Norman Rosenberg was born on 21 October 1926 in Liverpool to a Jewish family from Kaunas in Lithuania. His father and grandfather owned antique shops, his father sometimes selling violins. As a child he was taken to art galleries as well as Liverpool Philharmonic concerts and, inspired by Heifetz and Kreisler recordings, learnt the violin. Bringing together both visual and musical interests, he fell in love with instruments as a child, visiting violin shops and buying The Strad with his pocket money.

In 1941 the family moved to Bangor in Northern Ireland to escape the Blitz in Liverpool and Norman worked at Short & Harland, making Spitfire parts. After the war, he went to London and sold his first instrument, buying an 1880 Collin-Mézin at a local saleroom for £6, doing it up, and selling it for £8. The start of his career as a dealer. As an expert, he was consulted by auction houses and occasionally wrote for The Strad magazine. He continued to play the violin as a member of the Wembley Philharmonic Orchestra and Ben Uri Orchestra, and took part in chamber music with friends. He also composed choral and violin pieces, including Song of the Violin, which was recorded by Marat Bisengaliev.

Norman married Rosella Gallant in 1977 and their home in Cricklewood was a favourite stop-off for students and visiting violinists, with Norman often lending out instruments to talented youngsters and established soloists. Late in life, he suffered with Alzheimer’s, but to the very end recognised the sounds of Heifetz and Kreisler. He died on 17 February 2022, aged 95.


There’s a famous inscription on Christopher Wren’s memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral: ‘Reader, if you seek his monument, look around you’. In a way, the same could be said for Norman Rosenberg and his collection of instruments.

Norman’s was a familiar face at London auctions, his eye regarded as among the best in the business. He was much loved by the many players he helped over the years but remained an outsider in the violin business itself. It was known that he had some excellent instruments in his personal collection that he wouldn’t sell. However, when he died in February 2022, no one was fully prepared for the sheer quantity, breadth and quality of what was found in his workshop.

As his collection proves, Norman had impeccable taste born of his love of violin, formed listening to Kreisler and Heifetz as a child and allowing him to spot good players’ instruments. The instruments in his collection were all notable for their tone, as well as their quality. His insight also allowed him to see past the big Cremonese names (although the collection included a Strad and a Guarneri) to some of the less glitzy makers who made beautiful-sounding but more affordable instruments. There were, for example, several fine Milanese instruments.

Fine instruments are distinguished from most other antiques in their threefold value: they are both artistic and historical objects, as well as being tools of the trade for musicians. Norman was rare in having excellent judgement of all three aspects – a ‘triple threat’. He also loved these instruments with a passion; they were, after all, the ones he couldn’t bear to sell. And so, if you are seeking a testament to Norman Rosenberg, just look around you.


Norman Rosenberg - The Musician’s Expert

Norman Rosenberg, who died in February 2022 at the age of 95, was one of a kind, an old-school gent with a twinkle in his eye. He always stood slightly apart in the violin world – he was only ever interested in the fiddles themselves – but his expertise was acknowledged as among the very best. Not only did he have a superb eye and memory for recognising instruments, but he also had an excellent ear and a code of honour, making him the player’s friend.

Ingles & Hayday to sell the private collection of Norman Rosenberg

Ingles & Hayday’s online auction of instruments from the collection of celebrated London violin expert Norman Rosenberg has fetched £4.7 million, with 96 lots ranging from seminal violin-making books to a c.1685 Stradivari violin, which Rosenberg owned for around 60 years.

John Dilworth's article about Cremonese instruments belonging to the Norman Rosenberg collection to be sold at Ingles & Hayday

The Rosenberg Collection Part I – Cremona

The Rosenberg Sale included a huge number of incredible instruments including violins by Andrea Amati, Andrea Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari. The Stradivari is particularly noted for its form as a showcase of Stradivari’s gift as an innovator, the back having been made around the same time as the Andrea Guarneri. As well as these three giants, there were many other Cremonese makers featured in the sale including Michele Angelo Bergonzi, Lorenzo Storioni and Giovanni Battista Ceruti

The Rosenberg Collection Part II - Milan

The Rosenberg Collection Part III - Venice

The Rosenberg Collection Part IV

You came highly recommended and faced quite a daunting task as the collection had not been catalogued or recorded to any degree. There was so much in the collection and your knowledge and expertise in dealing with this was exemplary, from the identification to the restoration of some of the instruments. Everything was done with sympathy and always consulting myself and the family on any points that arose. You worked hard to give the collection the publicity that it deserved and the brochure that you produced was excellent.

I feel that you gave Norman the honour that was due to him, in his day, as one of the foremost experts in the identification of antique stringed instruments.

I would not hesitate to recommend your firm to anyone who needs to sell a good instrument because I know that you will deal fairly with them and with tact and expertise.

Rosella Rosenberg – Google Review