Renaud Capuçon’s violin is older than the United States. The instrument, which was made in 1737, was crafted by a rival of Stradivarius, the Italian master Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri. The trademark cross in Guarneri’s logo—and his instruments’ handsome design and enviable sound—earned him the nickname “del Gesu”, or “of Jesus.” And because Guarneri’s life was shorter than his best-known contemporary’s, there are far fewer surviving examples of his work. While over 600 Stradivarius models grace the world’s best concert halls and private collections, according to the Smithsonian, only about 150 del Gesu instruments are known to exist.
So it’s not hard to understand why Capuçon, the award-winning French classical violinist and music professor who’s been playing the violin all over the world for nearly 20 years now, is deeply invested in taking care of it. And since earlier this year, it’s been crisscrossing the globe in a specially designed Rimowa case.
“If you buy a Rimowa suitcase, you know it’s going to be beautiful—but it’s solid. It won’t be broken after one trip,” says Capuçon, who used a prototype of the case to bring the Guarneri to New York when he played Carnegie Hall in January. “You don’t have to explain that it’s going to be safe.”
That safety is enhanced by Rimowa’s partner in making the case: Gewa, a German company that makes musical instruments and the sturdy bags and boxes that keep them in top condition. On the outside, the first-of-its-kind collaboration resembles a long, slim version of one of Rimowa’s Classic luggage designs—and it closes with two TSA-approved locks. Inside, things are a lot more complicated.
The case will be available in very limited quantities starting on March 23 for €2,900, or a little more than $3,100 at the current exchange. It’s fitted with a microfiber interior that won’t scratch a violin’s delicate wood surface, and comes with a blanket to protect the instrument and a compartment for bows and other accessories. It also has Gewa’s specialized neck pad system, an adjustable component that allows the case to carry violins of different lengths. There’s even a hygrometer and humidifier to help ensure the air inside isn’t too dry or too humid to damage a delicate instrument.
All of these measures are especially important to Capuçon, who has a special connection to this violin. It once belonged to Isaac Stern, a violinist Capuçon idolized in his childhood and eventually studied under. And for all its many functions, the most important may be protecting and preserving it for the next talented musician who’ll play it.
“Even if you own it, it’s never really yours. Because the sound is the property of the people who hear it,” Capuçon says. “I know someday it won’t be my mine and it will be played by somebody who will put their personality into the sound—and somehow, I find that wonderful.”