Kochanski - Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesł


Photograph by Michael Darnton
© Bein & Fushi inc. of Chicago, IL.

The Kochanski del Gesł has been the faithful companion of Aaron Rosand for nearly 40 years. This violin, created in the year 1741, is an outstanding late example of the art of Joseph Guarneri "del Gesł" of Cremona. It has magnificent deep red varnish and is in a wonderful state of preservation.

Joseph (Bartolomeo Giuseppe) Guarneri (1698 - 1744) is the most famous of the Guarneri family. The moniker "del Gesł" comes from the presence of across and the initials "I.H.S." on the printed labels of his violins. These initials may be either an abbreviation for the name "Jesus" in Greek, or maybe an acronym for the Latin "Iesus Hominum Salvator" (Jesus saviour of men). Whatever its origin, IHS was a logo commonly used by the Jesuits and veryfamilliar to the residents of 18th century Cremony. Giuseppe's use of this device on his labels led later generations to the assumption that he was aman of exceptional piety, hence the designation "del Gesł" (of Jesus) was added to his name. Today many scholars believe it is perhaps likely that IHS was was adopted by Giuseppe more as a recognizable trademark to distinguish his work from that of his well-known relatives than as a religious expression. (His grandfather, father, uncle, and brother were also noted violin makers.)

The Kochansky first became known to the violin world when it was shown to W. E. Hill & Sons in 1880 by a Mr. Henry Enthoven, a London antiques dealer and fineamateur violinist. Enthoven also showed the instrument to Charles-Eugene Gand who recorded it in his files. When Mr. Enthoven died it was sold toRichard Davis in 1898 who shortly resold it to the Hills. Then followed a sale in 1916 to Mr. Richard Bennett, doubtless the greatest stringed instrument collector ofall time. When Bennett died March 23, 1930, the Hills repurchased the instrument. In 1927 the violin was sold to Paul Kochanski, a violinist who played it thoughouthis career. Upon Paul Kochanski's death, his widow chose to store the instrument in the vault of Rembert Wurlitzer, the celebrated New York violindealer. Aaron Rosand would go to Wurlitzer's to demonstrate violins for potential purchasers and this is where he first became acquainted with theKochansky. The instrument remained in the Rembert Wurlitzer vault for many years until finally in 1957, Mr. Kochanski's widow was persuaded to sell theinstrument to Mr. Rosand. Since then Mr. Rosand concertized continuously using the Kochanski. IN 2009 Nikolai Shoutov purchased the violin from Biddulph.

The Kochanski is considered to be one of the great del Gesł's. It is from Guarneri's last and perhaps greatest period, 1740 - 1744. The maple back isa mirror image of the "Ysaye" from the year before. The wood of the top is cut from the same log as that of the "Vieuxtemps" del Gesł. The bass sideexhibits a heavy, broad grain, while the treble side is of much finer-grained wood.

The tone of the Kochanski is much-admired and is very well-known in today's concert halls and recordings thanks to the many great performances and recordings made by Mr. Rosand over the past 40 years. It is regarded by many as one of the best sounding del Gesł violins in existence.

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