It might be hard to imagine a small wooden box with a handle on it being worth AUS$10million – but when it’s a Guarneri violin the sound is priceless. The un-named benefactor of the Australian Chamber Orchestra obviously knows a thing or two about violins. They have to be played in order to keep their tone and suppleness. So rather than just keep it in a museum, the mystery buyer of this wonderful instrument has decided to share it with the world. And if it hasn’t been played for fifty years, its tone will just get better over the next several months as Richard Tognetti – lead violinist of the Australian Chamber Orchestra gives it a thorough workout on a tour starting next week. The Australian Chamber Orchestra is playing in Canberra on 10 Feb.

Guarneri violin

The instrument was made in 1743 by Guiseppe (Joseph) Guarneri (1698-1744) – known as del Gesu as he signed his violins with a cross and the initials IHS – the Greek abbreviation for Jesus. Guarneri label

The “Carrodus” violin – named for one of its owners, 19th century British violinist John Tiplady Carrodus (1836-1895) was one of the last of around 250 violins known by this maker. Around 100 of these violins survive today. Interestingly the Carrodus violin was made from timber from the same tree as another authenticated Guarneri violin known as ‘the canon’ for its big sound.

Guiseppe was the grandson of Andrea Guarneri who, like Antonio Stradivari had trained under Amati, and the two rival families had workshops just a street away from each other in Cremona, Italy – both families making superb instruments, each as good as each other. The Guarneri style stayed more true to the Amati design than did Stradivarius, and the Guarneri violins tended to be less refined in appearance, but richer in tone using a soft oil varnish.

The guarnerius design

What struck me when Tognetti played a little on ABC TV was the depth of tone in the lower strings, when compared with his own $300,000 instrument. There was really no comparison.

Here is another image of a Guarneri violin, similar to the Carrodus violin.

Guarneri violin

The thought of this instrument being played again is indeed a rare treat!