The viola was offered in a sealed bidding process by Sotheby's and Ingles & Hayday. Over the last three months the viola was shown in New York, Hong Kong and Paris and received major publicity for its extraordinary asking price, which is considerably higher than the approximately $16 million that the "Vieuxtemps" Guarneri del Gesu, currently played by Anne Akiko Meyers, was rumored to have fetched.
Below, violist David Aaron Carpenter demonstrates the Macdonald viola. The video also includes some historic footage of Amadeus Quartet violinist Peter Schidlof, playing it. Schidlof, violist in the Amadeus Quartet, performed on the instrument from 1964-1987. According to the New York Times, the viola had been sold in 1964 for $81,000, to Philips, the Dutch electronics company, which owned the Deutsche Grammophon record label and bought the instrument for Schidlof to play with the Amadeus Quartet, which recorded on the label. The instrument remained with Schidlof's family after his death in 1987, according to Ingles & Hayday.
In the video, Carpenter says that the "Macdonald" is one of 10 violas made by Antonio Stradivari, and the best-preserved. (Some sources put that number at 11 violas) Carpenter said the other violas are in museums or foundations, and that the "Macdonald" is one of the only violas Stradivari made during his "Golden Period." (It appears to be one of three from that time period).
The viola is generally accepted to have been made around the year 1719; the high-end instrument website Tarisio/Cozio lists a few other possible years for its creation, though all years from all sources would put it in Strad's "Golden Period" (1700-1720): "According to him (Schidlof]: 'It is generally accepted that it was made in 1701, but Charles Beare thinks it's 1718, and he seems pretty sure about it.'"
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Here is another a nice video, and a bit less of a commercial for the instrument: David Aaron Carpenter plays Shostakovich Romance on the "MacDonald" Stradivari viola:
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