News / Arts & Entertainment

Sale of Rare Stradivari Viola Could Set World Auction Record

Violist David Aaron Carpenter of the U.S. holds the 'Macdonald' Viola by Antonio Stradivari, made in 1719, at Sotheby's gallery in New York, March 27, 2014.
Violist David Aaron Carpenter of the U.S. holds the 'Macdonald' Viola by Antonio Stradivari, made in 1719, at Sotheby's gallery in New York, March 27, 2014.
Reuters
A rare Stradivari viola, considered to be one of the finest in existence, is expected to fetch more than $45 million in a sealed bids sale this spring, which would set a world record for the most expensive musical instrument ever sold.

The 'MacDonald' Viola, made by the famed Italian artisan Antonio Stradivari in 1719, is the first to be on the market in 50 years, according to Sotheby's auction house. It is also one of only two Stradivari violas still privately owned. The other is held in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

"Stradivari is the greatest violin maker of all time," said Tim Ingles, director of the London-based fine instruments auction house Ingles & Hayday, which is conducting the sale with Sotheby's.

"The amazing thing about violas is that there is such a small number of them in existence - only 10 complete violas today, so there is a huge rarity factor," he added in an interview with Reuters.

Because of the caliber and status of the instrument, a sealed bid sale with a minimum bid of $45 million was decided as the best way to combine the exclusive feel of a private sale with the excitement of an auction. The highest bidder will be announced on June 25.

The world auction price for a musical instrument is $15.9 million, which was set in an online auction in June 2011 for the 'Lady Blunt' Stradivari violin of 1721.

Holy Grail for Music Instrument Collectors

Stradivari instruments, with their rich, deep sounds, sell for millions of dollars and have been beloved by legendary musicians for centuries.

Born in Cremona, Italy in 1644, Stradivari had an extraordinary 70-year career. In addition to violins and violas, he also made lutes, mandolins, guitars and harps before dying in 1737 at the age of 93.

"The finest of all Stradivari violas is generally agreed to be the 'Macdonald' of 1719," said Ingles. "A Stradivari viola has always been, I suppose, the holy grail for a collector of musical instruments."

The 'Macdonald' was also made during what is considered to be Stradivari's Golden Period between 1700-1720 and is immaculately preserved. Its value had been further enhanced by renowned 19th century violinist Niccolo Paganini, who put together string quartets of Stradivari instruments consisting of two violins, a viola and a cello.

"As the violas have gradually disappeared over the last 100 years into foundations and public collections and the number of Stradivari violas held in private hands decreased it has become increasing difficult for anyone to form a quartet," Ingles explained.

The viola's front is made of alpine spruce, while the back is a single piece of maple. Its coating of Stradivari's famous varnish, thought by some experts to contribute to his instruments' sound, is undamaged.

"Stradivari was really a genius of design but there are a number of factors which influence the sound of an instrument.

The shape, the thickness of the plates, the archings of the instrument. These are all things that Stradivari spent decades perfecting," said Ingles.

The viola is being sold by the family of Peter Schidlof of the famed Amadeus Quarter, who bought it in 1964. It is called the 'Macdonald' because it was purchased in the 1820s by Godfrey Bosville, the 3rd Baron Macdonald.

You May Like

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

Country-pop singer, Lizzie Sider sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to perform songs from her new album, “Butterfly,” and to talk about her anti-bullying tour.

Blogs

African Music Treasures