This post originally appeared on the ‘fiddlefish.com’ blog. It’s here for archival purposes only.
Tarisio auction house, here in NYC, just blasted an email about their upcoming October auction which will feature a 1697 Strad. The Molitor. I just have to see this creation in person and maybe if they are permitting let me take her for a spin. Tarisio must be very excited to join the ranks of Christies and Bromptons with now having had a Strad on the books. Jason Price, current head there, explained that not only is this an amazing instrument, but an instrument of such fine state of preservation and provenance (perhaps owned by Napoleon Boneparte) just does not show up on the market any more. It’s a real historical event.
The pictures that Tarisio has on their website made me laugh. The Molitor looks like it was made yesterday! It’s incredible how some of these Strads can look like they just dried while having been around for 300 years. I took a violin making history class and Strad, I was told, had three very contrasting periods of design. He had his ’Amati’ period, his ’long-body’ (or Brescian) period, and his ’golden’ period. The first period spanned from 1666 - 1690 while he apprenticed with the Nicolo Amati. The ’long-body’ period Strads are apparently just that. The lengths are roughly the same as his other patterns, but the proportions of the body are such that they give a lean look to the violin. This is something that I have to see first-hand. I have seen pictures of the long-bodied Strads, but I don’t see what the experts are talking about. Perhaps I will understand this more after seeing the Molitor which falls in this period. Finally, Strad had a golden period from 1700 until his death in 1737.
It will be a thrill to report on seeing/playing this fiddle in the next week or two. I am excited but a little blue about how far-off I am from walking into an auction house or store as a serious potential buyer. In fact, every time I walk into a shop, I require an act to get close to what’s good — I act as if I am a fussy millionaire with excellent tastes — who can also play Paganini caprices. The jig is usually up when they see what’s in my case.