Music is an unfailing way to express one’s emotions and feelings and it happens to be a form of art that is universally loved. Music can be a way to relax or a way to muster energy for exercise. With all the different genres, there’s something in music for everybody.
Some brilliant musicians have made this planet a better place to live in with their exceptional music. While it is their skill and an innate talent that distinguishes them from the rest, their instruments also contribute to their excellence.
Hundreds of unique musical instruments have been made since the Stone Age, but some are so extremely rare that collectors spend chunks of money to own them and preserve important musical history moments, while many consider these rare instruments and the stories behind them priceless.
Let’s look at 10 most expensive musical instruments of all time:
The MacDonald, named after one of its 19th century owners is one of the only 10 Stradivarius violas intact today. It was played by the eminent Amadeus Quartet co-founder Peter Schidlof until his death in 1987. The prized viola was put up for auction with a stupefying minimum bid of $45 million in 2014, but failed to secure a buyer. So, for those in the market, this one-of-a-kind musical treasure is still available!
Named after its one-time owner, 19th century cellist Jean-Louis Duport, the 1711 Stradivari-crafted cello was purchased by the Nippon Music Foundation, who are inexhaustible Strad collectors in 2008 for a cool $20 million, despite its visible dent, rumoured to be caused by Nepoleon Bonaparte’s boots when Duport allowed Bonaparte to handle the infamous cello.
With a pristine condition at the age of 275 years, the Vieuxtemps Guarneri violin has no cracks and has never been repaired or patched. The instrument, crafted by renowned Italian artisan Guiseppe Guarneri in 1741, has been used by Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman and Pinchas Zukerman. The Vieuxtemps’ current anonymous owner, who purchased the violin in 2012 for $16 million, has provided lifetime use to top-selling classical violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.
The Lady Blunt is one of the only 2 best-preserved Stradivari-build violins in existence, which was auctioned for charitable relief after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The online sale raised $15.9 million, nearly 5 times the amount of the previous Stradivarius record holder. It is believed that the best-preserved Strad offered for sale in the past century.
The violin is named after a 19th century Swedish collector and its first owner Christian Hammer. The Hammer Stadivarius was crafted during Stradivarius’ aforementioned ‘golden era’ in 1707. The Hammer also shattered the Lady Tennant Strad’s record when it sold to an anonymous bidder in 2006 for a jaw-dropping $3.54 million after 5 minutes of bidding.
In addition to the iconic white grand Steinway, John Lennon and Yoko Ono had a 1970 Steinway Model Z upright on which he composed and recorded Imagine in 1971. At auction in October, 2000, George Michael purchased the worn out instrument, which is said to have cigarette burn marks, for $2.1 million. Michael sent the piano on tour to sites of violent tragedies, echoing the sentiment of Imagine’s lyrics.
Stradivari is perhaps the most famous name in string instruments for very rare and extremely expensive violins. Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari crafted instruments from 1680 through the 1730s. The Lady of Tennant-Lafont Stradivarius was made in 1699, the year before what is considered Stradivari’s ‘golden era.’ The Lady Tennant was gifted to a Scottish millionaire’s wife who was an amateur violinist, before being sold at Christie’s for a record-breaking $2.03 million in April of 2005, and subsequently being loaned to numerous modern violin luminaries.
Eric Clapton constructed Blackie using a ’56 Stratocaster body, a ’57 neck and pickups from another instrument. His custom guitar can be heard on numerous Clapton hits since it was his favourite, both in studio and on stage. Clapton sold Blackie at Christie’s in 2004 for $959,500 to raise funds for his Crossroads rehab centre.
C.F. Martin started producing guitars in America in the mid-1800s. Today, they make more than 50,000 instruments per year. After 1929 for a year, Martin started producing their OM (Orchestra Model) line, which is said to be the most beautiful guitar ever made. The OM-45 Deluxe was Roy Rogers’ guitar of choice, and was auctioned for $554,500 in 2009, although a rare, modern replica can be bought for less than $80,000.
One of the oldest violin makers, Gasparo developed the art of string making during the 16th century and took on pupils to continue the tradition. Only about 80 instruments made by Gasparo are still in existence today. Gasparo’s viola sold at auction for $542,500 in April 2010.
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