Violin

The violin used in Wizard of Oz’s Over the Rainbow is set to fetch $20 million at auction | Music

A Stradivarius violin “of exceptional power and beauty” used to play Over the Rainbow in The Wizard of Oz is set to break records when it goes up for auction next week.

The 308-year-old violin, previously owned by Toscha Seidel, one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, was created during Antonio Stradivari’s famous “golden era” and is expected to sell for over $20 million (16 million pounds). goes under the hammer at specialist auction house Tarisio on June 9, making it the most valuable violin ever sold at auction.

A Stradivarius violin “of exceptional power and beauty” Photography: Robert Bailey/Tarisio

The violin, called “da Vinci, ex-Seidel”, is expected to fetch huge price due to its unique provenance. As well as being one of Stradivarius’ finest – and still playable – violins, it was used by Seidel to record scores for several early Hollywood films, including Intermezzo, in which a famous violinist, played by Leslie Howard, falls in love with his companion. (Ingrid Bergman), Melody for Three and the 1939 musical classic The Wizard of Oz.

As well as using the violin to play solos and with orchestras in some of the world’s most famous concert halls, Seidel also learned to play.

One of his students was Albert Einstein, who in exchange for the lessons gave Seidel a sketch illustrating the phenomenon of length contraction from his theory of relativity. The pair then performed a Bach double concerto at a fundraiser for German Jewish scientists endangered by the Nazis.

When Seidel bought the violin for $25,000 in 1924, it made headlines in The New York Times. At the time, Seidel, an immigrant from Odessa, now in Ukraine, said he would not trade the violin “for a million dollars” because it was his most prized possession. “The tone is exceptionally powerful and beautiful,” he said.

Violinist and writer Adam Baer said everyone has probably been affected by Seidel and the violin, even if they’ve never heard of him. “The fact that we largely associate love scenes or portrayals of the less fortunate in movies – or any scene evoking tears or strong emotions – with the sound of the violin is in large part due to Seidel,” he said. he stated in an article in American Scholar magazine.

“And that’s precisely what makes the ‘da Vinci, ex-Seidel’ Stradivari so important,” said Jason Price, the founder of Tarisio, which specializes in selling violins and bows. “Whether we know it or not, we’ve heard that voice before and its memory brings back all the emotion, tears and romance of the silver screen.”

Einstein and the other members of the string quartet gather to practice for a concert at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (concert date: December 15, 1933) to raise money for German Jewish refugees.  From left to right, seated: Arthur (Ossip) Giskin, Toscha Seidel, Albert Einstein and Bernard Ocko;  standing: Mrs. Seidel, Elsa Einstein and an unidentified man.
Einstein and the other members of the string quartet gather to practice for a concert at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (concert date: December 15, 1933) to raise money for German Jewish refugees. From left to right, seated: Arthur (Ossip) Giskin, Toscha Seidel, Albert Einstein and Bernard Ocko; standing: Mrs. Seidel, Elsa Einstein and an unidentified man. Photography: Leo Baeck Institute

He said the violin was very special because “it ticks all the boxes – it’s a perfect and rare instrument, it’s something that’s been played in things we know and love like The Wizard of Oz” . The opening bid for the online auction will be $8 million.

In the lead up to the auction, the violin has toured the world, with private previews held for potential buyers in London, Berlin, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York.

Price said “unfortunately, no musician in the world will be able to afford the violin,” but that doesn’t mean they won’t end up playing it.

“Syndicates and trusts have formed to buy violins and loan them to musicians to play,” he said, describing it as a collaboration similar to that of “racehorse, jockey and owner “.

Toscha Seidel
Toscha Seidel, one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century. Photography: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division

Among those who can bid is the UK’s Stradivari Trust, set up in 1985 by Cambridge entrepreneur and philanthropist Nigel Brown to help fund the acquisition of a violin for young Nigel Kennedy. Several American foundations are also interested in it, as well as similar initiatives in Norway, Japan and Taiwan.

“They buy them to make them available to people who should be playing them,” Price said. “It’s not a good market to try to get rich quick.” He said violin prices have remained stable for many years.

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The violin, named “da Vinci” since the 1920s as part of a marketing campaign to associate it with the Italian artist, was last sold in London in 1974 for £34,000. It is owned by Tokuji Munetsugu, a Japanese multi-millionaire who owns the Coco Ichibanya restaurant chain, who has an extensive collection of rare stringed instruments that he loans through the Munetsugu Angel Violin Competition. Munetsugu, 73, did not say why he was selling the instrument.

The record price for a violin sold at auction was set by the “Lady Blunt”, a Stradivarius once owned by Lord Byron’s granddaughter. It was sold for £9.8million in 2011.