From the Archive: March 1892

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Carl Fuchs pays tribute to his friend and fellow cellist Carl Davidoff (1838–89), including a reminiscence of how he acquired his famed Stradivari cello

The way in which Davidoff became possessed of his wonderful Stradivarius violoncello was a very strange one. The late Czar, Alexander II, used to give musical entertainments at his palace. On one occasion Rubinstein, Wieniawsky, and Davidoff were present. A certain Count Wielhorsky (noted for his love of art and his absent-mindedness), received the artistes, when Davidoff at once noticed that the Count was very nervous and excited. Asking what the matter was, Davidoff received the following answer: “Today I celebrate my seventieth birthday, and in a way of my own, I present you with my Stradivarius violoncello.” Davidoff took this for a joke, but he very soon found out that the Count was quite in earnest. After the first trio the emperor spoke to Wieniawsky, remarking upon the lovely tone of his violin, and asking him what make it was. “A Stradivarius, your Majesty,” was Wieniawsky’s answer, whereupon the emperor remarked to Wielhorsky “You have also a Strad, have you not?” The count said, “No, your Majesty, I used to have one, but I gave it to-night to Carl Davidoff.” The new owner of the violoncello now saw that the count had indeed not been joking. Wielhorsky had bought the instrument for the sum of 50,000 francs (£2000), and in addition to two beautiful horses…

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