Wednesday, April 05, 2000

Valuable violin goes to auction

Taft Stradivarius has local history

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It may not be The Red Violin, but if the Stradivarius known as The Taft could talk, it would have local stories to tell.

        The rare violin with Cincinnati ties and red-gold varnish will go on the auction block at Christie's East in New York on May 5. It is expected to bring $1 million to $1.5 million. That's a conservative guess, experts say.

        The famous Kreutzer Strad sold for $1.6 million in 1998. A violin belonging to Yehudi Menuhin by another maker, Guarneri del Gesu, sold for a record $6 million last fall.

        Antonio Stradivari made the violin in Cremona, Italy, in 1700, at the beginning of his “golden period.” Anna Sinton Taft (wife of Charles P. Taft) purchased it in 1915 for Emil Heermann, concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra (1910-46).

        The Taft Strad, also known as Ex Emil Heermann, is part of a group of instruments and bows being auctioned from the collection of Jacques Francais, a New York dealer. The current owner is identified only as “a gentleman.” The violin is in mint condition.

        A fine violin is “like a fine automobile,” said Timothy Lees, CSO concertmaster. “The better the automobile, the better it responds and the more freedom you have to do what you like with it.” A Stradivarius will produce a distinctive, bright sound that projects well, he said.

        “We can wax endlessly about how beautiful it is and how radiant the varnish is, but the real value of it is its tone,” said Kerry Keane, international head of Christie's Musical Instruments department and appraiser on PBS's Antiques Roadshow. “It's meant to be played.”


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