The Royal Academy of Music was delighted to announce that the founder of the Becket Collection, Elise Becket Smith, together with her fellow Trustees, has chosen to donate the whole of this unique and important working collection of period instruments to the Academy.

The Becket Collection was started by Elise Becket Smith in 1998 to encourage and facilitate the study of historically informed performance. It now comprises a complete orchestra of 25 Classical-period British stringed instruments together with a full set of woodwind, brass and percussion instruments.

The stringed instruments include a Daniel Parker violin (1720), a Nathaniel Cross cello (1743), a Henry Jay viola (1768) and the only known example of an English piccolo violin, by John Barratt (1725). The earliest instrument in the Collection is a Robert Cuthbert violin of 1676.

Lockey Hill violin, c.1790

Apart from the fine level of craftsmanship seen in these instruments, the fact that many remain in unaltered period condition make this collection both unique and of highly important scholarly significance. The Collection also incorporates a group of 14 specially commissioned modern copies of Venetian baroque masterpieces and their bows — an ensemble of the type that Vivaldi would have used for performances in Venice in the early 18th century. Three years in the making, this is the largest single instrument commission of its time and involved some of the finest luthiers from Europe and the USA.

Distinguished musicians who have worked with the Collection include Margaret Faultless, Jonathan Cohen, Sir Roger Norrington, Pavlo Beznosiuk, Trevor Pinnock CBE and Laurence Cummings. Many of the students who have used the instruments during their studies are now playing with the leading period orchestras in England and abroad. The Royal Academy of Music published the much-praised book The Becket Collection of Historical Musical Instruments to mark the 10th anniversary of the foundation of the Collection.

Follow this link for the full list of instruments in the Becket Collection.

Henry Jay viola, 1768