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The extraordinary story of an ancient violin - the Stradivarius 'Molitor'
The violin is a fascinating instrument full of secrets that are hidden not only in their woods, in the sound box and in the parts that compose it or in the expert hands of the luthiers who have built them with dedication and talent. The violin fascinates and inspires the musicians when they guide the bow on the strings, but also the audience, enchanted by the magical sound of the violin.

Among the finest violins in the world there are those built by the famous Cremonese violin makers Antonio Stradivari (Cremona 1644 - 1737) and Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù (Cremona 1698 - 1744).

Some of them have an amazing history, like it Stradivarius 'Molitor'

Belonged (probably) to Napoleon, passed to the most beautiful 'femme de lettres' in France, it owes its name to a general. Kept for thirty years under the bed of an amateur violinist in Northern Ireland, it has resonated in American concert halls in the hands of three different violinists, and his voice is enshrined on numerous records. Auctioned in 2010, it reached a record € 2.7 million, then the highest amount ever paid for a musical instrument. Created by Antonio Stradivari over 300 years ago, it crossed the ocean twice, and is now in Russia, in the impressive collection of an influential philanthropist and public figure.

The Stradivari Molitor is an ancient violin made by Antonio Stradivari in 1697, at the beginning of the so-called 'golden period' of the Cremonese master. It bears the label “Antonius Stradivarius Cremonensis / Faciebat Anno 1697”.

Sold at auction in 2010, it reached a staggering 2 million seven hundred thousand euros. To buy it, the American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers, subdued by the charm of the instrument: “It was love at the first note”, declared the musician. "Its power, sensitivity and color range are extraordinary."

It is an instrument that has a particularly fascinating history, sometimes romantic:

The precious violin seems to have even belonged to Napoleon Bonaparte, but no details are known. Later it is found among the assets of the famous and beautiful 'femme de lettres' Juliette Récamier (famous is the painting by David that depicts her, now in the Louvre). His Parisian salon, known throughout Europe, was frequented by the major celebrities of the political, literary and artistic world. Madame Recamier (1777 - 1849) also owned another precious Stradivarius from 1727, and both instruments in 1804 passed to Count Gabriel Jean Joseph Molitor, general of the Napoleonic army, then Marshal of France (1823) and probable amateur of music. After his death in 1849 the violins remained in his family for almost seventy years, until the First World War. 

The Stradivarius of 1697, which took its name from the general, passed through the hands of the famous Parisian merchants Caressa & Français first and then Charles Enel, and in 1929 it was acquired by the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. It remained in the collection of the Institute - which allowed it to be used by the most promising students - until 1936, and it was marked 'Curtis Phila' from this period. on the lower rib.

Other changes of ownership brought the Cremonese violin back to Europe, first to England, where it became part of the precious collection of Robert A. Bower, in Somerset. Bower, one of the greatest connoisseurs and collectors of his time, owned more than twenty Stradivari, including instruments called La Pucelle of 1709 and The Lady Blunt of 1721 (see below).

In 1957 the instrument landed in Northern Ireland - in fact it was bought for an unknown amount, by the brothers William and Muriel Anderson, cultural entertainers and amateur musicians of good level residing in the ancient Irish city of Derry (Londonderry ). It remained their property for about thirty years, and we know that Muriel played it in concerts organized with the local Cathedral Orchestra and later with the Londonderry Amateur Operatic Society. When not in concert, the precious violin was kept in the place that William Anderson incredibly considered the safest hiding place, under the bed of their home on Aberfoyle Terrace, fortunately spared from the damage of the Northern Irish conflict.

On the death of her brother in 1988, in accordance with his wishes, Muriel Anderson generously donated the Stradivarius to the Red Cross, which through the auction through Christie's was able to forfeit the considerable sum of £ 195,000.

The violin returned to make its extraordinary voice heard in large concert halls and recording studios: the American musician Elmar Oliveira (* 1950) bought it at the London auction, the only American violinist to be awarded the First Prize at the prestigious Moscow Tchaikovsky Competition (1978, ex aequo with Ilya Grubert). During his prestigious career, Oliveira played and recorded with the 'Molitor' until 1994, when he decided to exchange the instrument with the Guarneri del Gesù violin owned by his colleague Albert Stern.

Albert Stern (* 1936) has in turn recorded two albums with the Stradivarius ('The Road to Love, with the London City Symphony, recorded in the famous Abbey Road Studios, and' The Road to Love II: Classic Embrace 'with songs from Bach to Tchaikovsky), before selling it at auction in 2010.

Sold by the Tarisio auction house, specialized in string instruments and based entirely on online auctions, it totaled a record figure of 3.6 million dollars, the highest auction price ever paid for a musical instrument until the sale of the ' Lady Blunt '(still a Stradivarius) in 2011.

The buyer, American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers played the 'Molitor' for the first time in public in October 2010 in a concert with the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra.

Anne Akiko Meyers has been playing another precious violin since 2012, the Ex-Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesù, dated 1741, while the 'Molitor' is now in Russia, in the largest private collection of musical instruments in the country, that of the philanthropist, character public and collector Maxim Viktorov, who bought it in 2014.

After more than three centuries, the instrument created by the art of Antonio Stradivari continues its journey through history. 

Anne Akiko Meyers images are made by DAVID ZENTZ is MOLINA VISUALS

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