Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins

Claudia Fritz, Joseph Curtin, Jacques Poitevineau, Hugues Borsarello, Indiana Wollman, Fan-Chia Tao, and Thierry Ghasarossian

PNAS 2014 111 (20) 7224-7229; published ahead of print April 7, 2014,

“Soloist evaluations of six Old Italian and six new violins” conducted by Claudia Fritz, Joseph Curtin, Jacques Poitevineau, and Fan-Chia Tao. This research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2012.

In this study, soloist violinists participated in a double-blind evaluation of violins to determine whether they could distinguish between old Italian violins (made by renowned makers such as Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesù) and new violins (crafted by contemporary makers). The participants, who were professional soloists and concertmasters, played the violins in a controlled environment and rated them based on sound quality, projection, playability, and other factors.

The results of the study were surprising. While many participants believed they would be able to distinguish between old and new violins, the study found that they were generally unable to do so. In fact, the soloists often preferred the sound of new violins over old Italian violins in blind evaluations. This challenged the common perception that old Italian violins possess superior sound quality compared to new instruments.

The findings of this study generated significant interest and debate within the classical music community and among violin makers, musicians, and enthusiasts. It highlighted the importance of empirical research in understanding the subjective qualities of musical instruments and challenged long-standing beliefs about the superiority of old Italian violins.

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