Former diplomat Desmond Cecil CMG lately revealed his memoir, The Wandering Official of Stradivarius, during which he particulars his time as knowledgeable violinist.
My spouse’s aunt, Emmie Hess, a superb cellist with whom I’ve performed quartets, kindly gave me a violin made by the dean of the Cremonese luthier Gio Batta Morassi in 1974. It’s modeled on the Stradivari “Cremonese violin” From 1715, now within the museum of Cremona del Violino. In 2004 I used to be in Cremona and confirmed it to Morassi himself, which he was very comfortable to see. The violin remains to be in an exquisite situation, virtually new, the tone is brilliant and resonant and improves on a regular basis with taking part in.
After many comfortable years with my stunning Guadagnini 1754, I made a decision to make one final change in my violinist life, earlier than previous age units in. That is why, in 2001, I began trying round on the violin sellers in Europe, lots of whom I had identified through the years. I’ve seen and tried many positive devices together with the Stradivari 1720 ‘Rochester’, 1669 ‘Clisbee’, circa 1718 ‘Szekely’, 1716 ‘Milstein’ and 1722 ‘de Chaponay’ (which I had identified a half century earlier when it had belonged to my fellow pupil from Rostal, the American Larry Homolka, son of the illustrious actor Oscar), in addition to violins by Bergonzi, Guarneri, and many others. – most of which had been nicely above my value vary.
Lastly, I noticed in Beares a Stradivari from 1724, which was little identified, not in any of the most important reference books, and which had not been performed significantly for a few years, having been with a household within the north of Italy for the reason that starting of the nineteenth century. In consequence, the sound was considerably useless – a widely known soloist had performed it with restricted outcomes – however I figured I may repair it in time. As well as, because it had been in a picket crate for thus a few years, it had been attacked by woodworms, as usually occurred with these previous devices, primarily within the desk, however fortunately hardly in any respect in any respect. ‘again.
Nevertheless, the attractive golden purple glaze, particularly on the again, and the trim of the woodwork – corners, threads, F-holes, edges and volute – had been nonetheless extremely “recent” and pure. It must be famous particularly that the varnish had not been polished or touched up, as occurred with many nice violins, particularly within the nineteenth century, however remained fairly because the grasp had completed it. The scroll particularly confirmed very clear indicators that the violin had been made totally by Stradivari himself – even with a number of slips of the chisel for which we are able to forgive Antonio, 80 – quite than accomplished by his sons Omobono or Francesco, as usually occurred with a few of his devices in his later years.
The violin has been totally licensed by the dean of the violin commerce, Charles Beare, as ‘completely genuine’ together with the unique 1724 label from Stradivari ”Antonius Stradiuarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno 1724– and its “misspelling” corrected later with a “u” quite than a “v”. We additionally had papers of authenticity from Alfred Hill from the good Hill household of violin specialists, who described it as’very genuine ‘, and the well-known French luthier Charles-Eugène Gand of Paris, who had skillfully restored the injury brought on by woodworms in 1887 and really clearly describes this 1724 violin in his Descriptive catalog of the devices of Stradivari and Guarnerius del Gesù (Twenty years of experience of a terrific Parisian luthier; 1870-1891) – ‘Backside of two items. Fairly head. Golden purple varnish ‘.
We additionally discovered a possible reference to this violin within the Catalogo from 1808 by the well-known Italian collector Comte Cozio di Salabue, who praised its building and polish, and his “ very robust, virtually tenor voice – for his uncommon voice [it is worth] 140 luigi ‘. The Earl’s writings are nonetheless notoriously complicated to interpret, however to date we’ve not discovered another Stradivari from 1724 that matches his description.
Along with Charles Beare, revered British luthiers comparable to John Dilworth had no doubts about its purity and authenticity, which has additionally been broadly confirmed by knowledgeable dendrochronological evaluation by Peter Ratcliff. He mentioned the wooden for the desk was from the identical interval because the well-known 1723-1726 Stradivari violins, such because the 1723/1725 “ Duke of Edinburgh ”, 1725 “ Hammig ”, 1726 “ Hilton ” ‘and 1724’ Abergavenny ‘, and certainly most likely got here from the identical tree. The violin was from Stradivari’s late interval, when he was 80 – and he nonetheless had 13 years of his skilled life to do – with the marginally darker tone of this later interval a lot wanted by nice soloists. It was comprised of his PG (greater) and, at 356mm, was a cushty size for me.
Learn: The Stradivarius “ Cecil ” of 1724 – an invisible and unheard-of masterpiece
Learn: Desmond Cecil: My time with violinist Max Rostal
Only a few Stradivaris from 1724 are identified, most notably the favourite Stradivari of the good Spanish violinist Pablo de Sarasate, which is now on everlasting show on the Musee de la Musique in Paris – and which we consider Cozio refers to in his Catalogo from 1818, with a yellow varnish and valuing it at a barely lower cost of 130 zucchini. Its look is just like mine, though some specialists eg John Dilworth say mine is best preserved – regardless of woodworm restoration. Of the 2 Stradivaris of 1724 described in his Catalogo, Rely Cozio most well-liked the one which, in our opinion, refers to mine.
Because of the considerably useless sound, injury to the restored woodworms, and the truth that it was comparatively unknown, the value was much less dire than it may have been with a extra well-known instrument. In consequence, after the inevitable monetary juggling, together with the extension of the mortgage on our home, I took a danger and acquired it in 2004. As I had hoped, after a number of years the sound is. returned to its authentic glory. The G and E strings had all the time been robust sufficient, however the higher elements of the D and A strings had been much less so. I placed on low-tension strings, to permit the previous wooden (a violin is comprised of some 70 items of wooden) to vibrate extra totally, and a revered native luthier, David Hume, placed on a barely extra resonant bridge. In any other case, I did nothing however play very recurrently – and naturally study the strategy of easy methods to coax, quite than power, the sound of a Stradivari. Full resonance was restored on all strings, and he regained the wonderful Nachklang (persistent tone) for which these devices are well-known.
The Wandering Official of Stradivarius is revealed by Quartet Books and obtainable on Amazon and Waterstones. The creator has determined to donate all royalties to creative charities, particularly to assist younger musicians, who want all the assistance they’ll get these days.