Can we bring it home?

American violinist, Anne Akiko Meyers, current owner of the $3.6 million violin.
American violinist, Anne Akiko Meyers, current owner of the $3.6 million violin.

A local author is leading the campaign to bring a Stradivarius violin found under a bed in Aberfoyle Terrace in the 1980s back to Derry during the City of Culture celebrations in 2013.

Between 1957 and 1989 the ‘Molitor’ Stradivarius, made by Antonio Stradivari in the late 1690s, belonged to brother and sister, William and Muriel Anderson of Aberfoyle Terrace in the city. In October 2010 that same violin was sold in New York for $3.6 million, the highest price then recorded for any musical instrument at auction.

Author Dr Nuala McAllister Hart uncovered the amazing story of the Derry Stradivarius aka ‘Muriel’s Molitor’ – as she calls it - while researching for her new book ‘From Farquhar to Field Day: Three Centuries of Music and Theatre in Derry/Londonderry’. She was astonished to unravel the story of the violin - once reputedly owned by Napoleon Bonaparte – and to trace its ownership over three centuries, from seventeenth century Italy to Derry, caught in the midst of the Troubles.

Neither William or Muriel Anderson ever married and when William bought the violin in London in 1957 he brought it back home to Derry where it remained under his bed for over 30 years.

When William died in 1988, Muriel offered the violin to the Red Cross. The violin sold in London for £209,000 of which £195,000 - went directly to the Red Cross.

The Derry Stradivarius now belongs to Anne Akiko Meyers, the American virtuoso violinist, who gave the Molitor its first outing on 23 October 2010 in a concert with the Pasadena Symphony Orchestra.

Dr Hart has been in contact with both the Tarisio auction house in New York which sold the violin in 2010 and with Anne Akiko Meyers.

“It seems only a vague dream,” said Dr Hart. “But wouldn’t it be wonderful to have Muriel’s Molitor brought back and played once again in her home city of Derry/Londonderry during its Year of Culture?

“I’ve been in contact with both the auction house and Anne Akiko Meyers but for it to happen we would need the help of some of the big arts organisations.

“I think that if the city was to pull this off it would be an amazing story and it would mean Muriel’s Molitor would be heard in the city one last time.

“It’s an amazing story and one I am sure that will capture the hearts of many in the city. I’ve been in contact with a few people and organisations so hopefully something will happen soon.”