Ivry Gitlis’s ‘Sancy’ Stradivari & Tales from his Career

In celebration of his 94th birthday and 60th anniversary of owning the 1713 ‘Sancy’ Stradivari, Ivry Gitlis looks back on his career, his friendships with Jascha Heifetz and Isaac Stern, and shares his thoughts on classical music today.


Ivry Gitlis plays the ‘Sancy’ Stradivari violin of 1713, which takes its name from its first known owner, the Leloup family of Sancy in the Auverge region of central France. In the 1870s the violin belonged to the Belgian violinist and avid violin collector Charles Wilmotte, who owned no fewer than 17 Stradivari over the course of his career. After Wilmotte, the ‘Sancy’ passed to Frankfurt where it was owned by the violinist Rudolph Gleichauff, then later to England to the collection of John Adam. In 1908 the Czech violinist Jan Kubelik played the ‘Sancy’ for a few years before he acquired the 1715 ‘Emperor’ Stradivari. The ‘Sancy’ then came to America in 1920 where the Rudolph Wurlitzer company sold it to Felix E. Kahn, the director of the Paramount Pictures Corporation. After Kahn, the ‘Sancy’ returned to the firm of Rudolph Wurlitzer’s son, Rembert, from whom the violin was bought for Ivry Gitlis in 1956.

The year 1713 is squarely in the center of Stradivari’s so-called Golden Period where the maker was at the height of his prowess. Instruments from this period are built on a broad model with flat arching and a strong masculine appearance. They are consistently made of materials of the highest quality with the choicest maple, such as that seen on the back of the ‘Sancy’, and covered in a dazzling reddish-orange varnish.

On the 60th anniversary of Gitlis’s ownership of the ‘Sancy’, we can only celebrate the longevity and resilience of this unique union between artist and instrument. What precisely is it that we hear in Ivry Gitlis’s many dozen recordings and many thousand live performances? Is it Ivry Gitlis, or is it the ‘Sancy’ Stradivari? Or perhaps an intricate fusion of the two; an irreproducible alchemy of artist and tool.

Sancy Stradivari of 1713

The ‘Sancy, Kubelik’ Stradivari of 1713