PARIS – How amazing to have the chance to play one of the finest of all violas: the Macdonald Stradivarius! A once-in-a-lifetime experience! A minor miracle! Although the viola is nearly three hundred years old, it is as good as new. It almost felt as if Antonio Stradivari had handed it to me himself! It was so emotional to feel the instrument vibrate and make music on it. The magic was immediate, even though it’s hard to master such an instrument in a short space of time… it sometimes takes me several years to be ‘as one’ with a viola.

David Aaron Carpenter playing the viola.

Apart from its undeniable quality – its pure shape and the crystalline sound it produces – I was moved above all by this viola’s incredible aura. To any passionate musician there is something mystical about it, as if it were the Holy Grail of string instruments. Modern violas have tried to imitate it but never equalled it. If I had to compare it to another field of creation, I’d say it’s like asking an art lover to choose between the Mona Lisa and a perfect reproduction of the Mona Lisa. Unimaginable!

The ‘Macdonald’ Viola (1719), a unique Stradivarius masterpiece, will be offered by sealed bid process until 26 June 2014.

David Aaron Carpenter is an American-born violist and the first Prize Winner of the 2006 Walter E. Naumburg Viola Competition.