Seven precious violins have been on display in the rooms of the Museo Stradivariano – two Antonio Stradivaris, one Nicolò Amati, one Giuseppe Guarneri “filius Andreae”, one Giuseppe Guarneri “del Gesù”, one Ferdinando Gagliano and one Giovanni Battista Guadagnini – as well as five historical bows, on loan from Eva, Lawrence and Terence Lam. The Lam Collection was started in the 60s by Sau-Wing Lam, who was born in Shanghai in 1923.
He graduated in Business Administration at the St. John’s University of Shanghai and subsequently became chairman of a large import-export company, after emigrating to New York in 1948. He was a great enthusiast of music, an amateur violinist and viola player and a refined connoisseur of hand-made stringed instruments, in particular of the Cremonese classical school, specifically Amati, of which he possessed an entire quartet. Following to his death in 1988, the collection was inherited by his four children.
The family lent some of the instruments on the occasion of historical exhibitions promoted by the Stradivari Foundation. After having appreciated both the city and the initiatives undertaken in the field of violin making, Eva, Lawrence and Terence Lam generously agreed to transfer their collection from New York to Cremona. The instruments can be used for concerts, exhibitions and other initiatives in other parts of the world as well, subject to the owners’ prior consent. Eva Lam, in particular, decided to lend the Antonio Stradivari “Scotland University” to the virtuoso violinist Sergej Krylov: together they are now extraordinary ambassadors of the city and of the Friends of Stradivari network.
Si-Hon Ma was a solist and teacher inspired by extraordinary passion and lively intellectual curiosity. He performed on this Stradivari for almost his entire career, a Stradivari owned by Joseph Joachim, another great virtuoso of the 19th century.
The two maestros are united by a similar artistic path: Si-Hon Ma teachers – Alfred Wittenberg and Richard Burgin – were both students to Joachim. Furthermore Si-Hon Ma purchased the Stradivari owned by the famous Ungarian violinist on August 15, 1967, the 60th anniversary of the death of the Maestro.
The instrument had not been played in a concert for all that time. Some media wrote: “This wonderful instrument, with its complex yet sensitive and symbolic connotation, is a final gift from the old Maestro to his dearest student”. Some critics defined Si-Hon Ma “Joachim’s musical heir”. A friend of Sau-Wing Lam, Si-Hon Ma was also born near Canton, China, on April 3rd, 1925. He left China in 1948 to enrol at the New England Conservatory (USA), receiving a Masters degree in 1950 and the Artists Diploma in 1952.
In 1951 he received the Heifetz Award. He was professor of music and performed in numerous concerts, quite often in duet with his wife, the pianist Tung Kwong-Kwong. He also invented a new mute for stringed instruments, which was given the name “The Si-Hon Mute”. In 1971 he started promoting chamber music concerts in New York City. The first editions were performed in the Chinese School in Chinatown, but because of their popularity and the growing number of enthusiasts they soon moved to the Schimmel Auditorium and the Merkin Hall, near Lincoln Center.
The famous US automobile tycoon, Henry Ford, can be considered a “friend of Stradivari”. A passionate amateur violinist, in 1925 he bought six valuable instruments produced by the traditional Cremonese violin making school: one Guarneri “del Gesù”’, one Amati, three Stradivaris and one Carlo Bergonzi. Biographers report that he would play them for hours.
These instruments are currently kept at the Henry Ford Museum of Dearborn, Michigan (USA), (http://www.thehenryford.org), a point of reference for American culture, where the history of the country can be seen and touched. The Museum – with its iconic pieces, including a rare reproduction of the Declaration of Independence and the bus in which Rosa Parks started the battle for civil rights – encompasses ideas and experiences of men and women who gave a positive contribution to society, thanks to their courage and spirit of innovation.
This ethical will of sharing values – not only in the field of arts – made it possible for Cremona to receive Carlo Bergonzi’s “Ackroyd, Ford” for a long lasting exhibition. The chance to directly admire the work of the last great Maestro of the Cremonese violin making school is itself a rather unique event. In fact only 47 of his instruments have survived over
“When I was a boy, playing on what we call at home an “Amati” or a “Stradivari” (labels only), could I ever believed that one day I would have had the largest collection of Cremonese instruments in the world”. Instead, the passion for antique violins led Herbert and Evelyn Axelrod to collect many masterpieces which had one thing in common: before they were purchased, they were all examined and approved by great soloists. As his owner has remarked with some pride “I have chosen for my collection only instruments which play exceedingly well”. Herbert Axelrod studied violin with his father Aaron, a violin teacher in Bayonne, New Jersey (USA), but he gave up his career as a musician in order to dedicate himself to scientific studies. After graduating at high school in 1944, he entered the Army and continued his studies in the biomedical field. In 1950 he was sent to Korea where, in order to exercise his wounded hands with typing, he began to write a treatise on tropical aquarium fishes: the book was published and sold more than one million copies. He received his Ph D. Degree in Epidemiology and, in 1952, started teaching at New York University. In those years he also started his publishing activity and soon became the largest publisher of animal and pet books in the world.
Together with his wife, he started to collect antique bowed instruments, most of them by Cremonese makers. He loaned and often donated his instruments to promising soloists, important orchestras and prestigious museums.
In 2003 Evelyn and Herbert Axelrod offered Mayor Paolo Bodini an extraordinary gift for the City of Cremona: the “Clisbee” violin, made by Antonio Stradivari.
The Domenichini family lives in Milano but has its origin in Bologna. It is consisting in Paolo, graduated engineer, Maria Vittoria and sons Ruggero and Roberto.
In the thirties an uncle of Paolo, landowner and collector of objects of art, by chanses had an information of the possibility of buying a guitar that had the unmistakable mark of Antonio Stradivari and was dated 1679. A dealer in Bologna, G. Bagnoli had tried to sell it to the newly born Stradivari Museum, but they had not reached an agreement, therefore the guitar was available on the market and our uncle probably arrived in the wright place at the wright moment. At the uncle’s death, Paolo’s mother, first-born of the family, was given the guitar. Not being possible in those times to obtain informations about Antonio Stradivari’s guitars, the family hardly tried to find experts who could give it its importance. The most important results were : meeting
in 1948 in Bologna Andres Segovia who signed the guitar inside the body and the exhibition in Milano in 1984 that let the scientific world know about the guitar by the analysis done by Gianpaolo Gregori, afterward resumed by Stewart Pollens. The guitar was identified by the name of Sabionari.
Under a sequence of unlucky circumstances the Domenichini family was unconscious of these analyses and in the next twenty six years, though keeping it with the best care, they stopped to make further researches. Finally, in 2010, Roberto Domenichini, son of Paolo, decided to resume the rechearches, finding out the studies of Gregori and Pollens. Roberto has always been a deep lover of guitar, and in its youth he had studied classic guitar. His rechearches raised a new interest in him for ancient music for guitar and he learned to play it. His dream was always been that the Sabionari guitar could play again : it would have been the first in the world to make the Stradivari sound to be heard. This dream has been made reality by a restoration by the french experts Sinier de Ridder and has revealed a wonderful sound. Roberto, who is an informatic engineer has also created the site : www.sabionari.com in which he has gathered all the informations and mentioned the events of the guitar including the videos he shot of the artists who accepted to play the guitar. Furthermore he has collaborated with musicians to set the sound and organized the recording of a CD : the first of a Stradivari guitar in the world.
Beare Violins Ltd is a family company run by Charles Beare and Peter Beare. It was founded by John and his son Arthur Beare in 1892 and incorporated as J&A Beare Ltd by William Beare in 1954. It flourished under the directorship of William and then Charles Beare, becoming renowned for its care and expertise in looking after musicians and their instruments. In 1998 the firm changed its name to Beare Violins Ltd and had a less public presence until 2015. Beare Violins Ltd now concentrates largely on providing certificates for owners of fine old instruments, signed by Charles Beare. Charles Beare’s expertise and passion for instruments has led to the exhibition in Cremona of many fine instruments, including some from Beare Violins Ltd’s own collection. As Chairman of the Scientific Committee he played a large part in organising the Stradivari Exhibition of 1987, and he was made an honorary citizen of Cremona in 1988. Charles and his son Peter, a violin maker & restorer, have been involved in other exhibitions as members of the Scientific Committee, and have also been members of the jury at the Cremona Triennale violin making competitions. They both delight in helping others to be able to appreciate and learn from great Italian instruments of the violin family.
The Glinka national museum consortium of Musical Culture, Moscow, is both an unique collection of musical relics and instruments and an important Institute of research and education. The Museum guards, studies and displays “musical masterpieces”. It is possible to admire rare and precious musical instruments, handwritten and printed scores, musical items from all around the world. In 1995 the President of the Russian Foundation released a decree, where he registered the Museum among the most important testaments of the cultural heritage of the Russian Federation.
The present Ashmolean Museum was created in 1908 by combining two ancient Oxford institutions: the University of Art Collection and the original Ashmolean Museum. The Ashmolean Museum is the oldest public museum in Britain. It houses the University of Oxford’s unrivalled collection of art and antiquities from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Three centuries and more of unbroken history render the Ashmolean one of the most venerable institutions of its kind in the world. When, in 1683, Elias Ashmole endowed the University of Oxford with the already famous Tradescant collection, many of the exhibits had by that time been on display for fifty years, extending the origins of the collection to the very threshold of the Stuart era. The history of the Museum has been very eventful. The ensuing century saw the Museum’s fortunes rise, fall and rise again to culminate in its refounding as the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology as the result of the tireless energy of Sir Arthur Evans (Keeper 1884-1908) and powerful patrons.