High tension as German star faces losing his Strad

High tension as German star faces losing his Strad


norman lebrecht

February 19, 2015

The international virtuoso Frank-Peter Zimmermann is locked in last-minute negotiations to hold onto the Stradivarius he has played for the past twelve years. The 2002 loan, by an executor for a bankrupt bank (WestLB), expires tomorrow (Friday).

Under the contract, Zimmermann has the right to buy the instrument, known as the Lady Inchiquin Stradivarius, when the contract ended. But two offers that he made, based on independent estimates, have been rejected by the executors.

Now time is ticking out. Next week, Zimmermann has concerts in New York and doesn’t know what instrument he will play.

Its not quite the Greek tragedy that is being played out in Berlin, but for the artist it is almost equally existential.

frank peter zimmermann


  • laura says:

    When will these stupid (non-musician) bean-counters realize that a musical instrument is only worth money in the long run if it is PLAYED??? Putting it up on the wall someplace is ridiculous, and “collecting” it for some damned collection while not having it played is really ludicrous. These are musical instruments, so why not let the guy either use it or buy it at a fair price? It is not as if a musician, no matter how good, will be able to afford a ridiculous price.

  • Milka says:

    One can certainly get attached to a sound … and that all it is whether the violin be a Stradivarius or one by Joe schmoe . Mr. Zimmermann knows this quite well, but, for
    publicity the “having ” a Strad makes him seem more important to the great unwashed .
    It is known that many strads sound like dogs and many sound beautiful under the right hands . It is all basically hype in which the fiddler plays a leading roll .
    In blind tests it seems most modern violins take the prize for sound , but mention of an
    instrument being a Strad and listeners tend to hear differently .What Mr. Zimmermann is
    buying is sound and he should look around a bit before buying a “name ” .

  • Harold Kupper says:

    Milka, What kind of leading roll would you suggest, a Kaiser or a crescent? You don’t know what you’re talking about regrading Strads vs. modern instrument, “it is all basically hype.” What complete and utter nonsense!

    • Concert listener says:

      It’s the first time, but I agree with what Milka is saying. It has been shown in several blind tests. Strad is not Strad. Everyone is very different and a lot of them are “dogs”, while there are quite a few great ones and a handful are to die for. In average modern instruments by the good makers are predictably better.

  • MacroV says:

    He’s obviously known this deadline was coming for some time, so he doesn’t really have much excuse not to have lined up a Plan B – maybe getting a violin from the same guy that made Christian Teztloff’s for the price of about one concert fee?

    But this piece doesn’t answer what the owner plans to do with the instrument. Would seem a travesty to take it out of circulation; surely it’s value is enhanced by having someone of Zimmerman’s stature playing it. Or maybe he just needs to hand it back so the seller can sell it, with a new buyer choosing someone to lend it to. But Mr. Zimmerman is a pretty major violinist, and you’d think a new owner would have a hard time finding a better player to lend to.

  • Freddy says:

    Ahh first-world problems……

  • Shanker says:

    Listen to this and you will understand why he is so reluctant to relinquish this instrument.


  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    Bean counting is the terrible, highly contagious infection afflicting everyone, or almost everyone, in Germany, right down from the Chancellor and her finance minister (who succeeded in reaching a balanced budget at the cost of collapsing Autobahn and railroad infrastructure – in German: “Kaputtsparen”) to the executors about to savage an international artist’s career. This from the “Kulturnation” Germany. Have they learned from their history. Not very much, I am afraid… The deterioration continues. Kaputtsparen.

    • Anon says:

      You suggest the alternative, enslaving our children with even more debt? No thanks.

    • Michael Endres says:

      I agree that balanced books have become an obsession these days in Germany.
      But at the end of FY 2015 the total government debt in the United States, including federal, state, and local, is expected to be $21.694 trillion.
      What happened to the old-fashioned idea of ”living within your means ”?

  • Concert listener says:

    Everybody take a chill pill. Both sides gambled in a poker game, termination of contract approaching… The rightful owners are the managers of a disembodied bankrupt bank, having to satisfy shortchanged creditors. Of course they want to maximize the sales price by driving Zimmermann into a corner here. Their weak point is, that they also have to sell, but probably don’t care if the Strad ends up in a great virtuoso’s hands or in a vault in China.

    It’s called capitalism, not always nice but the tried alternatives are even worse.

    The alternative would be to declare all Stradivaris world cultural heritage and loan them through a UNESCO foundation. Why not actually?

  • Milka says:

    There is this classic story of Heifetz in the green room reception listening to a
    lady go on and on about how great was the fiddle sound ,he let her ramble on and on but finally interrupted and while directing her look to the fiddle case he commented in his
    famous to the point manner “Funny I don’t hear anything ” ……..If not having a Strad will savage a career it wasn’t much of a career to begin with ……..and in this day of names
    it will probably go to the highest bidder .

  • Peter says:

    It’s understandable that the owners don’t want to sell it cheaply because when Zimmermann sells it in 25 years after his retirement he will have an incredibly valuable violin that he will want to sell for a very high price.
    I do sympathisize with him but both sides have reasons to behave the way they do.