How do professional players get a violin worth millions of dollars

December 9, 2016 at 03:53 PM · I am just curious and unsure of the process. Where do they get the money from?

Replies (29)

December 9, 2016 at 04:18 PM · In addition to what Evan has said, the vast majority of professional musicians do not own million-dollar instruments. Orchestral violinists typically own instruments ranging from about $20K on the low end to hundreds of thousands of dollars on the high end.

December 9, 2016 at 04:34 PM · Fine. How about Strad violins that cost millions of dollars. Many professional violinists like Janine Jansen, Julia Fischer, Nicola Benedetti etc have very expensive instruments. What if they break the violin accidentally or if it gets stolen? Surely they can own a $10k violin but owning a $10 million violin is way beyond reach even for a famous musician.

@Evan. Who pays the loan for the violin and what happens if the player loses or breaks the violin accidentally?

December 9, 2016 at 05:31 PM · I wouldn't end there. $10000 seems reasonable to get. $100000 after a lot of time saving... But what about $500000, $700000... I don't even know the answer for that violin of half a million.

December 9, 2016 at 06:08 PM · Financing, working hard and living frugally, inheritance, mortgaging the house, and making a lot of money are some of the ways.

Loss or damage? Insurance.

December 9, 2016 at 07:34 PM · I think they also find real good deals on eBay! :-)

December 9, 2016 at 07:34 PM · I wonder if people who own these very valuable instruments might choose to 'will' an instrument to a specific person, relative or a close violinist friend, rather than let it be sold as part of their estate? I suppose it depends on circumstance, but I suspect that to at least some of them the instrument is worth far more than the monetary value, and if that's the case they might want to determine its next owner as opposed to letting it go to just anyone who can pay the price at auction. Who knows...

December 9, 2016 at 07:39 PM · Those that have them often win the use of them in competitions. Most don't have them.

December 9, 2016 at 07:44 PM · "Many professional violinists like Janine Jansen, Julia Fischer, Nicola Benedetti etc have very expensive instruments. What if they break the violin accidentally or if it gets stolen?"

No professional violinist having the use of a Strad or similar great instrument is simply going to "break it accidentally." Theft is rare but in that case there is insurance. Every instrument of high value is insured.

If you are curious about a specific artist's instrument, most soloists list in their bios what they play and who owns it (if not the soloist). Concertmasters too, for that matter.

December 9, 2016 at 08:00 PM · The poor have no chance (barring a lightning strike opportunity)-luckily, one does not need those instruments to play well, beautifully, or even professionally.

It's unfortunate that some musicians, orchestras, and teachers attach a sort of "Who's Who" value to what sort of instrument a violinist has, much like a caste system. Even those who are "only" a few hundred-thousands of dollars, "professional" instruments are out of reach of many players. Of course, some are worth this, but it doesn't stop them from giving the impression, right or false, that "high-end" violin playing is out of reach for many scores of players, regardless proficiency.

Don't let that discourage you, however-it's most certainly untrue you must have an old Italian violin to "properly" play at a high level. Ignore that as the elitist notion it is (which is NOT to say that having an old Italian instrument is wrong/silly, or that their owners must be elitists-be glad you are one of the few who can do so, if it is an instrument you love.)

December 9, 2016 at 08:13 PM · Jansen and Benedetti have a Strad loaner. Fischer used to have a Strad on loan as well but ended up buying a JB Guadagnini. Not as expensive as a Strad but still in the 0.8 to 1.2 million dollar range or so I believe.

Hillary Hahn plays her own JB Vuillaume ( the Canone copy "ex-Lande" 1867) ; as does Vilde Frang.

These are I believe more in the 180,000 to 280,000 range retail. Auctions: http://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/price-history/?Maker_ID=809

( The ones where JB baked the wood first are cheaper as they tend to have condition issues.)

BTW regarding accidents:

David Garrett did fall on his Guad accidentally.

The 1722 "Rode" Strad with it's beautiful decorations got it's top pushed in as it was kept under the bed of Mr Segelman.

December 9, 2016 at 08:27 PM · I have dozens of colleagues who happily make their careers in orchestra and chamber music on instruments that are currently valued in the 15k-25k range. Some own far more valuable instruments, but don't take them out every day.

What's probably equally interesting is that their bows are often worth as much as their instruments, and those DO get played. :)

December 9, 2016 at 10:44 PM · "David Garrett did fall on his Guad accidentally. The 1722 "Rode" Strad with it's beautiful decorations got it's top pushed in as it was kept under the bed of Mr Segelman."

Okay... It sounds like there might be more to that story than I would want to know...

;)

December 10, 2016 at 02:59 AM · Many older violinists -- or younger players loaned instruments by older patrons -- bought those instruments when they were nowhere near as expensive as they are now. I remember that when I was a kid in the 1980s, there were other kids my age who were playing Amatis -- you could get one for about $80k back then.

December 10, 2016 at 04:36 AM · I'm pretty sure I heard in an interview that Josh Bell purchased his Strad for $6M or $8M. Well known artists like Josh Bell can earn upwards of $50,000 per concert. If they perform regularly, they can certainly afford an instrument in the millions of dollars.

December 10, 2016 at 04:37 AM · But as has been pointed out, many musicians who play valuable antiques have them on loan.

December 10, 2016 at 04:42 AM · Well, sure, household-name soloists, of which there are a handful, may be able to afford to buy instruments like that. I was talking about everybody else.

December 10, 2016 at 05:31 AM · I believe Joshua Bell's fee is closer to $100K.

December 10, 2016 at 09:45 AM · On CD wrappings or concert programmes one finds the Count Blotsky Strad loaned by such & such a foundation.

December 10, 2016 at 11:02 AM · For those who are not soloists, mainly young players, it is hard even getting a good contemporary instrument.

December 10, 2016 at 12:46 PM · One wonders how often when soloist X plays their Strad/Guan in public that what the audience is in fact seeing and hearing is a very good replica made for X's public use, so that the original (perhaps kept safely in a vault) only needs to be trotted out for insurance-permitted occasions like a studio recording. Of course, X has to have some form of ownership of the original, so the money has to come from somewhere.

December 10, 2016 at 09:49 PM · I don't see why a violinist wouldn't be able to purchase a violin the same way they buy a house. Bank loan, violin as collateral. Interest rate could be a little higher. Escrow to keep insurance current.

Trevor, I'd wager Josh Bell is playing his Strad when you hear him. He bought it to play, not to sit in its case in the closet.

December 10, 2016 at 11:00 PM · Most of the most expensive instruments are on loan. One organization that matches promising violinists with patrons who have invested in fine instruments is the Stradivari Society, based in Chicago and affiliated wit Bein and Fushi. Another organization is the Nippon Music Foundation based in Japan.

December 11, 2016 at 05:28 PM · Yes, on the other hand these investors that made the prices of classic instruments get that mad.

December 11, 2016 at 05:58 PM · "I don't see why a violinist wouldn't be able to purchase a violin the same way they buy a house. "

You would have an easier time buying a home, and taking out a second mortgage than trying to convince a bank purchasing a, let's say $500000+ instrument, is a sound decision.

A lot of soloists of Josh' caliber have a few Violins sitting around they can swap out depending on piece, weather, temperament, etc. Just because it's a Strad doesn't mean it would be ideal for every situtation. Some strad are not that nice to listen to, some are great but feel too awkward to play, the list can go on.

December 11, 2016 at 09:43 PM · There's a well-known soloist in the US - I don't know whether I should mention his name - but he played a recital using one of the Jay Haide range, and the audience thought it was a stupendously expensive Italian job. Just goes to show - it's the player (with a decent bow) that really matters.

December 12, 2016 at 12:37 AM · Oliveira?

December 12, 2016 at 01:53 AM · Oh ... so the violin can be a student model, and everyone's fooled, but not the bow?

December 12, 2016 at 09:28 AM · Yes.

December 12, 2016 at 09:48 AM · Soloists, as Elmar Oliveira, Zukerman and others are "different", can make a cigar box sound darn good. But they will have to "work" more to do that in a bad violin.

"Normal" players are much more dependent of a good instrument.

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