The violinist was forced to give up the 1711 ‘Lady Inchiquin’ Stradivarius in 2015
The Chinese owner of the ‘General Dupont’, ‘Grumiaux’ Stradivarius has agreed to loan the instrument to violinist Frank Peter Zimmermann for an initial period of two years.
Entrepreneur, philanthropist and amateur violinist Mr Yu bought the 1727 instrument, famously played by Arthur Grumiaux, in February 2015 through Rare Violins of New York for an undisclosed sum – making the violin the first Stradivarius to be owned by a private individual on the Chinese mainland.
In the same month Zimmermann was forced to give up the 1711 ‘Lady Inchiquin’ Stradivarius – his principal performing violin for 13 years – when its owner, the Düsseldorf-based bank WestLB AG failed. The bank’s legal successor, Portigon Financial Services AG, made the decision to auction off its collection of some 400 artworks, valued at €100–150m, including the ‘Lady Inchiquin’.
Over the course of the past year Mr Yu has loaned the ‘General Dupont, ‘Grumiaux’ to a series of musicians for performances on mainland China. However in October last year, the collector met Zimmermann in Shanghai and invited him to try his instrument. Zimmermann was so impressed that he played the violin in his Shanghai concert the following day – a performance that persuaded Mr Yu to offer a long-term loan.
‘I played three notes and I must say, I was really moved,’ Zimmermann told The Strad. ‘The violin had the voice of Grumiaux that I remembered from listening to his recordings as a child. Of course, my “Lady Inchiquin” was still the voice I wanted back – if you have loved Renata Tebaldi for many years you might not want to change for Callas. But the Grumiaux was somehow in my blood – or in my ears – as this was an instrument I grew up with.
‘These days there are fewer fine instruments available for musicians,’ Zimmermann continued. ‘Violins have become a real target for investors, who want to buy a great instrument and put it in a safe. So a violin can vanish for many decades. Philanthropists like Mr Yu have an important part to play, as even for a very successful artist who earns a lot of money, it’s now impossible to buy such an instrument at today’s crazy prices.’
Zimmermann will give the German premiere of Magnus Lindberg’s Second Violin Concerto tomorrow – his first public performance on the ‘General Dupont’ ‘Grumiaux’ since playing the instrument in Shanghai.
Mr Yu is currently developing his Yu Art Foundation – a philanthropic body dedicated to supporting Chinese musicians through scholarships, instrument lending, and music festivals.
Photos: Mr Yu’s daughter Liya Yu with Frank Peter Zimmermann and the ‘General Dupont’ ‘Grumiaux’ Stradivarius; a close-up of the violin © Ziv Arazi/Rare Violins of New York