ANTONIO STRADIVARI MADE more than 1.000 violins during his long working life in Cremona, and around 600 are known to survive today. Each of them (especially those from his 'golden period' early in the eighteenth century) has a near-magical reputation. There have been other great makers of violins, but the 'Strad' is supreme. Stradivari, said Paganini, 'used only wood from trees on which nightingales sang'. That flight of fancy typifies the reverence which these instruments still inspire, and that reverence pervades Toby Faber's knowledgeable study of the Strads, sharpened by scholarship and a keen eye for an anecdote. It is not a book for anyone deaf to the appeal of the violin. More fortunate readers will find in it much to enjoy.
All Strads have names, which are generally derived from a previous owner, as well as their own characteristics and histories. Faber traces the stories of several of the finest through the centuries. As an example of the sort of detail he employs,