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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”