Some dozen years ago, a London plutocrat who had studied at the Royal College of Music invited me to his bedroom. He shut the door behind us. Bending low, he reached under the bed and extracted a violin case, which he reverentially opened.
‘Know what this is?’ he demanded. I could see what was coming.
‘It’s the Vieuxtemps Guarnerius del Jesu.’
I knew enough about the fiddle trade to appreciate the name drop. The Vieuxtemps, built in 1741, took its name from the great 19th century Belgian virtuoso. It was later played by Yehudi Menuhin and Itzhak Perlman. For the past 50 years or so, it has been privately – silently – owned in London, kept mostly under a bed.
Three years ago it was put up for sale at an asking price of $18 million. That was about twice as much as has ever been paid for a pedigree violin. It failed, as they say, to find an early buyer.
Now, however, the London firm of J&A Beares have sold it for an undisclosed – though, they say, world record – amount. The previous top was the ‘Lady Blunt’ Strad, sold in 2011 for $14.2 million (plus auction commission).
The new owner wants it to be played. he has chosen as artist to bring it back into play for the rest of her life.
She is Anne Akiko Meyers. Here is her first public performance 0n the instrument last month, unreleased until tonight.
You read – and heard – it here first.