The Wizard of Oz, that timeless 1939 classic, is home to some of the most coveted plays in Hollywood history. From ruby slippers to the Cowardly Lion costume, artifacts from this film continue to tour the world and draw crowds of all ages. A new piece from the film will be auctioned next month, but this artifact has its own story. The piece is a 300-year-old fiddle, and experts estimate it could fetch up to $20 million.
The violin in question would have been used in the original score of The Wizard of Oz. The instrument is a rare Stradivarius, made by the Italian Stradivari family in the 17th and 18th centuries. This particular instrument belonged to Toscha Seidel, who was widely regarded as one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century.
Born in Odessa in 1899, Seidel studied in St. Petersburg and developed his unique playing style. He made his American debut at Carnegie Hall in New York in 1918, then he toured across the United States, then Europe and Australia throughout the 1920s. In the 1930s, he emigrated to the United States to pursue a career in film. Seidel has participated in several films, one of his most famous being Intermezzo. The 1939 romance film followed Leslie Howard playing a violinist who falls in love with her accompaniment played by Ingrid Bergman. Seidel provided the violin music in place of Howard.
As it concerns The Wizard of Oz goes, there’s not too much history behind the violinist’s involvement. MGM Oz historian John Fricke was unable to confirm that Seidel is the solo violinist in the score, but notes that “there is glorious solo violin work in the underlining.” The main possibility is that Seidel was under MGM contract in February 1939, the score of The Wizard of Oz was recorded in May 1939, this was likely the result of his involvement in the production.
The music of the generations
Whatever the weight of the involvement of the violin in The Wizard of Oz, it still contains a lot of history and memories. Seidel continued to play his Stradivarius for nearly four decades. Apart from ounces and IntermezzoSeidel participated in the soundtracks of The big waltz, Balalaikaand melody for three. Seidel also gave violin lessons to the famous physicist Albert Einstein. Later, the two played a double violin concerto Back to raise funds for German Jewish scientists fleeing Nazi-occupied territories.
It’s been more than 15 years since an instrument from the golden period nicknamed the Stradivari has not been auctioned. This particular instrument, nicknamed “da Vinci” was created in 1741 and was purchased from Seidel in 1924. The violinist paid $25,000 for it and the purchase made headlines in the New York Times. Tarisio Instrument Room Manager Carlos Tome spoke to Variety about the upcoming auction.
“It gives us great pleasure to present this instrument, whose exquisite voice still speaks to us through many classical recordings and film scores performed by the incomparable Toscha Seidel. We can only imagine the thrill this instrument has generated for countless musicians and audiences over the centuries.
Tarisio will exhibit Seidel’s violin ahead of auction day in London, Berlin, Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong and New York.