Stradivari and Guarnieri, the most expensive violins in the world

They have a radiant, otherworldly, unique and inimitable sound. The legendary Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari built the most precious violins in the world in the 18th century, which accompany the great stars of this stringed instrument, such as the German Anne-Sophie Mutter.

About a thousand violins made by Antonio Stradivari are preserved. Mutter owns two, the “Emiliani” of 1703, and the “Lord Dunn-Raven” of 1710. They owe their nickname to the names of their previous owners or to the names of famous virtuosos who played them. Its price fluctuates between 3 and 16 million euros as a minimum. There is no set maximum price.

The Guarneri, the most expensive violins in the world

For a long time, the “Lady Blunt” Stradivarius was the most expensive violin in the world, with a price tag of over 15 million euros. But, after 2010, two violins made by another Italian maker, Giuseppe Guarneri, were sold for more than 16 and 18 million euros respectively.

Much higher figures are currently being handled and buyers often remain anonymous. Of the instruments made by luthier Giuseppe Guarneri, who lived between 1698 and 1744, only about 200 remain in the world. That scarcity helps drive up prices.

German-American violinist Augustin Hadelich plays a Guarneri he borrowed in 2020. “I was fascinated by its sound and knew immediately that I wanted to play it,” Hadelich tells DW. “It sounds rounder and warmer than other instruments. Especially in the lower register, the sound is wider, fuller and more robust, and that’s something not all violins have.”

Expensive tools on loan for a limited time

Many well-known virtuosos, but also talented young people at the beginning of their careers have the opportunity to play these precious instruments, which they access through loans. For example, Russian cellist Anastasia Kobekina plays a 1698 Antonio Stradivari cello, loaned by a Swiss foundation.

The young Spanish violinist María Dueñas, who has just signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon, is praised for her virtuosity and artistic maturity. These qualities are what attract potential lenders, such as the Deutsche Stiftung Musikleben, who lent him a violin made by Nicolò Gagliano. That’s not the only highly valuable instrument this talented 20-year-old plays: she also owns a 1736 Guarneri del Gesù on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation, which belongs to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan, a organization that owns the largest Stradivarius collection in the world.

Mozart’s violin

The famous French violinist Renaud Capuçon often plays a Guarneri del Gesu that was once owned by the famous violinist Isaac Stern. In 2021, during the 100th anniversary of the Mozart Festival in the German city of Würzburg, he had the opportunity to play a violin that once belonged to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It is a piece from the workshop of Pietro Antonio Dalla Costa, built in 1764. The instrument is owned by the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation. For Capuçon that occasion was not only a great emotion, but also a challenge: “Every time we wanted to rehearse, we had to ask for the instrument. So I didn’t get to play it much, but it was a wonderful experience.”

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