Tuesday, April 27, 2021

The 'Hochstein' Stradivarius Violin of 1715 - An Excellent Model

By Andy Fein (Luthier at Fein Violins) and Mikaela Marget 

In 1978 I (Andy) was a young guy with black hair, a passion for violin making, an intense curiosity about Antonius Stradivarius and Guarnerius del Gesu, and an apprentice violin maker in Chicago. I had even made a trip (read "pilgrimage")  to the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, England specifically to study the Messiah Stradivarius violin

At that time, the Chicago School of Violin Making was owned by the venerable violin shop of Kenneth Warren and Son. Once a week Kenneth Warren Sr. would bring wonderful instruments to the school for the apprentices to study. One cold Chicago day, Mr Warren came in, carefully opened a beautiful case, and pulled out an exquisite violin. He held the violin up and asked, "Any guesses?" I impulsively said "Looks like a Golden Period Strad. Looks like the Messiah, but it's not. Ummm, 1715? 1716?" It was the 'Hochstein' Stradivarius violin, made circa 1715. Thus I acquired the amused dislike of every other student at the school. 

Original Hochstein Stradivarius, photo from Andy's collection
Our 'Hochstein' Stradivarius model Violin 

David Hochstein

The violin is named for David Hochstein, a child prodigy born in 1892. His parents, Jacob and Helena, were Russian-Jewish immigrants who met in the USA after fleeing Czarist Russia. His father was a highly educated man who spoke six languages and ran a print shop out of their home on Joseph Avenue in Rochester NY. David's father was also his first violin teacher, they began lessons when David was just five years old. By age eight, David had surpassed his father and began studying with other members of the European immigrant community in the area. 

A major turning point in David's career and life was a chance meeting he had with Emily Sibley Watson, a local arts patron. One day, he was playing music in the house of a pianist friend, John Warner, who lived  in a wealthier neighborhood. As Emily passed their window she was struck by the music and took a great interest in David's talent. Eventually, she became his benefactor and funded much of his musical education. 

David went on to study with some of the best performers and teachers in the world at the time including Otakar Ševčík in Vienna and Leopold Auer in St Petersburg. He was a highly sought-after soloist, performing with the NY Philharmonic, the Met Opera, and touring throughout the United States. He made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1915. 

In addition to Emily Sibly Watson, another of his benefactors was George Eastman, who funded some of his studies and obtained two violins for him to use--one being the 1715 Stradivarius. 

In 1917, David enlisted in the army to fight in World War I. As the sole caretaker of his widowed mother, he was exempt from service, but he was intent on fighting and serving his country. David continued to play the instrument while enlisted at Camp Upton on Long Island. With the 1715 Stradivarius, he gave performances and played with various army bands until his final performance on May 8th, 1918. The violin was unfortunately broken to pieces the next day in a bus accident. George Eastman arranged for the instrument to be repaired, but David would never see it done. Tragically, he was killed in the battle of Argonne later that year at age twenty-six. 

The violin bearing his name continues David Hochstein's legacy, as well as a music school in his honor: The Hochstein School

You can hear a recording of David Hochstein playing what is likely the Stradivarius here: 

The instrument has been in the possession of soloist Steven Staryk since 1959. 

Why Andy chose this model for his instrument

Many of the instruments we sell in our shop are modeled after instruments from Stradivarius' "Golden Period" which ran from 1700-1725. Antonio Stradivari was quite an experimental instrument-maker and his style changed through his lifetime (which was long, he lived to be 93 years old). The Golden Period instruments are some of his most valuable works, including the "Messiah" which is thought to be the apex of Stradivarius's craft. The Messiah was made in 1716, and the Hochstein was created just a year before, leading Andy to believe they were likely made on the same form and outline. The two instruments are very similar, with slight variations in the width of the eyes of the f-holes and distance between the upper eyes (though this could be down to human variation or the wear of time). 

Andy chose this instrument in part because he was able to see it in person! The Warren shop was doing a restoration on the Hochstein violin when Andy was at the school (now called the Chicago School of Violin Making) there. While it was in the shop, Andy took measurements of the top and back, detailed copies of the f-holes, and a tracing of the ribs. It is rare to be able to see a great instrument up-close like this, especially one that is in the process of being restored. 

You can find out more about our version of the Hochstein Stradivarius on our website and listen to Victoria Athmann play our Hochstein below: 


No comments:

Post a Comment