Swiss researcher Francis Schwarze (Francis Black) reckons he has the secret of the Stradivarius sound – by treating his maple copy of a 1698 strad with mushrooms. Schwarze, who works for the Federal Materials, Science and Technology Institute (EMPA) in Zurich grew a bark-eating fungus called Xylaria longpipes in the hopes it would reduce the wood’s density and intensify the sound to achieve a sound comparable to the Cremonese master luthier.

The fungus extends tendrils into the timber – usually sycamore – reaching only certain parts of the cell structure, leaving other parts intact, resulting in a strong flexible and low density timber. After the mushrooms were grown on the maple, the treated timber was made into a violin to test the sound qualities. The fungus also ages the wood, so it resembles the antique instrument aesthetically.

All that remains now is for a blind test to be performed with a genuine strad.