A perfectly-preserved violin by the 18th century Venetian violin maker Domenico Montagnana has been bought for a world record price at auction by the violinist and conductor Jaime Laredo.
The violin, which had been offered with an auction estimate of £250,000 - £400,000 made a hammer price of £510,000 which, including buyer’s premium, scaled up to the world record price for the maker of £630,000. In total twelve potential buyers made serious bids for the violin – six on the telephone and six in the saleroom – with the excitement tangible when it sold to Laredo whose representative was bidding anonymously on the telephone.
“It’s a sensational result for Brompton’s,” says its director Peter Horner. “And the previous owner, Dr Bertrand Jacobs, is over the moon that the violin is coming back to America as he’ll be able to go and hear it.”
Laredo, currently musical director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, tried the violin in London shortly before the sale and, reports Horner, immediately fell in love with the sound. He was also a friend of Joseph Roisman, who owned the violin until 1962 when he was first violin with the Budapest String Quartet. Although Laredo plays a Stradivari violin, the Montagnana will be a valuable addition to his collection as its powerful and dark sound, which has much in common with the sound of a Guarneri del Gesú, will contrast starkly with the finer, golden tone of his main concert instrument.
The violin was in an unusually good state of preservation. It also retained its original label – a sign of authenticity, as well as an indicator of the amount of restoration work an instrument has sustained over its lifetime. Montagnana violins are notoriously difficult to play; hard to sound, but producing a rich, sonorous tone when mastered by the right player. His cellos are also particularly highly prized, and players who own or have owned one include Yo-Yo Ma, Heinrich Schiff, Ralph Kirshbaum and Steven Isserlis.