Science and the Stradivarius (April 2000) - Physics World - PhysicsWeb:
Is there really a lost secret that sets Stradivarius violins apart from the best instruments made today? After more than a hundred years of vigorous debate, this question remains highly contentious, provoking strongly held but divergent views among players, violin makers and scientists alike. All of the greatest violinists of modern times certainly believe it to be true, and invariably perform on violins by Stradivari or Guarneri in preference to modern instruments.
Violins by the great Italian makers are, of course, beautiful works of art in their own right, and are coveted by collectors as well as players. Particularly outstanding violins have reputedly changed hands for over a million pounds. In contrast, fine modern instruments typically cost about £10 000, while factory-made violins for beginners can be bought for under £100. Do such prices really reflect such large differences in quality?