That violin has now been mine for nearly a year and I adore her. I named the violin "Lily" in tribute to the great lady. She is an incredible fiddle to play- powerful, gutsy, rich and sonorous, full of projection and depth. The tonal colors and clarity of sound across all the registers make her my violin of choice now.
When we acquired the violin, we were told by Andrew of JBP violins that she had been sold to him by a soloist. The soloist had a provenance for the instrument. She was French, late 1800-early 1900s, and was thought to be by a certain French master. The soloist had papers on her from J & A Beareof London-the king of violin dealers- identifying the violin and definitively linking her to a certain special French craftsman. But these papers had been lost over the decades. This meant that she was now "attributed to".
Bob Halstead and I had raced to Beare's in London to join the missing links in the story, but missed their open doors by an hour! So- I had brought Lily home- overjoyed to perform on her for the year- but none the wiser as to whether or not she might be a "fake". This practice is rife in the violin antique industry, and so one has to be cautious and never too gullible in believing a dealer.
When we just missed Beare's, I contacted them with professional photos of my Violin, and nevertheless got a provisional opinion. They needed to see the violin in person-and recommended I also contact Brompton's Fine Musical Instruments division, also in London, which is considered the second most respected source worldwide after Beare's of valid and truthful information on a violin's provenance, valid authenticity, and origins. Brompton's valuer Tom became very excited indeed about The Lily-based on photos only. Brompton's too, would need to hold the violin to determine the truth.
I assumed Lily's origins would stay questionable indefinitely as no return trip to London was planned. I resigned myself to being happy she was a great SOUNDING violin, and, to a player, that is enough.
But serendipity (here we go again!) had other ideas! Just as we were leaving Thailand, Brompton's emailed me. Their SENIOR valuer, Peter Horner, was traveling on a world tour to sight violins, and was coming through Australia. He was very interested in the photos of my violin, and wished to see Lily in person. He was including Brisbane in his tour- would I be interested in bringing my violin down and getting an internationally respected professional opinion? Are you kidding? OF COURSE I WOULD!
I flew down with anticipation and trepidation. What if she WAS a fake? What if the story was false? We met Peter Horner on Sunday afternoon in his hotel suite. I was still anxious; Peter was enthralled. No time for small talk- he wanted to make a beeline for my case! We opened her suede case up. "That's a beautiful violin indeed." He lifted her out, and examined the scroll , purfling around the edges, and back. I couldn't keep holding my breath- come on!
" She IS French. She IS by an old master luthier. She IS over 120 years old! " I started breathing again. He got out his pen laser light and his eyeglass magnifier. "No discernible definitive markings inside, but some slight crackling to the varnish." Peter gave his definitive assessment. "She is definitely not a fake or a modern violin antiqued to look old. She can still be named as "attributed to"".
He wants me to send photos now to the worldwide expert on French violins, based in Paris. She is getting closer to having her provenance authenticated. At least I now know that my Lily has the pedigree we suspected. She is not some modern upstart! If you have an interest or want to look him up, meet Lily's maker:
" A fine French master violin, ca 1899, attributed to Sebastian Auguste Deroux of Paris".
I am elated!
In further serendipity- British world expert Peter Horner told me that he met and was friends and colleagues with my great violin professor -the esteemed Josef Gingold- and first met him during the exact same time I was a Gingold student at Indiana University!
Afterwards, to top off the great violin story, Bob and I continued our weekend with a special visit to an extraordinary man. Meet Dr. David Schlect. He is an oncology specialist and co-author with Dr Damian Mason , of a brilliant book- "Hope" - A Cancer Doctor's Life Secrets".
Bob had to go along for his annual checkup, so I was thrilled and honored to meet David! We met at his Genesis Clinic in Churmside, and I had my beloved Lily violin with me. David loves classical music, and so he invited me to play for him and the patients recovering from day surgery on the Ward. I lifted her out, as David wanted to see her. I started to play, and all the nurses, doctors and admin workers rushed out to join us! One dear man, groggy from treatments, said he loved my performance and it made his day! (I told him I might have to play a very long time before anyone might offer me some morphine!)
Patients, Doctors and Staff alike were also enamored with Lily. My "Lark Ascending" rang out through the corridors. I even played some French music- a little excerpt from a Vieuxtemps Concerto! David and Damian presented me with a signed copy of "Hope". I am SURE the "Deroux" sang out more brightly and proudly now that we were revealing her lost secret provenance!
I know that there is love and beauty in our world. The aura and deep connectivity created by the bonds of creativity from a French luthier across the century, a joyous lone violinist, and doctors filled with the certainty that a patient's mindset changes medical results, all in the presence of grateful patients and the dear gentle man I love, who made this trip so meaningful- well- there was a circle of love -undeniable in its power- right there in that hospital ward in those special minutes. Thank you so much for that incredible opportunity to share our passions at your Clinic dear David Schlect.
Bob-your gorgeous Mum Lily was beaming too, I'm sure, from someplace in our hearts. She could also hear the Deroux violin. But then, she probably knew it was a great French instrument all along. That's why Lily was able to guide us to "The Lily" so swiftly and surely- I am SURE!
Happy Valentine's Day! I, for one, had the TWO loves of my life! Lily and Bob. 🎻❤️
I have now posted a video of me performing the Lily "Cadenza for Lily" that we recorded live in the UK immediately following her funeral. I want you ALL to be able to hear what David Schlect and his patients just heard! Check the Videos page of my site.