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Come on, go and admit it! When you visit a museum, don’t you sometimes get tempted to touch a piece of art or a sculpture? Especially if you’re so enthralled with its beauty or it has complex layers and textures… I can’t help but want to!

What if I told you there is a 300-year old piece of art that you CAN use and perform with. In fact, it even goes up in value when it’s played. That, my friend, is the one-of-a-kind ‘Circle’ violin created in 1701 by Antonio Stradivari.

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The San Francisco Ballet Concertmaster, Cordula Merks has been lent this ‘Circle’ Stradivari through J & A Beare’s International Violin Society, a program that aims to bring patrons and performers together to support talented artists with the best instruments in the world.

“The first time I had the opportunity to play this violin, I was immediately drawn to the sound and I also felt very comfortable playing it right away,” said Cordua. “Normally when you play a new instrument, you need time to get used to playing on it but I was able to perform with this violin on the first night I received it!”

We recently sat down with Cordula at The Laundry to find out more about her musical journey this special violin. ⬆️ Click to Watch! ⬆️

The violin is called ‘Circle’ Stradivari because of the mysterious half circle scribed on the back, close to the neck of the violin. (Zoom in on the photo below to see it. It’s very faint!) The reasoning behind this mark is unknown but specifically sets it apart from Stradivari’s other violins. But beyond the mark, what makes this violin so special is its rich history, sound and value.

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The paper trail on this instrument dates back to a famous Budapest-born violinist named Tivadar Nachèz, who owned it until 1904. But before then, it was owned by several violinists in the time of Mozart and Bach. It could have even been played in Beethoven’s orchestra. Can you imagine?! This violin may be able to sing but imagine if it could talk! It’s like a musical fairytale to think of all the halls that it was played in, the famous composers and musician that played it and all the monumental times that it “lived” through.


Just like a glass of old wine, this violin has such a rich color of flavors and sounds when it’s played. One of the reasons that makes it so unique is that it’s easy to project the notes to in big and substantial hall. “To me, the ‘Circle’ Stradivari sounds effortlessly powerful, yet warm and full of life and character,” said Cordula. “The sound is neither ‘bright’ nor ‘dark’ – it could be anything, like only the best human voices. The violin is also wonderful to observe: its delicate lines, the dancing colors under the varnish… to me, it looks truly alive.”


Even if you’re not too familiar with classical music, the name “Stradivari” may still sound familiar. That’s because he is known to be the best violin maker EVER. Not just in his time period but even in the twenty-first century, he still surpasses the best violin makers of today. His violins have been compared to the artwork of Van Gogh or Picasso because of his unparalleled artistry and technique. Currently, the value of this instrument is worth several million dollars! And the best part is, it will ALWAYS go up in value, especially when it’s used.The violin is in an exceptional state of preservation and is one of the finest examples of the Stradivari golden period violins.

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So the next time you go and see the San Francisco Ballet, make sure to listen closely to the orchestra! You’ll be able to hear Cordula play on a one-of-a-kind Stradivari that’s over 300-years old. How cool!

Currently, Cordula and the San Francisco Ballet is hoping to find an individual or group of people that would like to purchase the instrument as an investment and then loan it to her or SF Ballet for her use. “A violin of this extraordinary quality can allow the performance of both the player and dancer to reach even higher levels in our never-ending quest for perfection,” says Martin West, Musical Director and Principal Conductor of the SF Ballet.

If you are interested in finding out more about this investment opportunity, click here! If you would like to find out more about San Francisco Ballet’s season, click here!

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