What Does a $45 Million Viola Sound Like? Violist David Aaron Carpenter Gives You a Preview

This spring, one of the best-pre­served Strads in exis­tence will go up for auc­tion at Sotheby’s. Built some time between 1700 and 1720, dur­ing the very best peri­od of Stradivari’s work, the vio­la is a real rar­i­ty, one of only ten in exis­tence. Maybe that jus­ti­fies the start­ing price of $45 mil­lion. What does that prized strad actu­al­ly sound like, you might won­der? Filmed by The New York Times, the clip above fea­tures David Aaron Car­pen­ter (called “The Hottest Vio­list of the 21st Cen­tu­ry”) play­ing Suite No. 3 in C by Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach. If you’re a vio­la afi­ciona­do, we would be curi­ous to get your take on what you hear.

via NYTimes

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Art and Sci­ence of Vio­lin Mak­ing

The Musi­cal Mind of Albert Ein­stein: Great Physi­cist, Ama­teur Vio­lin­ist and Devo­tee of Mozart

A Stringed Salute to AC/DC and Guns N’ Ros­es

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Comments (12)
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  • radioredrafts says:

    I’d have to hear it up close, with dri­er acoustics, before I gave an opin­ion. In an extreme­ly live room like that over an Ipad speak­er, it just sounds like a decent vio­la.

  • radioredrafts says:

    Props to the artist play­ing it, though. That was excel­lent­ly done.

  • sfemet says:

    This is what the super­strings that make up every­thing in the uni­verse sound like.

    At that is through the speak­ers on my iPad mini.

    There is some­thing about that instru­ment, a tone, like two sides of the heart. You can hear it at the end. It is mirac­u­lous.

    Thank you for this.

  • nerdpocalypse says:

    It sounds rich­er, deep­er, less stringy, less like a cig­ar box.
    (per­son­al­ly, I like the per­former with the bad vio­la bet­ter)

    First, the object val­ue dri­ves up the price (‘it’s a freekin’ Strad, dude.……!!!!’), but Sec­ond, at high end com­modi­ties, ever slighter improve­ments pro­duce dis­porpor­tion­al­ly huge increas­es in price. You see this in online gam­ing items espe­cial­ly, where the absolute best item with under a 5% improve­ment will more than dou­ble the price com­pared to the sec­ond best item. You could say it’s sup­ply and demand with the rar­i­ty of the absolute best. Per­son­al­ly, I think it’s because peo­ple are crazy.

  • rkfiddler says:

    The artist with the bow is a good match for the artist of the mak­er. BTW, Spell-check did­n’t catch it, vio­list vs vio­lin­ist. A com­mon error but one that I would expect that a classy report­ing group might catch.

  • Peripatetic says:

    As radiore­drafts says, try­ing to judge the sound over the inter­net is like try­ing to taste a good dish, or a com­fort­able chair — you’ve got to be there (quite a boomy room, too.) rkfid­dler — Vio­lin = vio­lin­ist, Vio­la = vio­list :)

  • YC says:

    Sounds good — why not pick up anoth­er one play­ing the same piece by the same artist in the same room? Let’s hold a blind test :)

  • Ian says:

    I loved this…but of course… the expe­ri­ence of this is more than the vio­la — it’s the com­bi­na­tion of so so many things, that trav­el back in time to Bach, and come togeth­er in a unique moment now with that play­er, that room, that acoustic and my com­put­er and you tube. With all that…. it was a treat to expe­ri­ence . Thanks :)

  • Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio (violinist) says:

    Hard to tru­ly tell about the sound because of the live­ness of the room (lis­ten to his foot­steps at the end), hear­ing it over a lap­top (though with bose ear­phones) and final­ly because the piece played is all in low­er to mid­dle reg­is­ter (noth­ing in upper posi­tions). I also won­dered at the first few notes if these were brand new strings because of a kind or “raw­ness” or some­thing in those notes.

    Still, the tone is clear and the tim­bre bright. It had depth as well, espe­cial­ly on the C and G strings. I thought the dou­ble stops sound­ed amaz­ing (bal­anced), the pas­sages played piano (soft­ly) were full in tone but would tug at one’s heart in their sweet­ness — espe­cial­ly the sec­tion from about 1:15 through @ 2:07ff. Even with the lim­i­ta­tions men­tioned above it cer­tain­ly sound­ed bet­ter to me than just a decent vio­la!

  • Laraine Anne Barker says:

    It’s hard to tell how good an instru­ment is through a pair of grot­ty speak­ers attached to a com­put­er. But for a start the instru­ment has been muti­lat­ed (near­ly all known Strads have been) by turn­ing it into a 20th cen­tu­ry instru­ment. If the equiv­a­lent of what they do to a Strad was done to a fine piece of 18th cen­tu­ry fur­ni­ture it would more than halve its val­ue. The same should apply to a musi­cal instru­ment. If you can get one of today’s best vio­lin mak­ers (e.g., Peter West­er­lund) to make your instru­ment you will have one every bit as good as a Strad.

  • beth tiemann says:

    sounds very good.tone is clear.i would have to hear more on the D and A string to say it sounds great i have a copy of a strad vio­la whicj i play in an orches­tra

  • Bud Southworth says:

    Who knows over the I‑net.
    The Vio­la is an “Alto” range instru­ment that plays music from mid­dle C clef staff sheet music. The Vio­la sec­tion is usu­al­ly seat­ed in the mid­dle of an orches­tra and we usu­al­ly play the har­mo­ny. We har­mo­nize and dou­ble main­ly with vio­lins or sopra­no singers (make them sound full and great). Nobody real­ly notices us, unless we stop play­ing – then heads come up to see what is wrong. The Con­duc­tor nev­er looks at us unless we come in ear­ly or late or over­whelm the sopra­no.
    Peo­ple sit in a con­cert audi­ence and have no idea what they are miss­ing. Vio­lins and vio­las rest against the jaw bone. They pick up sound waves from oth­er instru­ments – the string play­er con­nects the jaw vibra­tion to the brain and then can match the res­o­nance (vibra­tion) from the oth­er play­ers and tune and har­mo­nize to play with them. The jaw sound vibra­tions and ear vibra­tions meet in the mid­dle of your brain – it is a high, with­out drugs! Sit­ting in the mid­dle of the orches­tra the music moves in waves left and right and back – real stereo.
    Cel­lo play­ers hold their instru­ment in their crotch – we are not ask­ing and they are not say­ing what goes on .…
    If you have a local Sym­pho­ny, ask some­one if you can sit in the orches­tra next to a string play­er dur­ing a rehearsal (3 at a stand) – hint: all orchestra’s need mon­ey or good­ies for break time.
    OR find your local string school teacher (they all have a lit­tle string cham­ber group) and take a cou­ple of begin­ner lessons. (Twin­kle Twin­kle Lit­tle Star) The teacher can use a cou­ple of bucks and you’ll find a whole new world!
    Just thought you’d like to know.

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