MARCH 19, 1892
There was much discussion in the music community in St. John’s on March 19, 1892, conversation driven by a news item in the St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, about the possibility of an authentic Cremona violin, dated 1681 in the city. This was no ordinary violin this was reputed to have been created by the master genius of violin-makers, the maestro of Cremona, Antonius Stradivari.
Antonio Stradivari (1644 -1737) set up his shop in Cremona, Italy, where he painstakingly handmade made violins and other stringed instruments. He took a basic concept for the violin and refined its geometry and design to produce an instrument which is now the standard. Stradivari’s violins have been judged by history to be the best.
The owner of the alleged ‘strad’ in St. John’s was “Mr. P. Roche, a storekeeper of this city”. Roche was according to the St. John’s Business Directory for 1890; a storekeeper working for the business; J and W Pitts located on at 24 South West (Water) Street. He had done some preliminary work on investigating the provenance of his violin. The Telegram reported:
“The word (the name of the maker) and the figures (year) are inscribed on the inside of the back (of the violin) and may be seen by looking through the scroll worked holes in the front of the instrument.”
The article went on to read:
“There are five known famous violins by a celebrated maker from that city, (Cremona) each of them worth hundreds of guineas. One has been in New York, one in Munich, and one in London; three are still missing. There are very many less famous Cremona violin, whether Mr. Roche’s belongs to the most celebrated class, he is taking steps to find out. It was purchased many years ago by his brother in Halifax.”
What happened to the violin? We really do not know – perhaps it remains with the descendants of Mr. Roche who may not be aware of the fine instrument that they have!!
Today, a conservative estimate on the value of the violin, if it were authentic, would range from $1 to $5 million.
Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives: MG 591 Kiwanis Music Festival programmes, 1951-1976; Music Festival Association of Newfoundland booklets re: regulations, schedule etc., 1966-1976.
Recommended Reading: Antonio Stradivari, His Life and Work (1644-1737) W. Henry Hill, Arthur F. Hill & Alfred E. Hill Originally Published in 1902
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