Backstage comparison between the Vesuvius and his own violin by Shlomo Mintz (video)
The Stradivari Vesuvius belongs to the latest period in which the legendary violin maker Antonio Stradivari still handcrafted his instruments. Yet, although he was already more than 80 years old, and his hands had no more the same precision that they used to have in his beautiful mature age, this violin keeps the qualities of the instruments which characterized Stradivari’s best period, that is considered between 45 and 75. So until 1715, although the price record for selling a Stradivari refers to a violin manufactured in 1721, sold through an auction in 2011 in Cremona for $15.821.265, as reported from Tarisio, the auction house which managed the sale.
From Australia back to Europe
Apparently, the violin owes his name to the Parisien luthier Ernest Macoutel, who gave to the violin the name “Vesuvius” around 1935. We have very confusing information about this violin and its possible owners until 1920 when the violin left Australia to come back to Europe, brought by William Ebsworth Hill, a noted London violin maker and founder of the firm W. E. Hill & Sons.
Hill sold in 1930 the violin to Ernest Macoutel, a renown luthier based in Paris, who gave to this violin the surname of “Vesuvius”; the motivation is not clear, but probably it was a tribute to the sound features of the violin.
In 1937 Macoutel sold the violin to a Russian violinist, Jan Hamburg, who was a disciple of the famous Belgian violinist and composer Eugene Ysaye. He kept the violin only for one year and then sold it to another violinist, the Spanish Antonio Brosa, on March 28, 1940. Brosa opened his international career playing the Vesuvius at the New York’s Carnegie Hall, and kept the violin for 28 years, before leaving it to the English Remo Lauricella. Lauricella had Italian parents, and he left the violin tied with an “in legato” act to the city of Cremona.
After Lauricella died in 2003, the violin came into the possession of the Cremona city community, but there were still inheritance taxes to be paid to the English revenue authorities. The Cremona community started a fundraising campaign to collect the money, having an enthusiast response from the citizens, so that the requested amount was quickly reached and paid. After being around the world for almost three centuries, on November 3rd, 2005 the Stradivari Vesuvius left England to come back home, where he can be visited as part of the collection “Gli Archi di Palazzo Comunale” in the Cremona Violin Museum.
Stradivari Vesuvius at Cremona Mondo Musica
Many already know that for about 250 years, from the mid-16th century to the late 1700s, Cremona, that little town on the banks of the river Po was a music-making capital. It was the birthplace not only of Antonio Stradivari, the still unsurpassed master luthier but also, arguably, of the modern violin itself and of a series of craftsmen who made some of the most beautiful-sounding stringed instruments known to man. Today Cremona remains a hub of musical excellence, with around 250 violin-makers crafting new instruments for some of the world's most exacting customers. In 2013, their work was inscribed on Unesco's list of intangible cultural heritage.
One of the most important music events in Cremona is the annual “Cremona Mondo Musica”, an international exhibition for handcrafted instruments. Dozens of superb instruments are shown by their creators; you can find guitars, pianos and string instruments, a selection of fine woods on sale for instrument making, and of course violins, which are still the most attractive feature of the fair.
Put the Vesuvius in the hands of a Maestro and this is what you get
During the event in October 2016, the renowned violinist Shlomo Mintz received a prize for his career, and he was requested to try and give his opinion about the Stradivari Vesuvius. In this exclusive video by Cicerone Music & Art you can see him, half an hour before going to the official prizing ceremony, making a very interesting step by step comparison between his own instrument and the Stradivari Vesuvius. Your comments about this rare opportunity are much appreciated. Also, find below the technical sheet of the Stradivari Vesuvius.
Original label: "Antonio Stradivarius, Cremonensis / faciebat Anno 1727"
Scroll: by Nicolas Lupot
Ribs: upper right rib is a replacement
Length of back: 35.7 cm
Upper bouts: 16.65 cm
Middle bouts: 10.8 cm
Lower bouts: 20.6 cm