Einstein's Violin Sold

Edited: March 10, 2018, 1:29 PM · Interestingly, Einstein's violin just sold at Bonham's. Since Bonham's doesn't deal in musical instruments any longer, it was sold in the category of "Extraordinary Books and Manuscripts". New record for an American violin.

Lot 26
VIOLIN BELONGING TO ALBERT EINSTEIN.
Violin with spruce top, maple sides, back and neck, carved scroll headstock, 1933,
Sold for US$ 516,500 inc. premium

Replies (23)

March 10, 2018, 9:15 PM · Wow possibly the highest price ever paid for a Markneukirchen workshop instrument.
March 10, 2018, 10:46 PM · http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/24535/lot/26/

March 10, 2018, 11:06 PM · American amateur-made, it seems: https://www.bonhams.com/press_release/25709/
March 10, 2018, 11:25 PM · I suspect the buyer wouldn't care if it's even playable.
March 11, 2018, 12:12 AM · Why should I be surprised? It’s Einstein.
Edited: March 11, 2018, 12:35 AM · The best part of this whole thing is knowing Einstein was the kind of person who would take his time to get to know a janitor and gift one of his own violins to the janitor’s son.

The violin itself though is rather unfortunate looking.

March 11, 2018, 1:06 AM · That's true. And obviously the price was neither paid for beauty nor grammar.
March 11, 2018, 1:31 AM · How well did Mr Einstein play? I recall reading that he played a lot of chamber music.
March 11, 2018, 1:54 AM · I once tried to find Einstein’s playing level but failed. Would be very interested in knowing how he played.

BUT, if this is the only known violin that he had, and the quality of that violin was nothing sort of extraordinary, then the probability is that he was not an advanced player.

Feel free to debate on my conjecture as I’m interested to find out further as well! :)

March 11, 2018, 3:17 AM · https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/02/einstein-genius-violin-music-physics-science/

Love the Kreisler quote.

March 11, 2018, 3:33 AM · The fact that there wasn’t a single video, or even audio recording of Einstein’s performance may tell something too.

Yes, the camera was invented during his time, and videos of Heifetz, who was 22 years his junior, are abundant on YouTube.

March 11, 2018, 5:25 AM · Kiki - I have seen that quote attributed to Schnabel.
March 11, 2018, 5:29 AM · Wow! At that price I hope it sounds er, RELATIVELY good! :-D
Edited: March 11, 2018, 7:39 AM · ... an the twin brother will return from space anytime now with Einstein's 2nd violin, made by the same maker. Then we can compare 2 violins and finally test the theory that the sound improves with time!
(strange shape of the back, indeed)
March 11, 2018, 8:31 AM · How many amateurs are you aware of, even famous ones, who were recorded?

Abe Fortas (Supreme Court justice) was an avid, very active chamber musician, and as far as I know, we have no recordings of him.

For this particular violin, it seems like Einstein gave it away more or less as soon as he received it, so it's not really the instrument he personally used. (I think the Bonham's estimate on this was a fifth of the eventual hammer price, interestingly.)

Edited: March 11, 2018, 9:32 AM · You don't have to search very hard to find a recording of Einstein performance of Mozart Sonata in B Flat maj K.378 on YouTube.


March 11, 2018, 9:41 AM · And like much of the internet it's fake. April fools I believe.
March 11, 2018, 9:48 AM · Quite possible.
March 11, 2018, 1:26 PM · @Lydia no footage or recordings cannot confirm anything, but it contributes to the probability, given that every other aspect of his life was recorded and documented, and that music was reportedly an important aspect of his life. We all know how famous he is.

@Roger I knew the audio. It was posted by someone and reposted by another. The original poster’s description said ‘happy April’s fool’. There you go.

March 11, 2018, 1:28 PM · Bohuslav Martinu dedicated his Madrigals to Einstein, and the two would trade correspondence. The Madrigals are a little tricky rhythmically, but a conservatory student should be able to perform them without too much issue. Einstein did play the pieces as well as at least one Mozart sonata with pianist Robert Casadesus, so either he was pretty decent, or Casadesus was pretty gracious.
March 11, 2018, 2:12 PM · I am so glad to read a post from Raphael and now know that he is alive and well!!
March 11, 2018, 2:19 PM · How well did Einstein play? I remember reading an article on him many years ago that told the story of him getting to play with a well know Quartet and sitting in first chair. The article mentioned that the other musicians eventually got frustrated and asked: "Professor, do you know how to count?" Not sure if the story is accurate but I have to admit it made me laugh.

While at Bell Labs I got to know a bunch of multiple PhD people who played chamber music together. Good reading of music occasionally accompanying those in the great hall of the building from time-to-time. Music and science do go together(however, the STEM folks will disagree).

March 11, 2018, 6:19 PM · An earlier American "scientist", who had been mentioned by some biographers as "one of the best violinists of his day", is Thomas Jefferson. https://www.monticello.org/site/research-and-collections/violins.

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