First thing’s first: let’s define “stradivarius.” There are a certain number of very special violins out there made by a member of the Stradivarius family. These violin makers—specifically Antonio Stradivari who lived from the mid-1600s until 1737—were thought to have made the finest violins of all time, bringing them what is considered a perfect pitch unattainable by other similar craftspeople.
Today, they still exist, but musicians and historians are concerned about their lifespan. Chief Conservator of the Violin Museum Fausto Cacciatori said it best in an interview with NPR: “All it takes is one unfortunate event. An earthquake, for instance. Think about what happened to so much art during World War II."
In an effort to preserve these special instruments, Leonardo Tedeschi—a DJ and the owner of Audiozone, an Italy-based sound engineering firm—came up with an idea: record these treasured instruments being played without any other noise pollution. Way easier said than done.
His original motive was to layer some of his own music over the sounds of a Stradivarius violin. But after reaching out to The Violin Museum, which is located in Cremona, Italy, it became a bigger project to preserve these historic instruments. In the end, the museum lent four perfectly preserved Stradivari instruments—a “1700 Antonio Stradivari "Stauffer" cello, the 1727 Antonio Stradivari "Vesuvius" violin, a 1615 "Stauffer" viola by Girolamo Amati, and the 1734 "Prince Doria" violin by Guarneri del Gesù,” according to NPR—to Tedeschi and five musicians.
Now for the hard part: Getting an entire city to go quiet to get the perfect recordings. To make sure the streets surrounding the concert hall at the Violin Museum, the Cremona mayor agreed to put out a public message and shut down traffic around the museum from January 7 through February 9. But the hard work paid off: NPR reports that the recording wrapped up in early February after five weeks of eight-hours days. Here’s to hoping we get to hear more of these storied string instruments in more music in the years to come.