Violin by Giuseppe Guarneri, Cremona, ca. 1730, "Goldberg-Baron Vitta." Performing Arts Reading Room, Library of Congress.
A violinmaker from Cremona, Italy, Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesú (1698-1744), created a small group of violins used by virtually every virtuoso from Nicolo Paganini to Jascha Heifetz to Fritz Kreisler, and, more recently, by extraordinary violinists such as Szymon Goldberg. In around 1730 in Cremona, Italy, Guarneri del Gesu made two violins from the same piece of wood. One was the "Kreisler" Guarneri, acquired by Fritz Kreisler in 1926, which he gave to the Library in 1952. The other violin was the "Baron Vitta," named after its first known owner and acquired by Szymon Goldberg in 1958. The "Baron Vitta" was given to the Library of Congress by Szymon Goldberg's wife, Miyako Yamane Goldberg, in May 2007 to reside with its "twin."
Placed side by side at the Library, the instruments show seemingly identical wood-grain patterns, suggesting that they were derived from the same parent tree.
There is little information about the early history of these violins. It is known, however, that the legendary Austrian-American violinist Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) bought his famous Guarneri violin in 1926.
Kreisler's recordings since that time constitute one of the earliest sets of documentation to establish the quality of a particular instrument during a particular period. After Kreisler gave his Guarneri to the Library in 1952, visiting violinists kept the instrument in shape by playing it regularly in Library concerts.
A few blocks away, the "Kreisler's" sibling, the "Baron Vitta," had been on deposit at the Smithsonian Institution since the mid-1990s. The "Baron Vitta's" previous owner was Polish-born violinist Szymon Goldberg, who had made his debut in prewar Germany at age 12, had served as concertmaster of the Dresden Philharmonic at age 16, and as concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic at age 19, in 1929. He fled to the United States from Nazi Germany and was interned by the Japanese during a concert tour in Java, in 1943. He later established the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra and served as its soloist and music director for 22 years.
Goldberg died in 1993 at the age of 84; his trust loaned the "Baron Vitta" to the Smithsonian. In the spring of 2007, Goldberg's widow, pianist Miyoko Yamane, donated the "Baron Vitta" to the Library of Congress. In turn, the Library loaned the violin to Nicholas Kitchen, a former student of Goldberg's and an eminent soloist and founding member of the Borromeo String Quartet.
Before taking the violin on a concert tour, Kitchen and Mrs. Goldberg brought the "Baron Vitta" to the Library. She accompanied Kitchen, who played the first movement (Allegro) of Johannes Brahms' Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 3 in D minor, op. 108, using alternately the "Kreisler" and the "Baron Vitta."