Two hundred and fifty years after Antonio Stradivari’s death, his violins and cellos remain the most highly prized instruments in the world.
UK-born lecturer Toby Faber will explore the mystery about why no other violin-maker has been able to match Stradivari’s genius at a lecture in Launceston next week.
He will tell stories by following some of Stradivari’s instruments from his workshop to the present day, illustrating his lecture with images of violins, key individuals and locations in Vienna and New York, and including short musical recordings.
“Antonio Stradivari lived in Northern Italy. The amazing thing about his violins, it’s not just that they’re amazing instruments although that is true, but it’s that they’re still the best in the world,” Faber said.
“The top violinists still want to play one of these 300-year-old instruments. There is really no other power for that in the field of human endeavour.”
At the heart of his lecture is asking why no one has been able to copy that since.
“I sort of illuminate that mystery by following some of the stories of the violins themselves,” Faber said.
“Because they have been so sought after for hundreds of years means you get wonderful linkages from different violins.”
The former scientist has even penned a book about the violins, called Stradivari’s Genius. He has also written Faberge’s Eggs.
“My background is a strange one. I was originally a scientist. Then I was working in finance in the city of London, then I did a MBA and became a management consultant,” he said.
“Then I got more interested in books because I became managing director of the publishing company Faber and Faber, which is obviously my surname, and that’s not a coincidence. It was founded by my grandfather.”
While he never planned on being part of the family business, the opportunity was too good to knock back.
“I wanted to make my career else where. But when they asked me if I was interested I thought I wouldn’t be able to forgive my self if I didn’t have a go,” Faber said.
“While I was a publicist in the early ‘90s, there was a big fashion for books called narrative histories. It was sparked essentially by the book Longitude a book talking about the problem of longitude. I was a huge international best seller.”
At the height of narrative histories, Faber read an article claiming one of Stradivari’s instruments was a fake and that’s when he was inspired to jump on the trend. He got an “amazingly good” deal from an American publisher that allowed him to research the musician for about three years.
Faber will be in Australia delivering lectures for the next month.
His Launceston lecture will be held on Tuesday, August 14 at the Sir Raymond Ferrell Centre at 6.15pm. Tickets cost $30.
The lecture is being organised by Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society.