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Here Comes Treble: A Stradivarius Among Women

"It is time for women to recognise their own worth,'' declares Isabel Bradley, calling for a realistic attitude to the physical effects of the passing years. "We improve with age!''

For more of Isabel's vigorous and encouraging words please click on Here Comes Treble in the menu on this page.

Ever heard of a young woman going into a salon and asking her hairdresser, “give me a sprinkling of grey please” or asking her beauty therapist, “add a few wrinkles – just for character”? In western culture, the first grey hair, wrinkle or sign of ‘gravity taking its toll’ is considered a precursor of old age. With each new sign detected in her mirror, a woman feels less attractive.

In our perception of physical objects however, our value systems are very different.

Recently, we found a battered old violin in a second-hand shop; its pegs were broken and it was in many pieces. Intending to polish it and hang it in our music room, we took it to our friend, Bernard; a professional instrument restorer. He advised against sanding and varnishing to remove all the marks. “Do you see these scars in the wood?” Bernard asked, showing us a viola on which he was working. “This was made in Germany about six years ago, those marks were scratched on deliberately to add character, a common practice with European instrument makers.” He then showed us a new violin from China, blemish-free and beautifully polished, but lacking in character.

Old instruments, which have been ‘played in’, loved and enjoyed, are highly valued – with good reason. A Stradivarius violin, one made by the family of Antonio Stradivari, is one to be sought and cherished. Even those who know nothing of music and musical instruments are aware that a Stradivarius is an object of beauty, quality and great value. Any instrument made by this family at the turn of the seventeenth century is extraordinary: one, called ‘The Christian Hammer‘, was sold for over three and a half million US Dollars in May 2006. Many Stradivarius instruments are owned by institutions or foundations and are on extended loan to the world’s top-class musicians.

A few years ago, Leon and I attended a performance given by world-class ‘cellist, Lynn Harrell. He strode onto the stage, using as a walking stick the glorious Stradivarius ‘cello, on which Jacqueline du Pré played her famous rendition of the Elgar Concerto! He sat and started to play Haydn’s First ‘Cello Concerto. The large instrument looked like a toy in his huge hands as he lost himself in its rich, velvet sound, carrying his audience with him to a world of magic.

This, ultimately, is the reason Stradivarius instruments are so highly valued, it is in their glorious tone quality that they show their superiority: sounds which instrument-makers ever since have striven to re-create, with little success. There are good string instruments, and there are those created by the Stradivari family, which have survived for over three hundred years. Time, being played by masters and their own reputation have mellowed and matured them, adding immeasurably to their beauty and value.

Surely, a similar transformation takes place in a woman. Each change in her body reflects the strength needed to survive. Each grey hair represents a battle fought and won; each laughter-line signifies a time of joy; a wrinkled brow shows the care of a mother; a fuller figure comes from bearing and nursing children.

Many of us are guilty of denigrating ourselves. I’m the first to ask for colour to hide the pepper and salt in my hair, to smear lotions on my face because of a promise of a reduction in wrinkles. Gym is almost an obsession in the fight against bulges and droops that disfigure a once-eighteen-year-old body. It is time for women to recognise their own worth. We improve with age!

Just as the sounds of scarred Stradivarius instruments fill the world with glorious music, so a mature woman’s beauty shines with a greater lustre than the unblemished prettiness of her teenage daughter.

Until next time, ‘here comes Treble’!

By Isabel Bradley copyright reserved ©

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