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Frank Peter Zimmermann's 1711 Strad in Limbo

Laurie Niles

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Published: February 23, 2015 at 5:53 PM [UTC]

Violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann is scheduled to play the Sibelius later this week with the New York Philharmonic, but it's looking unsure whether he'll do so with the Strad that he has played for the past 12 years.

Frank Peter Zimmermann
Photo by Klaus Rudulph

Under a 2002 contract, Frank Peter Zimmermann has been renting his 1711 "ex-Kreisler" Strad from a now-defunct German bank, WestLB AG. But that contract expired Sunday night, according to Wall Street Journal. Though Zimmerman has a first-buy option, he has said that he is unwilling to pay the price set by the firm now selling the bank's assets, Portigon Financial Services, the Journal said. The violin has been valued at $5.1 million and $5.7 million, but apparently the asking price has been set higher, about $1 million higher, according to Slipped Disc.

What a stressful situation. Here's hoping for a resolution that allows Zimmermann to continue to play the Strad!

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Posted on February 23, 2015 at 6:03 PM
Go get a modern instrument and leave that antique wormwood behind.
From Johanna Sailer
Posted on February 23, 2015 at 6:23 PM
I have been following this sad business (as covered by German newspapers) for quite a while. According to his advisor Karl-Joachim Hytrek, Zimmermann has already returned the Strad and has departed for his New York concerts with a different violin (Source, in German:
From Paul Deck
Posted on February 23, 2015 at 6:56 PM
Would Zimmerman have paid the evaluation price? If so then he just needs one million, he could crowdsource that. Just need to find 10,000 people who think its worth $100 to get this violin back in the hands and full possession of a violinist.

NY concerts? Pass the hat.

Posted on February 23, 2015 at 8:18 PM
Interesting story, with a valuable lesson to other players.

If his hold time after purchase is another 20 years, then past trends suggest an extra million paid now would likely be recouped if it is properly preserved. If he's quibbling over 15-20%, then maybe he doesn't want it that bad.

The violin played by Zimmerman in this 2008 video does sound pretty good, and he speaks briefly about the instrument (starting at 5:06) in the first of a multi-part series (in German):
Part I

From Stephen Brivati
Posted on February 23, 2015 at 11:52 PM
that absolutely sucks. For me these days, Zimmerman is my violinist of choice. One of the most individualistic, artistically daring and out of this world technicians on the planet. Almsot nobody comes close to him in so many works.
I hope this resolves itself and he gets the instrument he deserves. Maybe one of Fulkoffs for the rest of his life or sopmething...
From Andrei Pricope
Posted on February 24, 2015 at 1:00 AM
The Strad is not in limbo... FPZ's continued use of it is! The Strad is juuuust fine! :)

(inspired by George Carlin: The planet is just fine! WE'RE doomed...)

One is reminded of Richter regularly performing, unfazed, on abused upright pianos during the war, without ever feeling bad about the experience.

Something tells me FPZ could make a $5,000 violin sound pretty glorious, let alone a $500k one. There's quite a few great makers nowadays - he, too, will be juuuuust fine...

Posted on February 24, 2015 at 2:37 AM
His fellow German violinist Christian Tetzlaff plays a modern instrument.

I heard them both live in the last two months (Z in December, T this month).

Both were excellent - I couldn't tell any difference in the violins, with orchestra and then both unaccompanied in the encore.

Save your money F-P!

From Johanna Sailer
Posted on February 24, 2015 at 6:52 AM
From what I understand Zimmermann could afford to buy the violin to Portigon's price, he just doesn't want to, because it is way above the evaluation price. That takes guts because it means that at least for now he had to be parted from a violin which he once described as "almost like one of his limbs" and "losing it would be a great tragedy". Portigon say they regret that Zimmermann returned the violin. Last Friday he reportedly handed it over to a Stuttgart based luthier and it is supposed to be returned to Portigon today. Yet negotations continue and I sincerely hope they come to an understanding. This instrument deserves to be be played by a master like Zimmermann who knows its ins and outs and not to be sold to someone super rich who just wants to add it to his collection.
Posted on February 24, 2015 at 2:52 PM
If famous violinists boycotted Stradivari and others of their ilk for modern instruments the welfare of luthiers would skyrocket. Concert goers wouldn't know the difference. Strads would be merely curiosities in museums, used worn instruments that no one really wants to play except in baroque and classical concerts to demonstrate how music sounded on period instruments. Most everything related to the price of a classic violin is based on mystique and antique value which fluctuates according to the market and has nothing much to do with sound. FPZ will be just fine as long as he continues to practice.
Posted on February 24, 2015 at 4:12 PM
After reading Johanna's comments, methinks Zimmerman is a shrewd negotiator.
From Kevin Cheung
Posted on February 25, 2015 at 8:44 PM
It's about time that top performers started using modern instruments to give modern-day luthiers get a chance to shine.
Posted on February 25, 2015 at 11:23 PM
Multiple comments saying that modern makers need a helping hand and that antique instruments are holding them back.

Nothing could be further from the truth. N o t h i n g.

For one thing, only less than 1000 of the very finest instruments (Strad, G, G, A, V etc) are in circulation. There are literally millions of players and over 10,000 top notch orchestral players worldwide.

If anything, antique instruments are *good* for business not bad: they create mystique, they put significant upward pressure on prices for violins thought to be "as good as" an antique and finally, more than a few players have both a modern and an antique...

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