As the legend goes, to give his violins that deep and vibrant sound enriched with fully resonant tones, Antonio Stradivari made use of wood originating from trees that had survived Europe’s periods of intense cold between the 17th and 18th centuries. And that to strengthen those essences, he treated the wood with a special “recipe” based on potash, silica and carbon.
It is also believed that he prepared varnishes imbued with volcanic ash found in the territories around Cremona, and achieved that particular sound by varying the shape and materials of the decor embedded within the soundboard. The excellence of the sound was supposedly due to the action of a fungus (in particular, two fungi called Physisporinus Vitreus and Xylaria Longpipes) that attacked the wood of his violins.
A thousand conjectures have been made, but the truth is, as in the case of Tarkovsky’s renowned bell constructor, Andrei Rublev, Antonio Stradivari’s secret has never been revealed due to the simple fact that there really was no secret or mysterious formula, but a whole set of methods, techniques and instinctive abilities that cannot be reproduced mechanically. Antonio Stradivari’s secret was a lifestyle, a culture, a know-how forged through the ages. And know-how is never reproduced but handed down.
This is precisely what happened to the Stradivari family that did not pass down through the centuries the violin-making skills – incomparable traits of their illustrious forefather which will forever remain so – but a culture, a way of doing things, an all-Italian ability to match aesthetic harmony, uniqueness and functional efficiency. After all, isn’t the synthesis of aesthetics, originality and utility simply the essence of what we call design?