The Million Dollar Guadagnini: Lorin Maazel’s 1783 Guadagnini Violin sold at Auction for charity
Strings Magazine, February 2012
By Corinne Ramey
It’s not a Strad, but maestro Lorin Maazel will have you know that his 1783 Guadagnini is second to none. “The violin is one of the spectacular examples of Guadagnini’s expertise,” Maazel says. “Everyone loves his instruments. Strad is much more known, but the truth of the matter is that there are Guads that are equal or in some cases superior to Strads.”
On November 10, Maazel auctioned his violin, which he played for the past 66 years, through online auction house Tarisio in New York City. The violin fetched $1,080,000. Tarisio’s pre-sale estimate was that the violin would sell for between $800,000 and $1.2 million.
The money raised from the violin’s sale will go toward an endowment for the Castleton Festival, launched in 2009 by Maazel and his wife, Dietlinde Turban Maazel.
The festival, held at the Maazel’s farm in Virginia, aims to educate and develop the careers of young instrumentalists, singers, and conductors. “I love this sort of sale,” Tarisio director Jason Price says. “It’s such a great thing to generate goodwill and money for a cause and make everyone a real winner on every level.” Maazel has had a lengthy career as a conductor. At age 11, he conducted the NBC Symphony Orchestra on the radio. He later served as music director of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra and, until 2009, the New York Philharmonic.
He also is a composer and violinist.
The violin is particularly exceptional because Maazel, now 82, owned it for so long. “You rarely run into that kind of longevity,” Price says.
Giovanni Battista Guadagnini made the violin while living in Turin, Italy, just three years before his death. “It looks almost like a caricature of a late Strad,” Price says.
Previously, the violin belonged to Maazel’s teacher, Vladimir Bakaleinikoff. “I was about to make my debut,” recalls Maazel, speaking on the phone from New York, where he conducted several concerts with the New York Phil in October. “He said, ‘Lorin, you can play my violin.’ I said ‘Wow!’ I bonded with this violin.”
Maazel continued to use it for several years.
“Then Bakaleinikoff said, ‘You are ready to spread your wings in the world, and I have no use for this violin. Maybe you’d like to buy it from me.’”
When asked the original selling price, Maazel declines to answer. “It’s embarrassing,” he says, “but it was a four zero number.
“There’s a saying, ‘You put your money where your mouth is,’” Maazel adds. “I speak well of Castleton, so I wanted to make a gesture to show my firm belief in the future.”