Tycoon Pays Record Price for a Violin

LONDON -- A Russian businessman has paid a record price for an 18th-century violin that had not been played in public for more than 70 years.

Maxim Viktorov, who bought the instrument made by master violinmaker Giuseppe Guarneri, paid "well in excess" of the previous auction record for a musical instrument of $3.54 million, Sotheby's said Wednesday.

It said Viktorov bought the violin privately, and did not disclose the price.

Viktorov promised that the instrument, dating from 1741 and at one point owned for 15 years by Belgian composer Henri Vieuxtemps, would now be played regularly in public.

Violinist Chloe Hanslip gave reporters a brief demonstration of its qualities by playing Paganini's Caprice No. 24 after the sale was concluded.

"Its first concert appearance in Moscow will be on March 22, in the Grand Hall of Moscow State Conservatory," Viktorov said in a statement.

"The great virtuoso Pinchas Zukerman will perform concertos of J.S. Bach, M. Bruch and W.A. Mozart. I hope it will be as inspirational to the artists who play it as it was to its first owner, Vieuxtemps, who composed real masterpieces on it," he said.

Instruments by Guarneri, also known as del Gesu, are considered to be on a par with those of the more famous Antonio Stradivari. The $3.54 million auction record for a musical instrument was paid at Christie's in New York in May 2006 for Stradivari's 1708 "Hammer" violin. The auction record for a Guarneri violin is ?572,000 ($1.12 million) -- paid for the 1743 "Baron Heath" at Sotheby's in London in 1988.