Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Violin Lore

While searching for information about a Waltz by Mischa Levitzki, transcribed for violin and piano by Sascha Jacobsen, I came across this bit of violin lore on Jacobsen's instrument. This page has a magnificent story which I will quote here:

On Jan. 16, 1953, as a violent rainstorm pelted Los Angeles, Sascha Jacobsen, concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, was driving along the coastal highway to Pacific Palisades, the Red Diamond in its case beside him. His car stalled near Santa Monica and water from an overflowing stream began to surround the vehicle and fill it up. Seeking to escape the flood, Jacobsen grasped his violin case, stepped from the car into the rising waters and struggled through the torrent to higher ground. The Red Diamond was swept from his arms and out to sea as he barely made his way to safety. He watched, helpless, as the violin case floated away.

The next day, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, Frederick H. Sturdy, was walking along the beach of the Bel Air country club and spotted a violin case stuck in the sand. Inside the case he found slime, sand, water--and the pieces of a violin. By amazing coincidence, Sturdy was a friend of Alfred Wallenstein, music director of the Philharmonic. When he learned the following day of Jacobsen's disaster and the loss of the Red Diamond, Sturdy immediately contacted Wallenstein. Identified as the lost Strad, the salt water-logged and sand-encrusted violin parts were entrusted to Hans Weisshaar, an outstanding luthier. Over the next nine months, Weisshaar painstakingly restored the violin, returning it to its former glory...both in tone and appearance, Jacobsen later wrote in appreciation. He told friends the Red Diamond sounded better than ever.

In 1971, a few years after Jacobsen's death, the Red Diamond was sold at auction by Sotheby's in London for $67,600--far more than it was insured for at the time of its ocean ordeal. The violin was put on the auction block by Sotheby's again in 1985, with an asking price of more than $1 million, but was not sold at that time. A few years later, an anonymous collector purchased it privately for an undisclosed sum--surely paying as much for the magic of its reincarnation as for its other exemplary attributes.

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