Updated: Mar 4
What if James Bond’s favourite weapon had been a Stradivari violin instead of the Walther PPK? His life would likely have been as colourful as that of Desmond Cecil. In his newly published memoir The Wandering Civil Servant of Stradivarius (Quartet Books), Desmond Cecil takes us on the fantastic journey that led him from Chemistry studies in Oxford and his encounter with Yehudi Menuhin, to moving to Switzerland to study the violin full-time with the illustrious Max Rostal, before returning to the UK to join HM Diplomatic Service in 1970. A fluent linguist, Desmond spent the next twenty-five years serving in embassies all over the world. He went on to work as an international political and funding adviser first in the UK’s private sector and then for the French state nuclear energy industries. There he gained extensive experience of nuclear environmental clean-up in Russia after the dismantling of the Soviet Union. And he did all of this without compromising on his love for music and especially his beloved 1724 Strad. “Music and my violin turned out to be invaluable during my diplomatic career”, Desmond writes, ”both as an escape from the inevitable bureaucratic constraints and frustrations, but also as a unique way into the cultural life of the various countries in which I served." We have thoroughly enjoyed reading about Desmond's adventures, and while they might seem to be a little extraordinary for a violin player, they somehow make a lot of sense for a Strad owner. Throughout the research work we’ve done for our upcoming publication “Antonio Stradivari: The Complete Works” we have come to identify an invisible thread that links Strad owners across centuries and continents. It seems that Antonio Stradivari’s outstanding instruments have attracted the most outstanding and unusual characters: people just like Desmond Cecil, who shared talent, skill and passion that matched those of the greatest violinmaker of all times.