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Most Valuable Violin in Existence...?


Joseph
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: I'd nominate either the ex-Paganini "il Cannone" Guarneri del Gesu in the Genoa City Hall, or the "Messiah" Strad in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.

: : Does any one know which violin in existence has the most value? Just another question form a student of mine, I didn't know how to answer.

: : Joe

I always thatought it was the Alard Strad. Which, If I remember right sold for $6,000,000 in an auction in 1991 (it has probably gone up in value significantly) to an anonymous buyer in Singpore.

Preston

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I would be difficult to valuate the Cannon or the Messiah since there is not much chance of them going on sale. Would have to base valuel on the insurance policy.

That only leaves privately held instruments that have changed hands recently. (I do not consider the city of Genoa or Oxford as 'private' in this sense.)

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I wasn't aware that to have value something had to have been sold :-)

:

: I would be difficult to valuate the Cannon or the Messiah since there is not much chance of them going on sale. Would have to base valuel on the insurance policy.

: That only leaves privately held instruments that have changed hands recently. (I do not consider the city of Genoa or Oxford as 'private' in this sense.)

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: Does any one know which violin in existence has the most value? Just another question form a student of mine, I didn't know how to answer.

: Joe

I'm sure that if a poll were conducted of performers and dealers that the Cannon and the Messiah would finish one and two (I don't know in which order), followed somewhat distantly by several other famous Strads and Guarneris, notably the Alard, the Soil and the Betts Strads, the Lord Wilton and King Guraneris. The thing that I find incredibly ironic is that the two most famous violins in the world are notoriously silent. Since the death of Paganini, the Cannon has been played only once yearly by the winner of a competition in Genoa, and as far as I know, the Messiah which came to Vuillaume in unused condition has never been played much, and now not at all. Consequently, while the two have great monetary value and historical significance, as musical instruments, one could argue that they have no value at all. I think that's a travesty. Jake

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That was the point of my value vs cost add-on. The original post equated value with price, not worth in any other terms. Objects which are not for sale (and will never likely be in this case being national treasures of stable countries) are difficult to evaluate since until someone actually puts down the cash it is largely speculation. The Messiah is generally held to be the perfect Stradivarious in what I believe to be ideal condition. I wonder if the Cannon has suffered from disuse since Paganini left it. What is the 'value' of any great work of art? Is any instrument, scupture or painting really worth as much as a small third world country as things are now heading in the hands of art collectors and speculators? It is the old fight between "priceless", the irreplaceable essence of an individual genius and the fact that at certain time and place the object in fact has a price. Material vs spiritual values. The only good that comes of it is that expensive things are usually well cared for. In the case of violins possibly too well since they should be played and the hoarder is inclined to keep his loot locked away for safekeeping until the next auction. I would like to think that the most valuable violin in existence would be the one capable of making the best music in the proper hands. But the post is really talking about the antique trade not art.

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I have a sneaking suspicion that if they were to have a great violinist make a CD with the Messiah Strad so that it could be 'heard' by all, the value might go down a notch or two, assuming , of course, that one could put a value on it.

: Does any one know which violin in existence has the most value? Just another question form a student of mine, I didn't know how to answer.

: Joe

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: Does any one know which violin in existence has the most value? Just another question form a student of mine, I didn't know how to answer.

: Joe

First, you have to define the word "value." It has different meanings to different people. My dictionary discusses value as "attributed worth, merit, or usefulness." An obvious question is to ask who is doing the attribution?, a non playing collector; a patron of the arts; a world class violinist; an auctioneer; an historian; or the supply and demand market value based upon the most recent sales prices, etc. Attributed worth is not necessarily equivalent to usefulness, for example.

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I think you would be right if violin value was determined by musical value. But it is not, it is an antique business not a musical one. I have watched an appraisal or two and at no point was the instrument played, it could just as well be furniture (of course playing it right then may not prove anything since the condition of the strings and set-up may not be optimal). As an antique in mint condition the Messiah is just what the auctioneer dreams of. As an instrument it probably needs a few decades of determined use by qualified violinists to reach prime musical condition (assuming that in its current home it is never played). It has been noted that the Stradivari instruments (in particular) developed with proper use and that when one was found that had been put aside while still new that it was not as good as equivalent instrument which had been used.

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I would have to agree with you, the statement I made before was half tongue-in-cheek. I have seen the Messiah at the Museum in Oxford and was quite amazed at how new it looked. The varnish looks orange and nothing like the strads that are in use today, and I ran into someone there that claims to have heard it on one of the rare occasions when they have allowed it to be played. The result was that it sounded like many new or fairly new instruments that are well made. The beauty of the workmanship is unmastakeable, but the varnish makes one realize that it takes many years of exposure to elements for a violin to complete its journey into its greatest potential!

: I think you would be right if violin value was determined by musical value. But it is not, it is an antique business not a musical one. I have watched an appraisal or two and at no point was the instrument played, it could just as well be furniture (of course playing it right then may not prove anything since the condition of the strings and set-up may not be optimal). As an antique in mint condition the Messiah is just what the auctioneer dreams of. As an instrument it probably needs a few decades of determined use by qualified violinists to reach prime musical condition (assuming that in its current home it is never played). It has been noted that the Stradivari instruments (in particular) developed with proper use and that when one was found that had been put aside while still new that it was not as good as equivalent instrument which had been used.

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: This also raises the question of value vs cost of course.

Yes, I agree 100%. Some performers make famous their violin, BUT some violin also make famous their performers. Each could benefit the other. For Paganini, I think he made famous his violin. Stradivarius violins are good I know, but part of the reason is because Stradivarius make violins for kings. Guarneri did not get this popular because his violin were mostly for ordinary people. Both of them of course were good. This brings us to contemporary makers. Contemporary makers who are fortunate to have musical celebrities as clients are likely to have their violin considered "valuable". For not too popular celebrities, they can be known too by owning one.

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: That was the point of my value vs cost add-on. The original post equated value with price, not worth in any other terms. Objects which are not for sale (and will never likely be in this case being national treasures of stable countries) are difficult to evaluate since until someone actually puts down the cash it is largely speculation. The Messiah is generally held to be the perfect Stradivarious in what I believe to be ideal condition. I wonder if the Cannon has suffered from disuse since Paganini left it. What is the 'value' of any great work of art? Is any instrument, scupture or painting really worth as much as a small third world country as things are now heading in the hands of art collectors and speculators? It is the old fight between "priceless", the irreplaceable essence of an individual genius and the fact that at certain time and place the object in fact has a price. Material vs spiritual values. The only good that comes of it is that expensive things are usually well cared for. In the case of violins possibly too well since they should be played and the hoarder is inclined to keep his loot locked away for safekeeping until the next auction. I would like to think that the most valuable violin in existence would be the one capable of making the best music in the proper hands. But the post is really talking about the antique trade not art.

Well said! I agree with all my heart that violins such as the Messiah and the Pag. Cannon are not of true MUSICAL value. Look at them, they are only sights to behold, something to stare at awestruck. My violin is nothing to see! It is simply a Paul Bailly 1900 French Maginni model fiddle with a crack. But if Iwere to compare it's MUSICAL value with that of the Messiagh or Cannon, I would have to pick mine. Has those violins been with me on tour? NO. Have they been there to share my joy in playing them? NO. Have they helped me win any competitions? NO. Of course many of us could say that of our own violins; but how many of us could say that of the Messiah or the Cannon?

Preston

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Then I guess you would rather have your violin more than either the Cannon or the Messiah! I suspect that would be neither a wise musical decision, nor a financial one either :-)

--Michael

: Well said! I agree with all my heart that violins such as the Messiah and the Pag. Cannon are not of true MUSICAL value. Look at them, they are only sights to behold, something to stare at awestruck. My violin is nothing to see! It is simply a Paul Bailly 1900 French Maginni model fiddle with a crack. But if Iwere to compare it's MUSICAL value with that of the Messiagh or Cannon, I would have to pick mine. Has those violins been with me on tour? NO. Have they been there to share my joy in playing them? NO. Have they helped me win any competitions? NO. Of course many of us could say that of our own violins; but how many of us could say that of the Messiah or the Cannon?

: Preston

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: The Cannon is played and kept fixed up. Check your local CD store for a $35 package that includes a CD, a little book with history and pictures, and a BIG poster. It's

: Il Violino Di Paganinni

: Salvatore Accardo

: Dynamic

The cannon was last played by Schlomo Mintz

in 1997 in holland he got it from genua for only a few weeks they had it ensured for 5 million guldens and that is not much for a unreplaceble

instrument .there were many programs on television about it and there was a special violin mechanic from italy who tuned the violin .

the concert was also on television and i was amazed by the bad and soft sound of this violin

maybe it wasnt a good mechanic.

maybe Schlomo needed more time to know the instrument.

Or is it so that violins from today (made by good violinmakers) sound louder and better than the most ones made for 100 -300 years .

and that the cannon was nr one in 1850 but nr 2435 in 1998.

Theo C (bad spelling inc)

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:

: : The Cannon is played and kept fixed up. Check your local CD store for a $35 package that includes a CD, a little book with history and pictures, and a BIG poster. It's

: : Il Violino Di Paganinni

: : Salvatore Accardo

: : Dynamic

: The cannon was last played by Schlomo Mintz

: in 1997 in holland he got it from genua for only a few weeks they had it ensured for 5 million guldens and that is not much for a unreplaceble

: instrument .there were many programs on television about it and there was a special violin mechanic from italy who tuned the violin .

: the concert was also on television and i was amazed by the bad and soft sound of this violin

: maybe it wasnt a good mechanic.

: maybe Schlomo needed more time to know the instrument.

: Or is it so that violins from today (made by good violinmakers) sound louder and better than the most ones made for 100 -300 years .

: and that the cannon was nr one in 1850 but nr 2435 in 1998.

: Theo C (bad spelling inc)

It's always a bit tricky to compare violins being played by different people under different recording circumstances playing different

music (what some might call a bad experiment :-) However, I listened to recordings of Grumiaux's "Hemmel" del Gesu of 1744 yesterday,

and Kreisler's of 1733 and Paganini's of 1742 today. Performers were Grumiaux, Oliveira, and Accardo, respectively. They all had the

thick woody sound on the upper stretches of the G string and brilliant top end that seem to characterize the "del Gesu" tone in my

experience. Grumiaux's instrument came off best, not necessarily because it is the best, but more likely because it was the one being

played on a regular basis when recorded and (IMHO) because it was being played by the finest musician of the bunch (I enjoy all three,

of course).

One thing worth mentioning is that not all great violins are equally suitable for a given artist. While the great violinists can make

a cigar box with strings sound good, they generally do sound better playing an instrument that matches their style and bowing. Many of

the "del Gesu" violins for which I've seen measurements have very thick plates, and sound best with someone who really cranks away with

the bow; Stradivari violins seem to work better with more bow and less pressure. Milstein, with his perfectly fluid and seamless bow

changes was an ideal Stradivari player; Zukerman, Stern, and Ricci are all well-suited for the Guarneri (and indeed, that's what they

play). IIRC, Mintz plays either a Stradivari or a Guadagnini, and ignoring all questions of relative lack of use of the "Cannon", poor

fidelity TV sound, etc. simply may not have been the one to show the instrument at its best. The violin I'm listening to Accardo play as

I write this sounds better than any modern instrument I've ever heard.

As for the Messiah, maybe it doesn't sound all that great. So what? We have plenty of examples of Stradivari's work which sound great;

it's good that there is still one which shows the greatness of his hand at the visual side of violin making. Most modern makers have at

least as far to go in that department as the tonal one to catch up with the 18th century masters of Cremona and Venice.

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: Then I guess you would rather have your violin more than either the Cannon or the Messiah! I suspect that would be neither a wise musical decision, nor a financial one either :-)

: --Michael

: Not at all Michael. What I am simply saying is that over all, those violins are going to waste by not being played enough. I know they are played periodically but what is the use of owning a violin to look at it. A violin is nogood unless there is someone to produce music worthy of the violin's heritage. All these strads and other wonderful violins that are bought and kept in a vault until the next auction, are musicallty worthless until they are put into the hands of a musical artist.

Preston

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Based on what I have read the differences between the Stradivari and Guarneri Del Jesu approach to instrument making is not all demographics. Stradivari did have sufficient wealth to take his time and pick his material without rushing for the benefit of bill collectors. But he had tremendous self-discipline and implaccable standards or workmanship which were self imposed. He did not have to be so exacting to get the business. This work ethic also shows in the fact that there are so many of his violins comparatively and that he was making them at nearly the same level of quality into his 90's. Guarneri Del Jesu did not have the same commercial freedom but also differed greatly in temperment about the work as well. So there are fewer instruments and they are not as pretty but the individuality is certainly present in the sound. I just want Stradivari to get the credit he deserves for insisting on great work both in looks and sound above and beyond making nice violins for the well heeled.

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  • 1 month later...

: That was the point of my value vs cost add-on. The original post equated value with price, not worth in any other terms. Objects which are not for sale (and will never likely be in this case being national treasures of stable countries) are difficult to evaluate since until someone actually puts down the cash it is largely speculation. The Messiah is generally held to be the perfect Stradivarious in what I believe to be ideal condition. I wonder if the Cannon has suffered from disuse since Paganini left it. What is the 'value' of any great work of art? Is any instrument, scupture or painting really worth as much as a small third world country as things are now heading in the hands of art collectors and speculators? It is the old fight between "priceless", the irreplaceable essence of an individual genius and the fact that at certain time and place the object in fact has a price. Material vs spiritual values. The only good that comes of it is that expensive things are usually well cared for. In the case of violins possibly too well since they should be played and the hoarder is inclined to keep his loot locked away for safekeeping until the next auction. I would like to think that the most valuable violin in existence would be the one capable of making the best music in the proper hands. But the post is really talking about the antique trade not art.

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  • 2 weeks later...

: That was the point of my value vs cost add-on. The original post equated value with price, not worth in any other terms. Objects which are not for sale (and will never likely be in this case being national treasures of stable countries) are difficult to evaluate since until someone actually puts down the cash it is largely speculation. The Messiah is generally held to be the perfect Stradivarious in what I believe to be ideal condition. I wonder if the Cannon has suffered from disuse since Paganini left it. What is the 'value' of any great work of art? Is any instrument, scupture or painting really worth as much as a small third world country as things are now heading in the hands of art collectors and speculators? It is the old fight between "priceless", the irreplaceable essence of an individual genius and the fact that at certain time and place the object in fact has a price. Material vs spiritual values. The only good that comes of it is that expensive things are usually well cared for. In the case of violins possibly too well since they should be played and the hoarder is inclined to keep his loot locked away for safekeeping until the next auction. I would like to think that the most valuable violin in existence would be the one capable of making the best music in the proper hands. But the post is really talking about the antique trade not art.

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