Last week I went to a reception with some seriously classy guests - I'll drop a few of their names: Stradivari, Amati, Guadagnini, Vuillaume, Antoniazzi...
You guessed it - the celebrity attractions were six violins and a viola, ranging from five to 400 years old. The youngster was the viola, a Panormo copy made in 2012 by Florian Leonhard Fine Violins, the violin dealership which was the host of this event in South Pasadena, California. The rest were antique violins spanning centuries, including:
Though Florian Leonhard himself was not there, NY-based Managing Director Jonathan Solars and London-based violin restorer Adam Pelzer served as hosts at the event, showing the violins to about 30 Los Angeles-area violinists, teachers, collectors and violin makers. Based in London, Florian Leonhard Fine Violins also has an office (and soon an expanded workshop) in New York.
I tested most of the violins and found the Amati to have a real ease and beauty of sound. Here I am, testing out the Strad formerly played by Leonidas Kavakos: (!)
I also ran into LA Phil Associate Concertmaster Nathan Cole and Assistant CM Akiko Tarumoto, and when Nathan started testing the violins I started filming both his playing and his reactions, which you can see in the above video. He focused on four of the violins: the Amati, two Strads and Vuillaume.
If you are curious, the asking prices for these violins ranged in U.S. dollars from a little more than one to several hundred thousand for the Antoniazzi and Vuillaume to $4.5 to $8 million for the Strads. Solars said that Leonhard makes about six violins a year, all of them copies of the fine violins that they are selling, each copy made in the presence of the violin itself.
Here are the violins that Cole tested:
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