18th-Century Violin to Join Juilliard's Stringed Instrument Collection


The School is pleased and grateful to announce the addition of a 1771 Testore violin to its collection of rare stringed instruments. The violin, along with two fine bows, will be on loan to Juilliard for a period of 10 years, and is being made available to Juilliard students by the family of the late Samuel Pelman of Los Angeles.

Eric Grossman, curator of stringed instruments, trying out a 1771 Testore Violin, which is on a 10-year loan to Juilliard.


A pharmacist by profession, Mr. Pelman learned to play the violin growing up in Vancouver, according to Lorraine Pelman, his wife of 59 years, who described her husband as both modest and brilliant. “As a child he loved to hang around the shop of a certain violin maker,” she explained. A lifetime student of the violin, he also developed a fascination with the craft and made several instruments himself, including eight violins and one viola.

Mr. Pelman was also a dedicated musician, and played for more than 35 years in the Los Angeles Doctors Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble that toured internationally. “That violin went everywhere with him,” declared Mrs. Pelman. “He loved that instrument.”

Made in Milan by Paolo Antonio Testore, the violin bears its original label dated 1771. Its scroll and neck are original, as are all pieces of the instrument. It will be made available to violinists through Juilliard’s instrument loan program.

Students who are preparing for auditions, recital appearances, competitions, and concerto performances are eligible to borrow an instrument from Juilliard’s collection, with the permission of their teacher and the approval of the dean and provost. Juilliard students may also borrow an instrument on a long-term basis. When not on loan, the instruments are housed in a special climate-controlled vault.

Eric Grossman, curator of the Juilliard stringed instrument collection, was thrilled when he heard about the pending loan. “This is terrific news!” he said. “We also have a cello by Paolo Antonio Testore, from 1756, one of the best in the School’s collection. It will be wonderful to hear these two instruments played together.”

The 1771 Testore will join another 200-plus rare violins, violas, cellos, and basses under Mr. Grossman’s care and supervision. Also within Juilliard’s collection are two violins made by Paolo Antonio’s brother, Carlo Antonio Testore. The two learned the trade from their father, Carlo Giuseppe, who was a pupil of Grancino, maker of what is perhaps the finest viola in the School’s collection, dated 1699. In addition to these Milanese instruments, Juilliard owns several by the great Cremonese masters Antonio Stradivari and Giuseppi Guarneri del Gesù, as well as first-rate examples by Amati, Bergonzi, Guadagnini, and others.

It is a remarkable collection whose true value is as a resource for Juilliard students, says President Joseph W. Polisi. “At this stage in their development, very few students at Juilliard have instruments that complement their musicality and technical mastery. The opportunity to play an instrument of this caliber is invaluable to a young string player. Lorraine Pelman and her sons Richard and Michael are making a tremendous gift to violinists in lending this fine instrument to Juilliard.”

Both sons feel certain that their father would be pleased knowing that the great heritage of classical music was passing from one generation to another through this union of a fine, rare violin and the talented musicians of The Juilliard School.


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