yes, the simplicity appeals to me too. The point about hemp rope makes sense too; I believe the steel E-string on a violin was partly a response to the fact that gut E-strings tended to break, and weren't weather-proof.
On the quest for volume, it is absolutely true. It started when the public concert began (Bannister's concerts in London, I believe). Obviously the more noise you can make, the bigger the paying audience you can have. The modern concert grand piano is a highly developed machine for getting the very biggest sound possible from hitting a string. It really only pays lip-service to its origins in its shape. Tensions increased in stringed instruments, to get more oomph, so their geometries changed.
Of course there have been other quests too, for example the quest for uniformity between all notes and all keys (which was so important to Boehm in the flute). Unfortunately I think that one went off the rails too. It began as a desirable aim to make all keys usable, because each had their own flavour. The ultimate solution was to make all keys identical, so they can all be used, but since they all sound the same, there's no point any more. But again our beautiful imperfect recorder saves the day, because its notes aren't all identical. Each note has its own flavour, its own strength, so music containing a lot of forked C-sharps will sound different to music containing only un-forked Cs.
Both the quest for uniformity and the quest for volume, I think, sacrificed interest in timbre. I find it sort of weird that people get so excited about the nuances of difference between old Italian violins, and more modern German ones, and master violins of today, etc., when all these instruments are being strung in a way that changes their sound dramatically from what the maker intended.
But there is so much fun to be had. Here is a very special recording that goes to the heart of the quest for novelty, the quest for sound, the questions musicians must ask about an authentic performance. It's a piece by Schubert written for the Arpegione, a sort of bowed guitar, which was a novetly in Schubert's time, and has since disappeared. Nowadays it would be played by a Cello and a modern piano, but here we hear it played on a genuine Arpegione and a period piano. It's interesting to hear what it sounds like. Is the difference worth the prodigious effort necessary to find such a weird instrument? Given that the cello is one of the most beautiful and satisfactory of modern instruments, and fits the piece delightfully, why bother with an arpegione? Not sure I know the answers, but I'm glad these two people took the trouble to play it on the original instruments.
Hey, and on compromises, my recorder is plastic. That's not exactly authentic, but like modern rope, it's strong and low-maintenance! I remember swings with natural tarred rope when I was little...