Continued from page 1

It takes occasional experiments in unlikely places such as Indianapolis to remind us that — at the highest level — it is often hard even for professionals to distinguish between the old and the new.

For example, Isaac Stern used two Guarneris in preference to a Stradivarius. But Stern’s widow, Linda Stern, recalled Wednesday that the great violinist also would perform on two other violins, both made for him by the contemporary New York maker Samuel Zygmuntowicz.

Mrs. Stern said he considered his modern violins of equally high quality as his Guarneris, and “he liked to see if people could tell the difference.” They usually couldn’t.

All very well, says Mr. Scott, but “the market seems to prefer to listen to and play on the old masters rather than the modern violins.”

What a Stradivarius has on its side is its durability. Modern instruments are copies of the old ones, so let’s see how they will perform 300 years hence, he adds. “There are very few things in humanity that have not evolved, but the violin is one of them. It has remained static.”