Stewart Pollens

Fine Musical Instrument Expert and restorer

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by Stewart Pollens
Cambridge University Press

"Stewart Pollens provides here a long-overdue and worthy updating of the Hills' seminal work of 1902."  - The Strad, August 2010

Stewart Pollens' latest book, Stradivari, was published in early 2010.  Order online today from Cambridge University Press, or from or Barnes and Noble at a special discount price. 

For over 200 years, Antonio Stradivari has been universally regarded as the greatest violin maker who ever lived, yet it is not widely known that he made virtually every kind of bowed- and plucked-string instrument popular in the Baroque period, including lutes, viols, mandolins, guitars, and harps. Stradivari provides a fascinating biography of this legendary maker, based on newly discovered material in church and civic archives, alongside technical descriptions and analyses of many of the maker’s workshop materials preserved in the Museo Stradivariano in Cremona, particularly as they relate to extant and lost instruments, baroque stringing and instrument adjustment, and early performance practice. There are separate chapters for each type of instrument, allowing the reader to easily locate information. The book contains tables of measurements of Stradivari’s forms and patterns, over 100 black and white photographs and drawings, and colour photographs of 16 of Stradivari’s most important violins, violas, and cellos.

• Highly illustrated, the book contains over 100 black and white photographs of Stradivari’s workshop materials, and colour photographs of 16 important Stradivari instruments • Includes fascinating biographical and historical information, and a step-by-step account of how Stradivari made his violins, making it appealing to enthusiasts as well as academics • Chapters are divided by instrument types, making it easy for the reader to locate information

Read Stewart Pollens' article on the analysis of Stradivari's  violin varnish in the May 2009 issue of The Strad.  A more detailed discussion is found in Pollens' latest book, Stradivari.

This research was conducted in cooperation with the Department of Scientific Research of the  Metropolitan Museum of Art and McCrone Associates, and was cited in "What Exalts Stradivarius? Not Varnish, Study Says," published in The New York Times on December 4, 2009. 


About Stewart Pollens
The world's foremost authority on musical instruments, Stewart Pollens is the founder and director of Violin Advisor, LLC, a consulting firm that advises musicians, orchestras, conservatories, collectors, and investors on the acquisition of fine violins and other stringed instruments.

Mr. Pollens represented the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra in the November, 2007 sale of thirty fine Italian stringed instruments. Among these instruments are violins, violas and cellos by Antonio Stradivarius, Giuseppe "Del Gesu" Guarnerius, Antonius and Hieronymus Amati, Francesco Ruggieri, and Matteo Goffriller. The NJSO will retain use of the instruments for at least five years.

Trained as a violin and keyboard-instrument maker, Mr. Pollens served as the conservator of musical instruments at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from 1976-2006. His work there included the restoration and maintenance of the museum's encyclopedic collection of over 5000 instruments, as well as research, writing, and lecturing on the collection. He is frequently interviewed regarding musical instruments, including for "The Talk of The Town" in The New Yorker.

Stewart Pollens has written extensively on stringed and early keyboard instruments, including The Violin Forms of Antonio Stradivari (London, 1992), The Early Pianoforte (Cambridge, 1995), Giuseppe Guarneri del Ges¨ (London, 1998), Franšois-Xavier Tourte: Bow Maker (New York, 2001), and The Cambridge Companion to the Guitar (Cambridge, 2003). He is a contributor to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians and writes on a regular basis for The Strad.

Mr. Pollens's book The Violin Forms of Antonio Stradivari has been hailed as "the standard work on the evolution of Stradivarius's designs" (Giles Whittell, The Times, October 27, 2000). This book contains life-size photographs of all of the extant wood forms and patterns used by Stradivari in the construction of his violins, violas, and cellos, and includes an analysis of their geometry. Tourte's workshop

In The Early Pianoforte, Stewart Pollens traces the history of the piano back to 1440, nearly three-hundred years before the work of Bartolomeo Cristofori, the harpsichord maker who is generally credited with having invented the piano in Florence around 1700.  In 1997, Mr. Pollens received the American Musical Instrument Society's Nicholas Bessaraboff Prize for this Cambridge University Press publication.

In Franšois-Xavier Tourte: Bow Maker, Stewart Pollens and co-author Henryk Kaston provide a technical description of Tourte's working methods and reveal new biographical facts based upon previously unpublished documents discovered in French archives. 

Giuseppe Guarneri del Ges¨ features 200 life-size color photographs taken by Mr. Pollens and complete technical documentation of the twenty-five Guarneri violins that were displayed in the “Masterpieces of Giuseppe Guarneri del Ges¨” exhibition held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1994. Containing newly discovered biographical and historical information, this is the most thorough study to date of this great maker and his work. Mr. Pollens contributed the chapter on dendrochronology, a scientific procedure used to determine the age of the wood used in making violins.

Tourte's workshop in Paris, 1927, shortly before its demolition

In 1999, Mr. Pollens challenged the authenticity of the world's most famous violin, the Ashmolean Museum's "Messiah," in a series of articles published in the Journal of the Violin Society of America. The controversy initiated by these articles and presentations at the Violin Society of America and the American Federation of Violin Makers was widely reported in major newspapers and magazines throughout the world, including The Wall Street Journal (March 11, 1999), The Times (London) (March 15, 1999; October 27, 2000; November 11, 2001; November 26, 2001), Le Figaro (December 7, 2000), La Stampa (March 28, 1999), The Strad (August, 2001), Attache (September, 1999), Money (June, 2002), (April 22, 2002) and (February 17, 2001. 

Profiles of Stewart Pollens have appeared in Sinfonica (March, 1999), City Journal (Spring, 1995), Continuo (April, 1989), and American Lutherie 20 (Winter, 1989). In 2002, Mr. Pollens was featured playing the world's oldest surviving piano, the Cristofori piano of 1720, on the WNET television arts program entitled Egg. 

Mr. Pollens's book Stradivari was published in February 2010 by Cambridge University Press. This book includes new biographical information and detailed analyses of Stradivari's workshop materials preserved in the Museo Stradivariano in Cremona. His seminal book on the history of the piano, The Early Pianoforte (Cambridge University Press), was republished in paperback in 2009.

In addition to his own published writings, research conducted by Stewart Pollens is credited in numerous scholarly books about musical instruments currently available for sale on and other sources.

Mr. Pollens is married to the concert violinist Stephanie Chase and resides in New York City.Stewart Pollens and Itzhak Perlman

Wondering why the Inauguration Day concert was pre-recorded?
Stewart Pollens Explains Why Cellos Sound Lousy in Cold Weather for Slate Magazine.

Watch Stewart Pollens give a talk on "Five Centuries of Violin Making"
- March 11, 2008 at the Philoctetes Center in New York.


Stewart Pollens and Itzhak Perlman in the
Andre Mertens Gallery at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 1994, Jascha Heifetz's Guarnerius del Gesu violin was on loan to the Museum and used by Mr. Perlman in a concert there. He is seen trying out the instrument.


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