisite craftsmanship, Stradivariuses are among the most expensive instruments in the world; the priciest specimen auctioned last year in support of a Japanese tsunami fund, the “Lady Blunt”, fetched AUD$15.4 million. Lest any of the world’s leading soloists rush out to trade theirs in for a newer model, Fritz noted that “differences in taste among individual players, along with differences in playing qualities among individual instruments, appear more important than any general differences between new and old violins.” 

Incidentally, the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s Satu Vänskä plays on a $1.79-million Stradivarius; Richard Tognetti on the 1743 “Carrodus” Guarneri.   While I like the sound of a good violin, one has to wonder at the ‘moral’ justification at so much money being expended on such an item  –  although, then again,  various categories of works of art, and other ‘collectibles’ attract equally atrocious amounts of money!!!     Away from violins, but within the same music genre, another interesting question was posed once by somebody, and no doubt echoed by many others –    “Is there a deeper, possibly unnatural, connection between music and death? Why is classical music, more than other arts, so preoccupied with the works of the no longer living? What other art routinely celebrates anniversaries of deaths as well as births?”  Certainly with respect to classical music, fans and the industry continually   mark these anniversaries all year long because it’s a great excuse to experience a lot of great music  –   it’s a time, and an excuse for the money makers, for the launch or completion of major recording projects, lavish boxed sets, pre-concert talks, radio saturation and, of course, special feature articles in publications, such as ‘Limelight’  Not always the case – I think last year, tributes were paid  to the living with Australia’s own Brett Dean turning 50, a milestone marked in a series of concerts around the world showcasing his skills as a composer, violist and conductor, while also, Peter Sculthorpe’s 80th birthday gained some recognition [another Australian composer]. However, they are the exception. A couple of examples this year, briefly mentioned here  –  Claude Debussy [1872-1918], with the 150th anniversary of his birth on 22 August, 1862;   Frederick Delius [1862 – 1934] was born in Yorkshire 150 years ago on January 29;   Philip Glass [born in 1937], the American iconoclast, turns 75 on January 31;  Peggy Glanville-Hicks [1912-1990] is one of Australia’s greatest – and most unconventional – musical success stories.   John Cage [1912-1992], another American, and another century of celebrations likely to occur in memory of those and numerous others………………………….some of you might say, who cares?  But think about, musical composers are treated no differently, than countless other aspects of life  – we are always celebrating, acknowledging, or regretting the anniversary of someone, or something!!  It never ends.


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