Tuesday, May 29, 2012

"Off to Violin Land" - A Stradivarius for Undershaw.

Antonius Stradivarius.

The Creator.

The Violin.

The Players.

This is the story of one violin.

Antonio Stradivari probably began producing his first decent musical instruments in 1660 at the age of 16. He would continue to do so until his death in 1737.

"Antonio Stradivari" by |Edgar Bundy, 1893.

The years 1700 t0 1720 are often termed "the golden period", and instruments dating from these years are considered his finest work.

Stradivari created what is now known as Number 287, in 1709. It is famed for its special tonal merit - and association with Wilma Norman-Neruda   and Sherlock Holmes.
'The Ernst' 287 1709 Stradivarius.

"In an earlier chapter, I referred to the first Straduarius violin that had ever come before me, and which had been shewn me by Ernst on the occasion of his first visit to Leeds early in the 'fifties. In order to shew how the lives of these famous fiddles may be traced, I give the following interesting account. Approaching one hundred years ago, two very fine specimens of Straduarius workmanship came into the possession of Mr. A. Fountaine, of Narford Hall, in Sussex. These two violins he kept in a double case, where they rested, side by side, for many years. Mr. Fountaine, a great enthusiast, was in the habit of inviting musical house-parties from London for the week-ends.

Among those who were most frequently invited was Ernst, and, as a great privilege, he was permitted to lead the quartet party or to play his solo contributions on one of these superb fiddles the one usually designated by Mr. Fountaine as his
"second best ;" the other instrument never being permitted to be used for playing purposes, but being lifted from the case merely for admiring glances. One memorable Sunday, Ernst played so exquisitely on the "Strad." lent him by his host, that Mr. Fountaine said he must use it regularly as his solo instrument, and straightway made the artist a gift of it. This was the violin shewn me by Ernst in 1852, and which he used till the day of his death. After passing through several hands, it was the one selected, twenty years later, by Madame Norman-Neruda, who was requiring such an instrument for her own concert performances. "
Some Early Musical Recollections of G. Haddock, George Haddock, Schott & Co., London, 1906
Lady Halle was the wife of Sir Charles Halle who founded his eponymous orchestra. At the time of A Study in Scarlet when Sherlock Holmes goes to her concert, she was known by her first husband's name, Neruda. She would own and play The Ernst 287 until 1911 and this is the very instrument Holmes would have so enjoyed.
The Ernst.

Holmes comments: “I want to go to HallĂ©’s concert to hear Norman Neruda this afternoon. . . . Her attack and bowing are splendid. What’s that little thing of Chopin’s she plays so magnificently: Tra-la-la-lara-lira lay.” Watson then adds in his own voice, “Leaning back in the cab, this amateur bloodhound caroled away like a lark while I meditated on the many-sidedness of the human mind."

The Ernst provenance has been painstakingly traced and details may be read here .

I can find no recording of Wilma Norman-Neruda BUT for your pleasure AND as today's #MusicofUndershaw selection I have this link to an all-too-brief, tantalising 22 seconds of beautiful music played by Ruggiero Ricci: Here is the 1709 Ernst Stradivarius Number 287 - the very instrument Sherlock Holmes heard in the talented hands of Wilma Norman-Neruda The Glory of Cremona .

Wilma Neruda.

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