Priceless Violins: Keep it or Sell it?

August 23, 2015 at 03:54 PM · A discussion going on in another topic got me wondering:

On the hypothetical scenario that you found in your attic/basement/yard sale a priceless violin, like a Stradivarius or a del Gesu or something similarly absurdly valuable (and that it wasn't stolen), would you sell it or would you keep it?


August 23, 2015 at 04:18 PM · Oh, I would definitely keep it. I have a nice violin, but a Strad or a Del Gesu.....just as long as it was definitely not stolen.

August 23, 2015 at 04:59 PM · depending on the sound I would keep it or sell it. the violin have now ( the one from the discussion) has a full resonante sound, kind of like what I imagine a real Guarnerius would sound, so whether a $300 copy or an authentic millions, I would not part with it.

August 23, 2015 at 05:26 PM · I suppose my answer is based on the fact that I still have a loooooong musical career in front of me and I hope to be playing tons of concerts all over the place.

August 23, 2015 at 06:20 PM · Good question. I would have to balance the profound pleasure of owning and playing such an instrument with the stress of keeping it safe, insuring it, finding a good luthier to maintain it (and finding the dollar$ for those elements); not to mention the fact that I'll never grace a solo stage or be in a fine orchestra, and the custodian (for one is not the owner of a fine instrument so much as its guardian) should be one who can give it the world it deserves (yes, that is very anthropomorphic; all my instruments have such personalities as to make that--for me--inevitable). I would probably sell or donate it.

August 23, 2015 at 08:04 PM · Another possibility, that I'd seriously consider for myself and depending on the value of said Strad/Del Gesu (presumed to be authentic), is to sell it and use the proceeds to purchase a couple of fine violins (and perhaps a cello) made by a luthier (or two) of my choice - and bows of course. Keeps the ball of top class instruments rolling for future generations when they're eventually passed on.

August 23, 2015 at 08:23 PM · With the current state of my bank account, I'd definitely sell it. I'm sure the tax situation would be a nightmare... If I had millions of dollars, however, I'd keep it.

August 23, 2015 at 08:25 PM · I'd sell the Strad, buy half a dozen gorgeous modern violins, retire on what's left, and spend a good part of my remaining days playing them.

August 23, 2015 at 08:33 PM · I'd definitely sell it then commission a few new ones then hide the remainder of the money bank until I find a reason why I need million of dollars with me. Besides, I can probably live comfortable off of the interest

August 23, 2015 at 11:33 PM · I would ask Sam Zyg to make a copy and then sell it.

August 24, 2015 at 04:35 AM · Sell it. Get a nice used Cessna 172 or 182. More to life than staying home practicing.

August 24, 2015 at 05:04 AM · It honestly depends on just how special the instrument is, or if the value of the instrument would appreciate significantly. If it's just some average strad, or del gesu, then sell, because you can probably find a similar or better sounding instrument for a much lower cost.

August 24, 2015 at 05:52 AM · I would play it for a while, probably grinning like a fool the whole time, but I don't think I would keep it.

I'm just an amateur player with no grand ambitions for my music. Such instruments deserve to be out in the open played and heard by many, in my opinion!

So I would sell it, under the condition that it's to be lent to violin virtuosos out there far more talented and ambitious than I am, so it can be played! I hate to see these instruments get bought up by collectors and millionaires and be put in a vault somewhere or in a museum case and never get any play! Violins are not paintings! They're for playing, not for looking.

August 24, 2015 at 06:24 AM · The insurance alone would cripple you! Probably in the region of $2-4K a week, if the instrument is valued a a top price. (£1.5K to £3,000)

August 24, 2015 at 01:53 PM · Fun topic - and one I've thought about, myself. It would all depend on the sound of that particular violin and how well its playing qualities suited me - allowing for any necessary adjustment, re-playing in, getting used to it etc. Over the years I've tried about 9-10 Strads, 3 del Gesus, a number of Amatis, Guadagninis, Vuilliaumes, etc. Also bows by Tourte, Peccatte, Lamy, etc. My own favorite contemporary violins and French bows compare very well to most of these. Then there was one Amati that all but sent me to Heaven! (See my blog"An Auction Adventure")

If tonally, and not just as a financial windfall, I had found the violin of my dreams, I'd keep it. Otherwise I'd sell it and buy a nice house or loft, and keep some cash savings. Or I might trade up or down (for a violin or two that was worth less but I liked more tonally, plus the difference in cash to me) or across for another violin of that name or level that suited me better.

Re insurance I've been told that they put a ceiling on how much they charge so that you could insure a Strad for something like only about $4,000 a year - not a small amount for many people, but better than 1% of millions. Unfortunately, I'd probably wake up by this point! (In fact I recently dreamt that I won $15 million in the lottery - wish me luck!)

August 24, 2015 at 02:27 PM · Peter, I hope you meant a year...and not a week! Oh boy!

I would sell. I wouldn't want the headache associated with 'owning' a violin that needs constant upkeep...and that the world has decided I am only the keeper of, regardless of my taking on the bills.

While I love antiques...and history, etc., and am naturally careful of 'stuff' - feeling obligated to look after an item according to someone else's ideals would drive me batty.

I also wouldn't want to hear about how I wasn't a good enough player for it...and how it deserved someone better, lol.

August 24, 2015 at 03:10 PM · If I loved how it sounded, I'd keep it. If I liked my current violin better, I'd sell it. For the record, I play on a modern violin. I wouldn't worry so much about being in possession of something of such value. It may be work a few million, but at the end of the day, violins are meant to be played, and if you are playing it, then you are serving the instrument well.

August 24, 2015 at 05:26 PM · Keep it... damn Hobbits wants it!

My precioussss

August 25, 2015 at 01:22 AM · I'd keep it, copy it, and keep making copies of it until something of the orig. was evident in my copies.

Since I couldn't afford the insurance, I'd probably sleep with it and not go on a vacation until I had parted with it!

It's fun when I have things like that in the shop, but stressful. Owning one, well, I probably wouldn't tell anyone.

"What do you play? Oh, just an old fiddle. Nothing special." Last time I was told that, it was.

P.S. Ralph, far from the truth. I know more than one owner of a fine violin who pays more than I make a year in insurance premiums. Of course, they leave the house with it and don't have it locked up in a vault!

August 25, 2015 at 01:55 AM · I'd sell it. I couldn't do the instrument justice and it would benefit someone immensely more talented and skilled. I'd buy myself a good $15K instrument, and keep the rest for lessons and travel! Beside I couldn't afford the insurance and would be too afraid of damaging it, I'd be paranoid!

August 25, 2015 at 02:16 AM · Duane - I've had a similar idea to that, too. If I had an iconic, great classic instrument I might commission several top modern makers known for their copy work to make copies of it.

PS if your PS was to me, my only preferred nickname is "Raphe". I don't like "Ralph" as it's pronounced in the USA, even though in the UK it's indeed pronounced "Raphe". Go figure.

As to insurance fees, someone very knowledgeable told me that. But I'll approach my insurance company and ask them.

August 25, 2015 at 06:29 AM · The playing-qualities of old fiddles, even valuable ones, can deteriorate if the instruments are not played for a long time. They can then take a while to reach their former peak.

For this purpose that Cremona museum has their 1715 Stradivari violin played for a few minutes, regularly, by a fine player (Prof. Mosconi ?).

A UK dealership owned a Del Gesù. Their tactic was to lend it out to a professional player for a few years. This kept the violin working at its best, so the dealership were then able to sell it for an eye-watering price.

Should I happen to acquire a "top" old violin I would be inclined to follow the example of that dealership and then sell it.

August 26, 2015 at 10:51 AM · Joe makes good practical points. But in our fantasy here, overcoming these hurdles is a given.

Here's another fantasy: Let's say you won huge at the lottery, say $100 million or more after taxes, etc., free and clear. Maybe you've bought your new home, helped friends and family, given to charities, kept a lot for savings, made some other wise, relatively stable investments - whatever. You still have a lot of disposable income and now it's time to play. You decide to build a collection of one to several great classic violins. Which would it or they be? Let's assume for our fantasy purposes that whichever you want would be available to you. Is your main criteria rarity? (say the Messiah Strad - if it IS a Strad? Paganini's "Ill Cannone" del Gesu"?) or would it be mainly for tone?

For me, tone would prevail. Condition, too. Based on trying, or hearing up close, or by reputation, among Strads I might choose 1 or 2 from this short list: Perlman's (and once Menhuin's) "Soil", the "Barrere" (owned by virtuoso and instrument afficianado, Steven Staryk) or the "Alard", raved abput by the Hills. I've seen the original and gorgeous "Hellier" behind glass. But Vittorio Villa, who has made beautiful copies of it tried it and told me that it was the most beautiful sounding violin he's ever tried. So maybe that one, too!

Among del Gesus, Rosand's former "Kochansky" , the "Lord Wilton" (formermy Menhuin's) or the "Vieuxtemps". Among Amatis, the one I personally tried at the auction showing I've blogged about ("An Auction Adventure").

I think I could manage to make do with the 3 or more I'd choose from that list!

August 26, 2015 at 12:56 PM · Here in the UK there's a TV programme :- Fake or Fortune.

Artwork that has cost buyers huge sums yet are "suspect" are investigated for authenticity and provenance.

The techniques enabling the chemical composition of the coloring materials are as amazing as are the lengths to which the experts go to to establish not only the likelyhood of authenticity of the work in question but also a valid history of ownership.

Alas, one man's "Chagall" that had cost him £100,000 was declared a fake - and a convicted faker was among those who blew the whistle ! This faker, who had "done time", boasted of having painted many Chagalls, and sold them.

Sadly, the painting that was the subject of that programme ended up with the Chagall family, who had the power of making the final decision as to authenticity. Having declared it to be a fraud, they then declared that they had a legal right to destroy the painting. The poor owner wasn't even allowed to keep it as a memento. As I understood things, they planned to burn it.

Will the programme turn to the violin trade ? There will be some surprises. What a pity if your fantasy violin got taken from you and BURNED !!!!

August 26, 2015 at 06:30 PM · Also, not about violins but with pretty close analogies is a book I'd highly recommend: "False Impressions - The Hunt for Big Time Art Fakes" by Thomas Hoving, former Director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

August 26, 2015 at 06:47 PM · To an earlier question of insurance rates, I just called my insurance company, Clarion. It turns out that it's a little complicated. I'm paying 65 cents per $100 of insured value. Once the value goes up to $250,000 or more a different and lower premium evaluation kicks in, and all the more so with say a $5 million Strad. That's the good news for a Strad owner. The bad news for me is that some states, including my newly-adopted New Jersey tag on a.9% to my premium. Oh well, my car insurance and gasoline and gas and electric bills are lower here, as is my rent.

August 29, 2015 at 06:09 AM · The insurance costs for a great violin are less than one quarter of a percent per year. One scenario people find themselves in is to have bought a great violin decades ago and find they now have a very expensive instrument indeed. My feeling is that if you're a serious player and don't really need the money, keep it. If I were starting from scratch, however, I would look into modern instruments in the $30K to $40K range (Westerlund, Bellini). The really great violins start at about 100 times as much but certainly don't sound 100 times better. David Nadien had a Bellini with which he was quite happy, and I have a Westerlund Del Gesu copy which easily compares with fiddles of the first rank.

August 29, 2015 at 08:31 AM · The chance that the fantasy violin you happen to find in an attic or pick up at garage sale will prove to be the real-deal is small.

Zilch chance of suddenly becoming the owner of a REAL Stradivari or such.

In my lifetime I heard of just ONE fiddler who picked up a genuine J.B.Vuillaume for peanuts at a provincial auction, then sold it for a HUGE profit in London.

But there might be a chance of picking up, say, a Garimberti that has lain unappreciated in an attic - such fiddles have appreciated in value enormously since they were sold by Boosey and Hawkes for the same sort of price they would charge for a Louis F Milton of Bedford which nowadays would fetch comaratively little.

A London dealer showed me a nice Garimberti - he wanted £60,000 for it. If I owned it, I would keep it to play.

August 29, 2015 at 10:22 AM · Yes,they are keepers David.

August 29, 2015 at 02:27 PM · Jeepers keepers.

August 29, 2015 at 03:00 PM · Um....ok.Don't get that comment but I meant instead of looking for that lost Strad, a more realistic outlook would be to look for Modern Italians from the sixties and early seventies tucked away in attics or wherever.

I would love to find a Garimberti from the early eighties floating around somewhere...

August 29, 2015 at 04:45 PM · Who said you've got to insure it? Either don't insure it at all, or insure it for the amount you're happy paying the premium for. I think I'd keep it - Like old man Casals young wife ("I see it this way: If she dies, she dies"), if it goes, it goes. It would only leave me in the position I was in before I found it.

August 30, 2015 at 06:53 AM · Why does Mr. Green find my post so offensive ?

Yes, folk will sometimes buy under the noses of self-styled "experts" but even then they will usually have to fork out more than peanuts.

A colleague who spotted a Gagliano in a house-sale and bought it still had to pay a substantial sum, even though that was well under the normal retail-price for such an item.

The subject of the OP is "On the hypothetical scenario that you found in your attic/basement/yard sale..."

As an example, some of those fairly recent Modern Italians languish, unrecognised by their prior owners as being particularly "valuable". To the uninitiated they look much the same as any ordinary instrument. My theory is that it's in the lower end of the market there's a better chance, statistically, of picking up a fiddle that's worth substantially more to you, either to play or as an "investment", than you have to pay for it.

So, take heart, folks; you can still "strike lucky" but it's increasingly unlikely that you'll hit on a Strad or del Gesù.

Any violin you find that suits you "down to the ground" when you play it becomes "absurdly valuable" to you.

BTW I think the annual rainfall is no higher here than it is in Atlanta, Georgia.


Sunny Jim.

August 30, 2015 at 12:49 PM · Raphael:the Messiah was made by Antonio Stradivari, not J.B. Vuilaume - who made the pegs and the tail piece.

My understanding is this as well as it's pristine state caused some of the confusion as did earlier poorer quality dendrochronology. Better dendro studies have shown it is from the Strad time period.

Top is from the same tree as a 1710 Rogeri.

Also according to Florian Leonhard the Messiah and the "Abergavenny" played by Kavakos are closely related.

Mr. Joe Green or JoeG, haven't you posted here - and on Maestronet - before under a different name (John Thornton) ?

August 30, 2015 at 02:12 PM · I'd have it appraised, insure it, and then loan it out to a worthy violinist to share the beautiful sound with the world.

August 30, 2015 at 02:30 PM · David,

Mr green is a troll, same as described from MN. Do not feed the troll...

As for the insurance, I recall that Gerald Segelman, the owner of one of the finest collections ever assembled, never had any of it insured.

August 30, 2015 at 04:00 PM · David

Yes, they do sometimes turn up.

Some years back a friend and I dropped in on Howard Morgan in his Cardiff shop.

Howard is a high-end dealer and was quaffing champagne in the middle of the day.

When we asked about the celebration, he told us that he'd spotted a long-lost Amati viola in a provincial US auction being sold as an unattributed old Cremona.

He'd just received the certificate from Beares confirming his attribution, hence the bubbly.

He was kind enough to let us see it, and said it was his pension fund!

(I've got a lousy memory, but I think I've got the facts roughly right...)

August 30, 2015 at 05:53 PM · Let's assume that the 'priceless violin' was worth one million.

Given that some of the world's top violinists in at least three double-blind tests were unable to reliably distinguish between extremely expensive old Italian violins, and modern bench-made instruments costing 20,000, I would sell.

August 30, 2015 at 06:02 PM · @Geoff C.

"Yes, they do sometimes turn up."

I STILL think the odds against such happening are huge. And anyway a US auction isn't a yard sale, so does not really qualify under the terms of the OP. (..attic/basement/yard sale ...) Sorry to quibble !

Nevertheless, I am very happy for the Cardiff dealer!

August 30, 2015 at 07:00 PM · David - of course the odds are huge - I'm just saying that it does happen.

And in this case it happened to one of the most knowledgeable people in the field, who travels the world to auctions and looks at hundreds of instruments a month. And even for him it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus he paid top dollar for the instrument, for the attribution it had been given, so he took a significant risk. If Beare hadn't agreed with him he'd had taken a hit.

So no, not an everyday experience. But not impossible either.

August 30, 2015 at 07:18 PM · Hendrik - I definitely am not an expert but from what I've read, there are experts on both sides of the "Messiah" authenticity fence. I find myself convinced by Stewart Pollens' arguments against its authenticity. He doesn't think it was made by Vuilliaume but by someone after Strad's death. Who knows?

August 31, 2015 at 02:30 AM · Jenny, donating the instrument would be indeed a beautiful altruistic thing to do!

If I were in a situation where a few million dollars more-or-less didn't make a difference in my life, sure, I would donate it to a talented player, under the condition that it is /never/ sold, only passed on free of charge.

August 31, 2015 at 04:35 AM · "So no votes for donating?"

Problem with donating, or loaning, is that recipients of even VALUABLE violins can be unappreciative. Choose the victim with care !

Some of the students allowed to play their 1757 "Brodsky" Guadagnini (sold last March by Bromptons for £576,000) didn't much like it. Some said the sound was "thin"; however, Dave Nolan, later on Concertmaster of the London LPO, seemed to get on with it OK.

And the Hallé Orchestra was loaned a Long Pattern Strad, leaders for the use of, but they seemed to resent being forced to perform on this fiddle that they didn't much like.

Antique value is no guarantee of player satisfaction. Sometimes the adage "No good deed goes unpunished", as Judge Judy says, applies.

BTW the OP forgot to mention charity shops.

August 31, 2015 at 04:42 AM · "Facts are in evidence that a major auction house advertised for sale a violin which they claimed was of French make, ie., Amati Mangenot, 1930."

Sotheby's. October, 2009. Oops !!!! Or very nearly oops.

It was LISTED, lot 6, as Mangenot in the October 2009 printed catalogue but was not depicted there.

"labelled Amati Mangeno figlio ed allievo di Alexandro fece in Bordo 1930". Was there a Guarneri label underneath, Mr. Green ?

However I note that the same violin which is depicted on-line and described as lot 6 and Mangenot :-

is illustrated near the back of the same Sotheby's October catalogue, described as "The ex-Vieuxtemps violin by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù" and reported as a "Private Treaty Sale" to Maxim Victorov.

Tim Ingles must have wised up in time and sold it privately; yet since the sale of the violin is already aknowledged in the back of the printed catalogue it's a puzzle as to why that listing for lot 6 remained there.

Incidentally, the fiddle we usually call the "ex-Vieuxtemps" is a different one, 1741.

BTW my printed results slip for this auction does not reveal a price for lot 6!

September 1, 2015 at 05:57 PM · And there was I thinking that Joe Green was a massively aged Italian who'd cheated death somehow, immigrated to the USA, and then changed his name to the English version!

September 1, 2015 at 08:55 PM · A correction on my last post.

It wasn't actually the Abergavenny Strad but another Strad, a recent arrival at his shop that according to Florian Leonhard was related to the Messiah:

September 1, 2015 at 09:12 PM · Verde - Now he's a Cape crusader!

September 2, 2015 at 04:21 AM · Mr. Green / Thornton: I gather you have claimed to have access to or owned the Lauterbach Stradivarius. Have you ever subjected this violin to a dendrochronology assessment?

Would be very interesting.

September 2, 2015 at 10:11 AM · Mr. Green / Thornton

Aha, I know him! Here I was hoping it really was Giuseppe Verdi from the other side. Though I doubt Maestro Verdi would have been particularly interested in the minutia of violins!

September 2, 2015 at 11:37 AM · Hope Joe doesn't get Verdi-grease on his bow.


pp Johann Sebastian Beck,

A.N. Other.

September 3, 2015 at 12:26 AM · Anybody who'd go to a psychiatrist ought to get his head examined! :-D

September 3, 2015 at 07:45 AM · Shoulder rest, Everest, whatever.

Being paranoid doesn't rule out the possibility that folk might be out to get you.

BTW make sure you get a pre-nup, otherwise your partner might get the absurdly valuable violin if you split. My ex got my J.B. Vuillaume.

September 3, 2015 at 09:39 AM · I'm leaving my shoulder rest collection to my ex, and hope to try to take my favorite violin with me to my next life!

But seriously. a question for Joe: you wrote "According to Jean Delphin Alard, the original ticket inside "Le Messie" was dated 1751. Upon bringing Tarisio's collection from Milan, Italy to Paris, J. B. Vuillaume promptly opened the violin, removed the original ticket and replaced it with a Stradivari ticket dated 1716."

I don't recall whether I've come across that in various discussions that I've followed. But if the DATE on the label said "1751" (and Strad died in 1737) what did the NAME say?

September 3, 2015 at 08:00 PM · BTW, I started the following thread which has long been archived, though I hope this thread doesn't become only about the "Messiah" Strad:

The Messiah Strad: True Messiah, or False Messiah?

Instruments: So, all of you makers, dealers, connoiseurs - and anyone who likes a good debate (debating on Unheard of!) - what do YOU think?

From Raphael Klayman

Posted October 21, 2006 at 11:36 PM

Possibly the most famous and valuable Stradivari in the world is a violin dated 1716, and known as the "Messiah" Strad. It's unique in its incredible condition - almost like new.

There's just one problem. According to some pretty knowledgeable people it's not an authentic Strad, and may not even be Italian. In the past few years ther's been some heated cotroversy about this.

So, all of you makers, dealers, connoiseurs - and anyone who likes a good debate (debating on Unheard of!) - what do YOU think? [EDIT]

There have been no new messages posted since your last log-i

September 3, 2015 at 10:01 PM · Actually, the one I cited pretty much did.

September 4, 2015 at 03:05 AM · Alard be praised.

Allahu akbar.

September 4, 2015 at 11:12 AM · Here's what I feel was accomplished on that thread:

1. A number of thoughtful people had an intelligent conversation.

2. They stayed on topic (not that's a sin to drift away from a topic, but you challenged anyone to come up with an example of a thread that ever stayed on topic and I immediately did.)

3. There were differences of opinion w.o. any flaming

Joe - if you are who someone thinks you are, for the sake of the fact that we've had a few friendly emails in the past I'd like to ask you to relax - particularly on a thread that's mostly about a fun fantasy. And if you're really someone named "Joe Green", when I click on your name I see nothing about you save "Atlanta Georgia". I see no documentation what-so-ever about the sources of the expertise that you espouse and seem to expect everyone to accept. You also cite no documentation about the Alard statements.

If I cite my views on say, vibrato on a current thread, they can be accepted or not - but everyone knows who I really am and that my considered opinions are those of a highly accomplished professional violinist. So tell us who you really are. Are you a dealer? An independent expert? What well-known experts respect and accept you? And why do you feel a need to hijack a pretty innocent thread like this one an try to bend it to your will?

September 4, 2015 at 02:20 PM · "..a camel jockey?"

I'd certainly prefer Sand Land to Greenland.

To revert to the original thread, there have been instances (nearly wrote "cases") in which depositing a valuable violin in a bank vault for safe-keeping has turned out badly.

I heard of a Rocca violin that was eaten by termites, and another seriously damaged by flooding.

Then there's the danger of being robbed, sometimes at gunpoint.

One famous player smashed a Strad when he fell down the stairs.

And, to revert to the "taken to the cleaners" scenario (divorce), always be careful if you take a VIOLIN to the cleaners. Was it Paganini or his pupil Sivori who had the varnish stripped from his Vuillaume copy of the "Cannone" del Gesù by an over-enthusiastic repairer ?

Despite an owner's best intentions, an "absurdly valuable violin" is especially vulnerable, and for this reason I'm glad I don't have one.

September 4, 2015 at 07:12 PM · The "Rules for Writers" on this forum appears to be relevant here, especially Rules #1 and #2. I'll add that a messenger is usually expected to supply the source of the message.

September 5, 2015 at 12:19 AM · This is an interesting topic. I may have stumbled upon a Maggini. I made an appointment with a local violin shop to see what they think of it. Unfortunately the instrument was re-varnished TWICE, which destroyed most of it's value if it is genuine, but I am intrigued.

September 5, 2015 at 12:39 PM · Giuseppe, my violist French cousin told me that the Louvre have five copies of her and they don't know any longer which is the original. So which of these five ladies is your source?

Maggie, I hope you didn't break anything when you stumbled upon it?

September 5, 2015 at 12:47 PM · John, 5 copies of which violin?

September 6, 2015 at 02:52 PM · David Garrett tripped and damaged a Strad.

According to this news report, he is quoted as saying "I fell down a flight of steps......."

Whilst there are wonderful Stradivaris and Guarneri del Gesù fiddles in the world, if I owned one it would probably need to be one of the lesser examples. I guess I am a "glass half empty" person.

Why put oneself through all the worry of looking after a priceless antique if you don't like it much ??

I have tried Strads that were not particularly inviting. By contrast a colleague of mine used to work at Hills; his Christmas treat was to be allowed to play the "Alard" Strad. Yes, THAT's a great fiddle.

September 7, 2015 at 12:40 AM · I wonder if the "Alard Strad" had any influence on Alard. In spite of having such a nice violin he wrote some of the most miserably boring etudes.

September 8, 2015 at 12:42 AM · David Garrett did not damage a Strad , it was a Guadagnini.

The person who damaged a Strad was Isaac Stern, he fell down subway stairs and fell on top of his violin case and the top caved in severely damaging his violin. I read this somewhere but cannot find the documentation for it.

Ever since then he carried his violins in a more solid case.

September 8, 2015 at 12:53 AM · That story rings a bell - but are you sure it was Isaac Stern? Did Stern ever own a Strad? He was known for his 2 del Gesus - the ex Ysaye and the Panette. I also can't imagine him on the subway!

September 8, 2015 at 12:55 AM · Yes Raphael maybe I am wrong. I can't find it on the web. And he wasn't the kind of guy to ride the subway.

September 8, 2015 at 04:28 AM · "David Garrett did not damage a Strad , it was a Guadagnini."

OK, don't trust journalists. Too much of the "Lunchtime o'Boulez" ??

That Independent clip looked genuine to me.

BTW circa 2008/2011 when the accident happened a 290-year-old violin wouldn't have been a G.B.Guad. (1711-1786); neither does an alleged date of 1751 prove the Messiah was made by Guarneri del Gesù who died in 1744.

My point is that terrible things happen to fiddles and whereas I can go back to the living makers of 2 of the violins I own, those "absurdly valuable" violins are virtually irreplaceable; so the worry associated with taking care of such an instrument would detract somewhat from any pleasure derived from ownership.

We are expected to provide sources.

Here's one for Lunchtime o'Boulez, a musical journalist in the Lunchtime o'Booze mould :-

September 8, 2015 at 08:31 AM · I would never be able to afford the insurance premiums!

I'd sell it, buy a villa big enough for my dream of a music school plus recording studio, and buy a very good violin with the small change.

September 8, 2015 at 02:39 PM ·

September 9, 2015 at 05:01 AM · "Direct side by side comparisons (either physically or photographically) of the "1744" period Ole Bull "del Gesu" (originally dated 1727 according to *known* early provenance) with a violin, made and labeled in 1706, by Joseph Guarneri Alumnus Andreas Gisalberti will immediately prove the Hill brothers statement -- that -- in not so many words -- "Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri is the man of our choice to be called Guarneri del Gesu" -- to be completely wrong."

Readers might care to amuse themselves by looking up the Jalovek "Encyclopedia of Violin-Makers" vol. 1 A-K.

Facing page 360 is the 1706 violin to which Mr. Green seems to be referring.

Yes, it does have elongated "ff" holes in common with the "Ole Bull" instrument but to my eyes the upper ends differ.

And, yes. there were arguments as to whether there really was a Giuseppe Guarneri II in between Filius Andreae and Bart Simpson.

Forget all that stuff about "our rich heritage"; the antique fiddle trade is an horrendous minefield.

Bring on the high revolution photographs - let the battle continue.

September 9, 2015 at 02:37 PM · Honestly, play it for a bit, then sell it. If it's a multi-million dollar violin, use the money to pay all your loans and bills, set up a comfortable savings, buy a vuillaume and a pecatte, and use the remaining few six-figures for that impractical two-seater sports car and fine dining for a few years haha...

September 10, 2015 at 03:57 PM · Sell it. WAY too much responsibility. I would be worried about it all the time. I wonder how famous violinists feel about having to always be worried about their instruments. Seems like a HUGE concern. Also, a great instruments needs a great player which I'm not. Finally, I have a very very nice viola and I'm thrilled with it and I worry enough about it.


September 16, 2015 at 10:13 AM · Almost archived...

September 16, 2015 at 10:32 AM · Bearing in mind that this comment is from someone in the business: I would rather have my money in violins than in the bank. Historically, if you choose well (since we're talking about "special" ones here, this applies), violins are a better investment, plus you can get more enjoyment from one than from looking at a bank statement. I fight this one once in a while, myself, when I have something that I really like and would rather have around than sell.

So in this instance, I would say keep it until you are forced for some reason to sell it. That assumes you can care for it properly and insure it, as well. That does not mean you have to take it out to the park and play it in the rain; there's no law against keeping and playing a beater, also.

September 17, 2015 at 05:34 PM · Joe Green, from the very interesting and varied responses we got in this topic, my conclusion as to why someone wouldn't "want to keep and play their 'special' violin" is that such desire is as unique and as varied as people themselves.

Keeping in mind we're talking about a violin worth millions, not a more pedestrian 'hundred-thousand' or so that is much more achievable in comparison, people's perspective changes.

Some people aspire to get a hold of one of those priceless instruments and play them, whether professionally for the world to hear, or in their garage in their spare time. For some it would be a dream come true!

Others have more humble ambitions. Or don't see themselves fit to own such an instrument, for whatever reason. Or simply don't care about the hype of a priceless Cremonese violin and would be happier paying off their mortgage, with money left over to find a violin they will fall in love with.

For many, the foremost choice of a violin entails it having a sound and feel that they fall in love with. And the pedigree "Stardivarius" or "del Gesu" are not absolute guarantees that everyone will always like everything about those violins. Yes, they are incredibly high quality instruments, but they are not one-size-fits-all.

September 18, 2015 at 05:47 AM · Personal experience: A full size Strad REALLY wouldn't have fitted him when he was 6 years old - not even with the sound post moved and strung up as a viola. So, as he says, they really are not one-size-fits-all.

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