The 1716 “Milstein” Strad surfaced for the first time with the Hamma firm in 1911. It passed to Scandinavian collector Harry Wahl in the 1920s and then to Emil Herrmann around 1940, before Ukrainian-born violinist Nathan Milstein bought the instrument in 1945. Considered one of the greatest violinists of the 20th century, Milstein played this incredible violin on a daily basis for the duration of his career.
In 2006, Southern California philanthropists Jerry and Terri Kohl embarked on a mission to “own a piece of history.” The Kohls enlisted the help of LACO concertmaster Margaret Batjer and LA Phil principal concertmaster Martin Chalifour to make the choice. After nearly a full day of trying out various Strads, Batjer opened the case holding the “Milstein.” When telling the story, Jerry Kohl always mentions the expression of awe on Batjer’s face when she realized that she held in her hands the violin of one of the greatest players of the last 100 years. Upon playing it, Batjer, Chalifour and the Kohls all agreed that this was the one.
Mindful that to maintain peak performance condition, violins need to be played but also need periods of rest, the Kohls judiciously make the “Milstein” available for performances to Margaret Batjer and Martin Chalifour, among other fortunate violinists.