A Fine Canadian Violin Made For Steven Staryk By Georg Heinl, 1946.
A Fine Canadian Violin from Toronto. Wracked in ruin and only beginning to rebuild in 1946, Europe lay in waste from the tumult and horrors of WWII. Meanwhile, Georg Heinl (1891-1980) was just closing his Opus 54, an exacting copy of the Earl Stradivarius with a back length of just under 356mm, a violin made for a rising star, 14 year old Steven Staryk (B. 1932). Georg Heinl first apprenticed with his father Joseph, and uncle Johann, in Vienna, where he earned his Violin Making Diploma in 1911. He began working for W.E. Hill & Sons of London the same year and emigrated to Toronto to represent the firm at R.S. Williams & Company from 1912-1920. He spent a few years in Ottawa before establishing Geroge Heinl & Co., in 1926.
Although Staryk was its first owner, it was the daughter and granddaughter of Olive Gordon Kennedy (1922-2004) who brought this violin to me at Cohen Violins. I was immediately taken with it, not only for its craftsmanship, but for how lovingly it had been cared for over the last 75 years; the instrument is in pristine condition, less a few insignificant nicks to the varnish on the treble shoulder bout - in need of only an updated setup, which I was honored to oblige. Featuring a medium, even grained spruce for the top and highly figural flamed maple for the single piece back, with matching ribs and scroll, grafted for appearance, and a fine golden brown varnish of admirable translucence and quality.
Olive Gordon Kennedy was an accomplished violinist in her own right, a member of the Toronto Symphony who earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from West Michigan University and studied at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, going on to teach and conduct at the middle school, high school, and collegiate levels, starting her own symphony, and even writing one, among other compositions. It was Georg Heinl’s grandson, Ric who informed me that the first record Georg Heinl & Co. had of Olive with the violin was when she brought it in on March 4th of 1968, some 22 years after the violin was made, and that it was made for Staryk.
Steven Staryk was perhaps the defining voice of Canadian violin playing in the 20th century, boasting a discography of 30+ titles and over 190 compositions. At 24, he became the youngest concertmaster of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and earned a storied reputation as concertmaster of the Amsterdam Chamber Orchestra, the Concertgebouw, the Toronto Symphony, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and taught at the Vancouver Academy of Music, University of Victoria, University of Toronto, University of Ottowa, the University of Western Ontario, The Royal Conservatory of Music, the American Conservatory in Chicago, The Amsterdam Conservatory, Northwestern, and Oberlin.
Ric and I surmised that Olive must have purchased the violin directly from him while they both performed in the Toronto Symphony. This is a rare opportunity to own a fine violin with a readily available provenance in ownership. I am earnestly grateful to Ric for his welcoming attitude and sharing this information openly. Aside, Georg’s shop forman, Ernest R. Otto did a considerable amount of preparation work in constructing the violins and added his own label to the upper block, unbeknownst to Georg, and tell of friendly contention in the workplace - who did more work, if you will.