In what is music to a performer's ear, an instrument maker in Nagoya said he has hit upon the right formula for recreating the sound of a Stradivari violin that was originally produced in Italy about three centuries ago.
After years of research, Hirokazu Kubota feels he has finally produced a violin that comes as close as possible to recreating the legendary Stradivarius sound, and at a fraction of the cost.
And he did it the old-fashioned way, through crafting a violin by possibly the same methods as did by luthier Antonio Stradivari.
"While I believe the Stradivari had a high technology that persistently sought to produce a good sound, the science and technology of that period was not of a high precision," Kubota said. "They likely handcrafted the instruments using natural and unforced techniques."
Besides manufacturing musical instruments, Kubota, 63, also owns a store in Nagoya that sells stringed instruments. He has been involved in violin auctions for about 35 years.
For a long time, he felt that prices for those auctioned instruments were too high, more appropriate for an art object rather than for an instrument that should actually be played to bring out its true value. He also was not convinced by arguments that the power and rich tone of a Stradivarius could not be recreated in the modern age because it was, in a sense, a work of God.
Musical instrument factories around the world have tried to recreate the sound of the Stradivarius, and the basic approach has been to measure the thickness of the wood used in the violin to exactly match the classic one.
But Kubota, who is a self-taught instrument maker, felt that the manufacturing technology at the time the original Stradivarius was made was much simpler.
He focused on the fact that sound resonance was exceptional in the Stradivarius. That led him to using his knuckles to knock on the wood and to chisel it until the same sound could be produced regardless of where the wood was knocked. He also went through trial-and-error in coming up with the right varnish to apply to finish the instrument.
The end result, according to Kubota, was an instrument "that reverberated to a surprising degree and the brilliance of high notes and the ringing of the low notes were extraordinary."
He has so far manufactured about 200 of the violins and each has sold for between 1 million and 1.5 million yen ($12,500 and $18,800).
That compares to the famed Stradivari and Guarneri violins, which sell for several hundreds of millions of yen. The usual case now for classical musicians who want to use one of those violins in concert is to rent one of the expensive ones owned by a company or foundation.
In the autumn of 2010, Kubota displayed his violins at an international fair in Italy. One satisfied customer was Luca Fanfoni, a professor at the Parma Conservatory of Music, who once served as concertmaster at La Scala in Milan. Fanfoni felt Kubota's violins produced the same sound as a Stradivarius.
Not only has Fanfoni been using Kubota's violin since, but he is bringing a string ensemble he leads to Japan in May. The 11 instruments, from violins to a contrabass, were all made by Kubota.
He hopes that the 11 instruments to be used in the ensemble will produce a rich sound like an organ.
The concert in Tokyo will be held on May 18 at Toppan Hall in Bunkyo Ward. General admission tickets cost 6,000 yen, while student tickets are priced at 3,000. All seats are reserved.
The first concert in Japan will be held in Nagoya on May 6 and subsequent concerts will be held in five other locations.
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