Popular Science

The Song of the Immortal Violin

antanio De Lorenzi takes a seat onstage in the concert hall of Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy, and carefully tucks a Stradivarius under his chin. The violin, crafted in 1727 and called Vesuvio, gleams red in the soft light of the auditorium. Through an earpiece, the soloist hears a metronomic beat as a voice says, “Go.”

De Lorenzi draws his bow across the lowest string and plays G for half a beat. He pauses, then follows with A-flat. Then A. He moves up the scale, never changing his pace as he works through all four strings. Once he finishes, he repeats the exercise, this time sounding each tone just a bit faster.

Clearly, this is no ordinary concert—or a typical practice. Outside, police have cordoned off the street to traffic. Inside, workers have shut down the heater despite the January chill, dimmed the lights, and unscrewed any buzzing bulbs. As each solitary note reverberates, an audience of 32 microphones dotted throughout the auditorium silently listens.

De Lorenzi’s performance is part of a campaign to preserve the Stradivarius sound. Although many of the approximately 1,100 stringed masterpieces that Antonio Stradivari and his sons handcrafted in this town have endured for some 300 years, they are still mortal. Almost half have been lost to accidents, haphazard repairs, or the wear that comes with age. Of the 650 or so that survive, some have grown too fragile to play, their wood too thin or joints too weak to take the

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