Highly strung

Stradivarius violinInfrared and NMR spectroscopy have possibly revealed one of the great secrets of the violin makers Stradivari and Guarneri del Gesu – they used chemical wood preservatives to help preserve their instruments and to improve the tonal quality. The discovery could help modern-day violin makers emulate more closely the properties of irreplaceable violins from the 18th Century and well as providing music conservationists with new insights on how to best preserve the antique instruments.
Joseph Nagyvary at Texas A&M University, in College Station, and colleagues, reveal in a brief communication to the journal Nature how the maple wood used by the celebrated craftsmen could have been chemically processed before the violin makers even began crafting the wood. The researchers have analysed in detail the organic matter from small samples of shavings retrieved from the interiors of five antique instruments during repairs.

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