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The world on a string

Author Jacqueline Detwiler Illustration Sam Brewster


The sound of a Stradivarius violin is so world-renowned that luthier Antonio Stradivari’s hands are said to have been guided by God. Few have ever heard one of these heavenly instruments, which were made in Cremona, Italy, but that will change at this month’s “Strad Fest”—four days (March 26–29) of events sponsored by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during which eight of the violins, collectively worth more than $25 million, will be played and displayed. Here are a few of the stops that four of these masterpieces have taken on their way to the venue.


“Serdet”  Stradivarius
The earliest known Stradivarius violin, which still bears its original label with the year 1666, was given its name when it was bought in 1900 in the Paris shop of Paul Serdet. Last summer, it was featured at the first significant Antonio Stradivari exhibit to be held at the Ashmolean Museum
in Oxford, England.

“Titian” Stradivarius
Named by a French violin dealer who said its orange-red color reminded him of the paintings of Titian, this instrument found its way to Boston in 1872. It was owned from 1924 to 1926 by Cincinnati, Ohio’s famed Rudolph Wurlitzer Company. It is currently in the hands of Cho-Liang Lin, who played it during a residency with the Shanghai Symphony.

“Milstein” Stradivarius
This violin was owned by Harry Wahl, an Olympic sailor in Viborg, Finland, until his death in 1940, then played in London and other European cities for nearly 40 years by virtuoso Nathan Milstein. It now resides in Pasadena, Calif., and is owned by philanthropists Jerry and Terri Kohl, who lend it to Los Angeles concertmasters.

“Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius
 The inspiration for the Academy Award–winning 1999 film The Red Violin, this instrument disappeared for nearly 200 years not long after it was crafted. It surfaced in Berlin in the 1930s. In 2005, current owner and violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn premiered a Swedish concerto on it in Helsingborg, Sweden.

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