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Axelrod Strads
The "Axelrod Quartet" (left), heard played by the American String Quartet on today's (Feb. 27) show, is a group of Stradivari string instruments that were donated to the Smithsonian Institution in 1998 by Dr. Herbert Axelrod.

These special inlaid Stradivari instruments from the 17th century are considered the most valuable in the world, worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $50 million. They are so unique, in fact, that they even have names: the 1696 "Axelrod," the 1709 "Greffuhle," the 1688 "Marylevone" cello, and the 1677 "Ole Bull" viola.


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Dr. Axelrod, a retired epidemiologist and book publisher born in New Jersey in 1927, made the news recently with another large donation. On February 19, 2003, the New Jersey Symphony announced its acquisition of the doctor's famous "Golden Collection" -- thirty rare Italian violins, violas, cellos and basses. Dr. Axelrod had been offered $55 million for the collection by the Vienna Philharmonic, but his desire to keep the instruments in his home state resulted in one of the largest donations ever made to an orchestra. And his fellow citizens of New Jersey go the whole lot for the bargain price of just $18 million!

In Depth

Priceless Strad
American String Quartet violist Dan Avshalomov describes the proper care of a priceless instrument, and talks about whether or not you can really hear the difference between a Stradivari and a run-of-the-mill string instrument.

Restoring a Strad
Renowned cellist Bernard Greenhouse, longtime member of the Beaux Arts Trio, recently went through the painstaking process of allowing his beloved Stradivarius to be disassembled and restored, piece by delicate piece.

The Guarneri
Biochemistry professor Joseph Nagyvary of Texas A&M University believes Guarneri instruments are superior even the prized Stradivari. Also worth millions, the Guarneri, according to Nagyvary, produces a stronger sound than the Stradivari.

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