The Sounds of Music

 In Culture, Feature

A symphony of fine instruments debuts at Link Auction Galleries.


In a game-changing move for the Midwest, Link Auction Galleries will debut a fine instrument auction on March 14. Typically, musicians and collectors have to venture to Chicago’s dealers, and virtually no auctions—a common way to purchase this caliber of instrument— exist outside the East Coast or Europe. Yet, the Midwest has no shortage of leading symphonies—Cleveland and Chicago are ranked among the top 20 in the world, while discussions of top US symphonies are incomplete without mention of St. Louis’ own.

To rectify this imbalance is Link Auction Galleries’ Director of Musical Instruments, Emily Lane, who searched far and wide across the region to bring back instruments worthy of the Midwest’s musicians—even scoring a 17th century Guarneri, “a real showstopper” of a violin, from France (Guarneri and Stradivari— that Stradivari—were students of the first modern violin maker, Amati, in Cremona, Italy). It’s not just the name on the instrument that makes it special, but the generations of musicians who have played its strings, rubbed oil into the wood and carefully repaired it so that its sound could live on—and the stories that come with those years.


A “player’s instrument,” Klotz violins have been crafted since the 1600s in Mittenwald, Germany. This violin was made by one of the first Klotz luthiers, Matthias, who studied under Amati. Potential buyers at Link can try a test scale or two in the gallery’s acoustically ideal space to get a feel for how the sound would resonate in a concert hall. Best of all, prices are reasonable for a professional musician—especially at auction: A Christie’s auction in 2012 estimated a similar Klotz at $1,500-$2,500, and it sold for $938 on the block.


Crafted by William B. Watson, one of a long line of bow makers for the prolific Hill family, the stick is joined with a rose gold smelt, which “makes it even a little bit nicer,” says Lane. Hill bows are commonly sought-after pieces, and this one is all original—albeit with a well-done repair to the frog, which actually works to the buyer’s advantage: “The repair makes it more affordable to the average person,” says Lane. “It’s a great bow.”


Lane, a cello player herself, doesn’t quite know what to make of this instrument, but “there’s some kind of special aura to it,” she says. There’s also a bit of a mystery: “It has a Ruggieri label on it, but we don’t think it’s Ruggieri,” Lane says. Instead, she thinks it might be from Vienna, as opposed to the Ruggieri’s Cremona. Whatever the origin, it’s distinctive for its rich appearance and full sound, copycat characteristics of Ruggieri instruments—and also for its smaller-than-average size. Formerly a career instrument of a Metropolitan Opera musician, it was one of the first pieces she picked up for the auction. “I think it’s a sleeper instrument—you get the right eyes on it, someone’s going to jump on it,” Lane says.


6070_1859.jpgRuggieri cello, c. mid-18th century



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