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Stradivari's Genius


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About the Author

Born in Cambridge, England, in 1965, TOBY FABER now lives in London with his wife and daughter. He was previously managing director of his family's renowned publishing firm, Faber and Faber. This is his first book.


Faber, a first-time author and scion of the publishing house Faber and Faber, has written a captivating account of the often tangled histories of six celebrated Stradivarius instruments. These complex lineages are presented in roughly chronological order, beginning with the Amati dynasty-the first violin makers of Cremona, Italy, who predate Stradivari by a century-and ending with an up-to-date account of each instrument's present whereabouts. Along the way, Faber treats readers to detailed descriptions of Antonio Stradivari's workshop and methods and the unsuccessful attempts of subsequent luthiers to replicate the enduring quality of a Strad. The jury is still out on what Stradivari's "secrets" were (a thin layer of ash between wood and varnish, or wood soaked in briny water?). Especially impressive is Faber's depth of research, e.g., his meticulous price conversions-not an easy task given the span of centuries and nationalities but crucial in order to appreciate fully the relative worth of Stradivari's instruments over time. Highly recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Larry Lipkis, Moravian Coll., Bethlehem, PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

One of modern technology's greatest embarrassments is its inability to produce violins with the awesome musical qualities of those made almost 400 years ago by Stradivarius. This engaging appreciation celebrates the maestro's legacy by following the adventures of six of his instruments. Faber, the former managing director of British publishing house Faber and Faber, begins with a short account of Stradivari's life (1644-1737) and methods in the Italian city of Cremona, where violin-making techniques achieved their zenith. As the Cremonese violins passed through the hands of musicians, the instruments' rich tone and penetrating sonic power stimulated a new style of virtuoso violin-playing that held Europe's concert halls enthralled. And as time passed and the violins' value soared, they spawned whole new industries in collecting, appraising, curating and faking them. Faber's stylish account savors Stradivari's marvelous acoustics and the individual personalities of his instruments while exploring the science behind them (X-rays, chemical tests and tree-ring analysis have all been deployed to unlock their secrets) and regaling readers with colorful tales of the musicians who built their careers around them. The result is an illuminating look at an enduring cultural monument. Photos. Agent, Carlisle & Company. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

"Fascinating . . . lively . . . more enthralling, earthy and illuminating than any fiction could be."
-The New York Times Book Review

"A celebration of six instruments and the master craftsman who made them . . . [Faber] brings to the subject an infectious fascination with Stradivari's life and trade. . . . He writes with clarity and fluency."
-Chicago Tribune "An extraordinary accomplishment and a compelling read. Like strange totems that cast an irresistible spell, these instruments bring out the best and the worst of those who would own them, and Faber deftly tells the stories in all their rich and surprising detail."
-Thad Carhart, author of The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

"As Faber traces the history of these standout strings, many engrossing subplots emerge. . . . A worthy contribution to the ongoing legend of Stradivari."
-Minneapolis Star Tribune "Fascinating, accessible, and enjoyable."
-Tracy Chevalier, author of Girl with a Pearl Earring

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