Chicago Sun Time, 5 August 1971
The Carl Beckers and the Stradivarius
By Richard Foster
In February, 1970, a jet touched down at O’Hare Airport from the west Coast. One of the passengers was Sam Bloomfield, a retired aeronautical engineer and music lover.
Beside him on a seat (not in the baggage compartment) was a 250-year-old Stradivarius violin that almost 1 1/2 years later, on June 3, 1971, was sold by Bloomfield at an auction in Sotheby’s in London for a record $201,600.
Waiting at the terminal for the plane that day in February were Carl F. Becker and his father, Carl G. Becker, the father-son team regarded as among the finest violin makers and repairmen in the world.
The two have made repairs for such string players as Jascha Heifetz, Mischa Elman, Nathan Milstein, Isaac Stern and Gregor Piatigorsky.
A little loose glue
“We talked for about an hour at the airport about the violin,” the younger Becker recalled recently. “There wasn’t anything major wrong with the instrument. The arching had altered and some of the glue had come loose.
“Well, as I said, we discussed it and then he got up and got on another plane and went right back to Palm Springs and left his violin with us.”
Back home on the North Side, father and son began the first phase of their repair work, Scrutiny.
“We examined that fiddle for several weeks,” recalled Carl F. Becker, 51. “We just thought about it and talked things over, discussed what we had to do.
Good shape, but 100 hours
“I suppose we put 100 hours of work into that instrument. But when you say that, people are likely to think it was in bad shape and needed a lot of work. That wasn’t the case at all.
“It’s just that working with that violin is a very delicate business. It’s one of the best-preserved Strads in existence. A really remarkable instrument. And so what you do with it is very critical, and you can’t hurry it.”
The work done (Becker won’t say how much the bill was), Becker got on a plane and returned the violin to Bloomfield. Then it was sold. Becker says he doesn’t know why.
“I can only speculate,” he said. “Maybe he just felt that he wanted to know what would happen to it. Sometimes a man will die, you know, and not know what his wife will do with an instrument like that, whether she’ll be careful of disposing of it properly. But whether that happened in this case, I don’t know.”
Found in a Spanish attic
The instrument was made by the famed violin maker Antonio Stradivari in 1721. In 1860, the instrument was discovered in an attic in Spain by one J. B. Vuillaume, who restored it.
In spited of the fact that it had been lying, forgotten, in that attic for about 100 years, Vuillaume reported in a letter, the violin was in remarkably good condition.
By 1864, it had found its way to England, where it was bought for 260 pounds by Lady Anne Blunt. She kept it for 31 years, and thereafter the instrument has been called the Lady Blunt Stradivarius.
During his career, Stradivari made about 1,100 violins, violas, cellos, guitars and basses. About 600 of these instruments survive, most of them violins. They have the reputation of being the finest, and Becker was asked about it.
“Well, that’s what everyone asks. It’s a hard question to answer. His instruments are composites of a little more of everything that’s good.
Searching for the combination
“Stradivari was an intelligent man and a practical man, too. He experimented with instruments of different sizes and made other changes n them, trying to get that perfect combination.
“He had such a superb conception of the instrument, too. Fine work, fine ideas, fine varnish. He had good ideas without being fussy about it.
“Someone-I think perhaps it was Mischa Elman-said a Guarnieri violin is like a beautiful blond-a little on the coarse side, perhaps, but still very beautiful. And a Stradivarius is like a lovely, refined brunet.
“I don’t know. A Guarnieri is said to have a dark sound and a Strad has a sweeter sound, more robust, broader. And yet its tone is brilliant. It’s that combination, I suppose, that makes it so rare and lovely.”
It’s in the varnish
Musicologists have debated the source of that rare and lovely sound of the Stradivarius, and Becker said he and his father believe the crucial ingredient is the varnish.
“It’s hard to prove, of course,” he acknowledged, “and not everyone agrees. Even if you had the original recipe for the varnish and put it on a violin, it wouldn’t sound like the genuine article because it wouldn’t have aged.”
Becker and his 83-year-old father take about two years to make one of their own violins, and each costs $1,750, “but I think we’ll have to raise it to $2,000.”
They make the instruments in their workshop in Wisconsin, although the repair work is done here. Becker instruments are used by members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Milwaukee Symphony.
Pioneer violin-making family
The family has been in the violin business a long time. The elder Becker’s father was a violinist, and his father was one of the opener violin makers in America. The younger Becker is married to a singer.
And the Becker figure to be in the violin business for some time to come. Mr. and Mrs. Carl F. Becker have four children, one of whom, Jennifer, 15, is planning to continue her father’s profession.
“She means it, too,” Becker added. “She’s said it since before she was 11 years old, when she started a form for a fiddle.
“That’s younger than I was in 1935 when I started out, making cello ribs.”
這一天，Carl F.Becker和他的父親Carl G.Becker在該航班的集散站等待Sam Bloomfield的到來。Becker父子組合被人們認爲是世界上最出色的小提琴製作者和修理者之一。
他們爲多個知名的演奏者修理過樂器，包括Jascha Heifetz、Mischa Elman、Nathan Milstein、Isaac Stern和Gregor Piatigorsky。
這把小提琴是著名小提琴製作者Antonio Stadivari1721年製作的。1860年，J.B. Vuillaume在西班牙的一個閣樓上發現了這把小提琴，並把它修復。
到了1864年，這把小提琴被帶到英國。在英國，Anne Blunt夫人以260磅的價格將其買下。Anne Blunt夫人保存了31年，後來該樂器被稱之爲Lady Blunt Stradivarius。
Becker家族打算在未來一段時間繼續從事小提琴行業。Carl F. Becker夫婦有四個孩子，其中15歲的Jennifer打算繼續從事父親的職業。