The Only Playable Stradivarius Guitar Left in the World “The Sabionari” Made in 1679 — Video

Rolf Lislevand plays A.Stradivari's 1679 "Sabionari" guitar

Legendary Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari is generally considered the most significant and greatest artisan in his field, constructing the world’s finest violins that today are sold for millions of dollars.

In his lifetime he (and the Stradivari family) produced over 1000 instruments, of which 960 were violins, however a small number of guitars were also crafted, and as of today only one remains playable.

Antonio Stradivari made the “Sabionari” guitar in 1679, however at the beginning of the nineteenth century, (like many other baroque guitars) it was augmented to follow the style of more modern instruments of that time.

Recently, Daniel Sinier and Francoise de Ridder restored it back to its original baroque configuration (documented in the fall 2014 #119 issue of American Luthier), with 4 double Catgut strings (A D G B) and a single E string. With fellow veteran luthier Lorenzo Frignani maintaining the instrument currently, keeping in a usable condition.

The “Sabionari” is owned by a private collector, and could be considered to be solely a museum piece. However in the clip below we can hear in action, as Baroque concert guitarist Rolf Lislevand performs Santiago de Murcia’s “Tarantela” using the Stradivarius guitar.



To find out more about the history of the “Sabionari” Stradivarius, visit

47 Comments on The Only Playable Stradivarius Guitar Left in the World “The Sabionari” Made in 1679 — Video

  1. Scott Allen // - at 8:08 pm // Reply

    That’s kind of cool from a historical perspective, though I’m not blown away by the tone of this guitar. Rolf’s playing, on the other hand, is spectacular. I’m wondering if guitars don’t keep as well as violins over long periods of time, and if so, why not?

    Liked by 1 person

    • plasticmusic // - at 10:42 am // Reply

      Violins use an architecture in which the bridge and strings pull the instrument together. The strings’ arch from the scroll to the tailpiece pulls horizontally, while pushing the bridge into the body vertically.
      Guitars use a pinned bridge. This puts a lot of stress on the bridge and the strings are always pulling against its connection to the body. It was a good while after Stradivari before the pinned bridge details were perfected well enough to make a long-lived guitar.
      If he had made archtop guitars they’d probably still be around, but then they’d have a problem with loudness vs body size.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kevin // - at 4:20 pm //

        What? It’s not even 3/4 size and it should be, by most accounts, dust by now. It’s tone is absolutely impeccable for its diminutive size. Better than any travel Taylor, Martin or Fender by miles.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It’s going to sound like a traditional classic guitar, using cat-gut strings and all but one a double-string. No, you won’t play country western on this guitar. It was not made for that. AND… he’s in a room, not in an acoutically sound studio. Geesh, use your head.


    • C.S. Windmill // - at 9:44 pm // Reply

      Yeah, like if Youtube an PC speakers are a good way to judge a guitar’s sound….

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ben steinberg // - at 5:39 pm // Reply

      Scott, you obviously don’t have the knowledge or respect or understanding whatsoever to comment on the very rare beauty of this guitar and its bewildering sound quality. You have exhibited to the entire community here that you sir are a dumbass and should not make comments at all. Ignorance is not bliss sir. It’s is simply ignorance.


    • Jean Crepeau // - at 5:48 pm // Reply

      That’s a baroque guitar and it has a great baroque guitar sound. It has aged well and was well restored. when it comes to the violins, none of the Stradivari violins sound the way they were intended to. They all have been modified by the eighteen century. The neck length and pitch were augmented, a fingerboard longer and much heavier, a base bar replacement (wider and higher). After these modifications and other ones as well, the introduction of metal strings for classical violins (no longer baroque instruments with sheep gut strings) made them louder with a larger range. Better? Maybe but sad that none has been kept in it’s original state.


    • elisabeth fity // - at 7:03 pm // Reply

      Alors là, je suis en extase!!! c’est tout simplement splendide et emouvant de pouvoir entendre jouer un Stadivarius Guitar! je ne connaissais que les violons! Merci

      Liked by 1 person

    • brian desjardins // - at 12:01 am // Reply

      i dunno, seeing how old it is, i think it sounds pretty amazing! obviously its no taylor but got to remember how old this guitar is, iysnremarkable that hes playin nearly 400 year old guitar man lol


    • I liked it!


    • T. // - at 10:12 pm // Reply

      Can anyone figure out who to contact (with the email or phone #) to get this music? Its impossible to find online, for me anyways. Yes, duh, contact Rolf. Well, can’t find his email even though he does teach. ?????? (3/10/2018)


  2. Please remember, this is a small body baroque guitar with catgut strings. The sound, IMO, is spectacular. It is true that the tone is different than what we’re used to, but it is not because of a fault in the guitar, only the evolution of our understanding of the sound of a guitar.

    Liked by 7 people

  3. Adrian Rogers // - at 5:16 am // Reply

    Please… that guitar sounds great and the player us pulling out the potential and the antiquity of the instrument masterfully. Scott… how can you criticize something so rare and unique? We are fortunate to have that instrument on this planet still and ears to hear it’s historic ring. Thank you whoever posted that.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. How glorious. Thank you for that beautiful music and the opportunity to hear a master play such a magnificent instrument.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Phil // - at 1:00 am // Reply

    I loved this, the sound and the Piece of music was Breathtaking its a shame that its in the hands of a private collector and cant be shared with the world in a museum
    the sound to me is unique not like any guitar I have heard


    Liked by 1 person

  6. The tone is incredible! Harmonically rich for such a small body and very percussive too! Rolf’s playing is extremely musical as well!!

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Does anyone know what type of microphone was used in this recording?

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved the sound, but found it interesting- it reminded me of the way celtic musicians play the bouzouki.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Andy Hughes // - at 3:44 pm // Reply

    Does anyone know the composer and piece?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. chris birch // - at 4:31 pm // Reply

    it sounds amazing. just not like a modernguitar


  11. Devan // - at 4:51 am // Reply

    @Scott Allen – From talking to luthiers and violin makers over the years, it seems that classical guitars get their sound from the vibration of 2 to 4 key areas on the top soundboard. The wood fibres in these area apparently tend to fray and separate over time, leading to tone and volume degradation. Violins on the other hand, are supposedly built so that every component (top, sides, neck, bridge etc.) resonates together to get the tone, and over time (and as long as the instrument is well looked after), the various components tend to ‘bed in’ and work better and in a more cohesive manner, leading to improvement in tone – up to a point.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. kinda neat my grandaughter has a barbie guitar like that 🙂


  13. John // - at 3:35 am // Reply

    I think some of you are being a little hard on Scott. He didn’t make any insulting comments, just that he didn’t prefer the sound of this guitar. However, for those of us who enjoy the sound of early string instruments, this guitar has a sound that is magnificent- especially in the hands of someone who can play like this. I believe that the sound of guitars DOES often increase in beauty of tone as they age.
    However, compared to violins, there are few original guitars and lutes of this, and earlier periods to have survived. Violins are much sturdier in design. Guitar and lute soundboards tend to eventually bow and warp with the tension of the strings tied to the bridge.
    Add to this the fact that old violins have always been prized. This is not so with lutes and earlier guitars. So, while violins were being passed down, and treasured, many lutes and guitars ended up on the trash heap, as they were considered obsolete. While there probably weren’t a tremendous number of guitars made in the 17th century, there were many, many lutes made during the Renaissance and early baroque, but few of these have survived The same was true for many harpsichords. There is a story I have heard, which may or may not be true, of a cold winter in northern Italy in 1817 or so, when many of the harpsichords at the conservatory in Milan were broken up for use as firewood. By then, no one could imagine they would ever again be of any use, being totally out of fashion.
    What a pleasure to hear this instrument! It is like a little bit of aural time traveling.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Doreen Edmundson // - at 11:48 pm // Reply

    I am profoundly moved by the sound of the Sabionari and the expertise of the artist who played that beautiful piece!! Thank you!


    • ian // - at 11:54 pm // Reply

      Are you aware of the recent tests of Stradivarius and other classic violins compared to new ones? Top violin virtuosos from around the world gathered in Carnegie Hall to do a blind listening test to see which sound they preferred; a Stradivarius et al or a new (quality build new of course). By a very wide margin the sound of a new instrument was preferred over the old. Preserve these relics a testimonial to craftsmanship not because they are superior instruments.


  15. I would hope that an album is in production to showcase the ‘Sabionari’ in all its glorious sound and preserve its magnificent sounds for generations to come!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Krusty // - at 6:55 pm // Reply

    Don’t let Kurt Russell near it.


  17. Michael B. Mc Kellip // - at 8:37 pm // Reply

    Copy the wood if they can, and make more guitars. The wood is the most important part to the instrument. I really love that guitar.


  18. “…how can you criticize something so rare and unique?”

    Just because something is rare and unique doesn’t place it above criticism. Sure, in this case the guy is just wrong and the instrument does have a suburb tone and rare quality to it. But I’m not going to give something credit or value just because it’s old, even if it’s the only one left.


  19. Rick // - at 1:46 am // Reply

    Easily the most magical sounding guitar I’ve ever heard. Hypnotic.


  20. Marian Hubbard // - at 1:57 am // Reply

    Bruna, Thanks for sharing this fantastic information!! For some reason my speakers don’t work. Yes, they are plugged in and are on. So sorry I couldn’t hear the sound of this extremely are guitar!!!!


  21. Great display – sound is very intriguing. Actually the whole thing is breathtaking. Thanks.


  22. Dan // - at 1:10 pm // Reply

    can anyone recommend a modern guitar of similar shape and size? thank you


  23. Ken // - at 3:28 pm // Reply

    This is what a Baroque guitar sounds like, and this is the standard size for a Baroque guitar. Lislevand plays like a god!


  24. Funny that no one pointed out that a Baroque guitar featured 5 courses of strings (for 10 strings in all), so this will make for a special sound rightaway. The playing is 100% and the sound is perfect for the style of music – what more could one want? Appreciative thanks to all involved in getting the instrument back into playing condition – and for being played! The last place it needs to be is a museum, it belongs in a concert hall.


  25. In the Royal Palace in Madrid, there is a room with 4 glass cases. In those cases are a double bass, a cello, a viola, and a violin, all by Stradivarius. I inquired: no one knew of any recordings of those instruments being played.


  26. Linda Hosack // - at 1:56 am // Reply

    Love it, love it, love it! The sound (mellow), the tune, the masterful playing, and the superb restoration of the instrument! What a delight– thanks for sharing!


  27. Maria Luisa C. Distor // - at 9:09 am // Reply

    I feel blessed to have heard it played so beautifully. Thank you God!


  28. DK W // - at 2:13 pm // Reply

    I would love to hear it played dry. Without the reverb in the video, so the subtleties can be heard clearly.


  29. DK W // - at 2:16 pm // Reply

    I meant the reverberation of the room actually. Hearing for oneself up close would be a real treat. 🙂


  30. Outstanding – the guitar – the musician- the piece and the age of the guitar? Wow, makes the whole experience beyond words. Breathtaking, inspiring, and timeless. Bravo! Bravo!!!


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