Antonio Stradivari is known for his violins, but he also produced other stringed instruments. The 1719 Macdonald Viola is one of only ten complete extant violas by the master luthier, and the only one in playable condition from his Golden Period – apparently the Russian government owns the other one and it has fallen into poor condition. When the Macdonald heads to the auction block soon it’s expected to become the most expensive instrument in the world.
The reason for the price, bidders are being asked to submit sealed bids of 45 million dollars and up, is that it is undeniably the best viola in the world. There is really no other instrument about which such a statement can be made – Stradivari’s violin catalog, for example, contains over 600 instruments and while some are better than others, there is none agreed upon to be the best, per se. Sotheby’s says that objects like “the best viola in the world” are valuable not just to collectors of that kind of object – collectors of violas, or instruments in general, for example – but rather they attract the attention of people who can afford to acquire something that is the best of its kind, whatever the kind, in existence.
Hear a taste and learn a little more in this video produced by Sotheby’s and featuring viola virtuoso David Aaron Carpenter:
Thanks for reading.