Last week my friends saw a touring violinist slurping soup in a noodle house. How did they know he was a violinist? He had the Stradivarius with him, at the table.
Keeping a rare violin close is standard practice for top tier musicians who often play instruments on loan from wealthy collectors. Extreme care is required when serving as a musical steward: Those investments' worth frequently stretch into the multimillion dollar range. This weekend you may see Anne Akiko Meyers pulling a similar move if dining in Fort Worth. The globally recognized talent plays the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesù, the world's most expensive violin.
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The Vieuxtemps' allure goes deeper than just its market status: It's considered the masterwork of Italian instrument maker Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù. One of the final creations of Guarneri's short career, the Vieuxtemps was built around 1741, before America was even a country.
Throughout waxing and waning economics, the values of well cared for, rare instruments like those made by Guarneri have retained or increased in value. And of the roughly 140 remaining violins lathed by the master before he died at age 46, this particular instrument is especially interesting. Those who play the Vieuxtemps say it guides them, opening up new color palettes of possibilities. They declare a richness and depth to the sound it produces that is unrivaled, a warm darkness that is unmatched. So when rare violin dealers Bien & Fushi of Chicago put the item up for sale, it fetched more than $16 million in 2012. The exact amount paid remains unrevealed, but we do know it outsold the previous record holder -- the "Lady Blunt" Stradivarius, which made headlines for its $15 million dollar price tag -- by more than a million dollars.
The Vieuxtemps' owner is anonymous, and has placed the instrument on lifetime loan to Anne Akiko Meyers, who plays a three-day run at Bass Hall this weekend. Meyers is no stranger to expensive rarities. She has owned two Stradivarius in her career, each one a multimillion dollar purchase.
See Anne Akiko Meyers pull centuries of sound out of The Vieuxtemps at Bass Hall, as she performs Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2 and his Symphony No. 7 with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, Friday through Sunday. Tickets are available here.