Purveyance reveal: An illustrated odyssey

Meet Newton Mansfield: Polish-born, naturalized American violinist in the New York Philharmonic. (1930-2018)

A natural musician, Newton Mansfield always hated having to practice. One day in childhood, rather than practice, he sat down on, and crushed, his violin.  When his father, a tailor, came home from work and saw what had happened, he didn’t utter a word,  simply turned around, left, and came back with another violin.

Newton’s family left Poland for France, then France for Spain to escape Hitler, finally managing to get to America where Newton became a professional musician. (“I knew I wanted to be a professional musician as soon as I got paid for it! In Paris when I played I got balloons. In New York, when I was 11 or 12, I got paid!) After playing in symphony orchestras in Houston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh, he joined the New York Philharmonic (then under Leonard Bernstein) in 1961 and performed with them for 55 years. He retired in 2016; died in 2018 at age 88.

Despite distaste for doing so, Newton did practice.

In the early 1950s he purchased a fine, antique violin on which, as it would turn out, he’d play for the rest of his life. This instrument was certified by Rudy Wurlitzer who oversaw the Wurlitzer rare and historic stringed instrument department’s 42nd Street headquarter in New York City.  The certification attested that the violin had been made by M.A. Bergonzi, describing: “The back is of one piece of semi-slabcut handsome figure maple. The scroll and ribs matching the back. The top is one piece of wide, slightly irregular grain spruce.”

Meet Michel Angelo Bergonzi: Cremona is a small, mercantile city in the Lombardy region on the River Po in northern Italy. Son of Carlo (1683-1747), father of Nicolo (1754-1832), Michele Angelo Bergonzi (1721-1758), was a Cremona-based violin maker. This family produced exceptional violins during what is considered as the golden period of violin-making, 1650-1750.

Although Wurlitzer certification described the violin as an M.A. Borgonzi of Cremona (with sound post crack in the back)” unease about its veracity hovered since Wurlitzer was generally thought of as a manufacturer of pianos, organs as well as a purveyor of jukeboxes, vending machines and even carnival rides. Newton, of course, realized that Rudy Wurlitzer was not very highly regarded as an authority on Cremonese violins and that his violin would need to get a certificate written by a more highly esteemed source. When he showed the violin around opinions rarely differed:  It was likely a Bergonzi … especially the bottom and sides, but … the top of the violin had …. quirks!

In 1992 he commissioned an appraisal by violin maker and restorer Boris Sverdlik in New York, then, a second appraisal in 2020 by Christophe Landon Rare Violins, Inc. also based in New York. Both were useful in establishing an approximate value should Newton ever want to sell it, but – alas – cast no light on the issue of the violin’s flimsy purveyance. So, whether or not it was truly a Bergonzi made by either father, son or grandson, and as much as Newton hoped it was, he never did get around to verifying the authenticity in his lifetime.

After Newton’s death, his violin was stored with other instruments in a humidity-controlled vault near Lincoln Center and time passed.

Meet David Mansfield: American musician and composer, Newton Mansfield’s eldest son (b. 1956).

David, a child prodigy in music like his father, always suspected that the issue of establishing the violin’s purveyance (he refers to a violin as a fiddle) would – by default – someday fall into his lap. In fact his father had warned him as such.  And so it did.

When the time came, he reached out to the world’s leading (also unrivaled) experts – Beare & Son – a family firm based in England, founded by John Beare in 1865. There were long waits for appointments and no way to hurry the process. Close to his eventual appointment date, David retrieved the fiddle from where it safely rested and flew with it from Newark to Heathrow, then traveled (by train) to a market town in Kent (Tonbridge) where a taxi took him to his AirBnB in nearby Penshurst – another beautiful Kent village of historic houses and gardens surrounded by woodlands and fields. It was springtime, there were martins and skylarks and the light in the sky lingered until late evening.

David brought  the fiddle to the Beare Atelier in the morning and handed it off to an assistant whom, he presumed, would pass it to the highly esteemed, most respected violin expert on Bergonzi violins in the world, Charles Beare (b. 1937). Hopefully, at this point, Charles or perhaps one of his sons (Peter or Freddie), would oversee an examination and provide a certificate that would officially authenticate Newton’s fiddle as a Bergonzi.

Or they wouldn’t.

That was it. David left empty handed.

A few months later the violin was ready for retrieval so he hurried back to Penshurst but no certificate awaited him. Instead, he learned that Newton’s violin was definitely not made by Carlo Bergonzi.  The reason for the certainty was that Charles owned Carlo’s molds. Additionally: Newton’s violin is slightly larger than a Bergonzi and its arch is so high, almost touching the finger board.  There was a slight possibility, though, that the violin had been made by Carlo’s son Michel, though Charles doubted it, also a slim possibility that he had been made by Nicolo but Beare didn’t have the expertise to certify as such. When Peter Beare examined the varnish, he decided that the wood probably wasn’t a composite even had uncertainty as to whether or not it was from the 1700s.

Because a dendrochronology (technique for dating artifacts by  tree rings) report hadn’t been gotten, Beare suggested he get in touch with Christopher Reuning who knew more about Nicolo’s work.

Meet Christopher Reuning: An American born maker and restorer of fine violins, Reuning is considered one of the world’s leading experts. He owns Reuning & Sons Violins in Boston’s Back Bay and provides appraisals, also certificates. Thus, shortly after returning from Kent, David transported Newton’s violin to New England and left it with Reuning.

When the violin was ready to be retrieved, he hurried north again.

The reveal: Reuning concluded that (as Beare suspected) Newton’s violin was not a composite, that it hadn’t been crafted by anyone in the Bergonzi family. The conclusion: Newton’s violin had been made by Jose Contrares (1710-1780) probably in Madrid. (Admired for building fine violins, Jose Contrares began receiving commissions from the Spanish royal court after which his fame grew.) It was possible that Contrares had been assisted by his son. Reuning based the conclusion on the fact that the scroll on Newton’s violin pointed directly to Contrares regardless of the “curve” and strange placement of the f  holes that weren’t typical of Contaras’ style. In the later part of his life, had Contraras experimented by copying Bergonzi’s violins as opposed to his earlier violins that were based on Stradivarius and Guarnerius. Perhaps the unusual placement of f holes and the curve under the fingerboard were part of this experimentation?

Christopher arranged for the dendro report to be done. Conclusion: the violin was made in 1734. Additionally, that Newton’s violin was slightly larger than those made by a Bergonzi was (finally) clarified. By ‘larger’ it was meant that it didn’t match Bergonzi’s molds. The difference was miniscule … insignificant … except for identification purposes. Reuning did concede, though, that the wood or dendro (the Greek word for tree) from which Newton’s violin came might have originated from the same source used by other Cremonian’s – Bergonzi included – as some of the same dendro verdors sold both in Italy and in Spain in the 1700s.

One side note: Reuning (who’d written a book on Contraras) took the violin with him to Madrid to a private exhibition on Contraras work (June 2023) attended by dealers and  experts. He told David that Shlomo Minz, the Israeli violin virtuoso and conductor, owned a violin quite similar to Newton’s.

So much for purveyance.

Certified or not, Newton’s violin remains an instrument that has survived intact from the 1700s until the present. If safely stored in its sturdy case in a climate-controlled vault, the wood will continue to age and, as it does so, the sound will get even better. Of course, only if the violin is played.  David: “It’s thought that the modern violin reached an apex in the 18th century … so, you see, those violins will always be the very finest ever made.”  I note this. David: “Yes, Newton’s violin is ready for another set of hands … ready for another fine violinist. Now, since provenance is established, it can  …  indeed … move from the hands of one fine professional to another over future decades and centuries. Maybe, though, if it hadn’t received certification, I might have kept it. But now … I can let it go.” Any regrets? “I only wish I’d met Charles Beare.

Subsidiary reveal: While cobbling together this post, I am struck by how abysmally ignorant I am when it comes to David’s world, his father’s world, the world of the wooden chordophones (string instrument) generally known as the violin or fiddle. Truth be told, I wouldn’t know how to bend my wrist around one, wouldn’t really have any idea if a sound it emits is superior or ordinary or if the bow I’m clutching is right side up or upside down. I do know, though, that when the sound of a violin reaches my unrefined ears, feelings of shivery sadness are released, also melancholy. Some part of my heart breaks open. Trying to explain these deep feelings leaves me inarticulate. Perhaps someone else can put their finger on what I’m trying to say better than I, a post-covid rock or clot of mineral matter whose ten fingers often caress a silicone keyboard. During his musings on woodwind instruments (piccolos, flutes, oboes etc.) in relation to  violins, Christopher Carroll wrote in “The Knight Errant and other Music Criticism” (his  biography of Virgil Thompson) the following: “While the wind plays sustained harmonic progressions … the violin caresses with almost inaudible tendrils of sound, like wiggly figures that dart like silent goldfish around a rock.


[A violin maker is also called a luthier or one who builds or repairs string instruments that have necks and a sound box. The term was originally used for maker of these luters and also for makers of other bowed and plucked stringed instruments including other members of the violin family: violas, cellos, double basses and guitars.]

[Coco Gauff almost didn’t become a tennis pro. Echoing Newton on the matter of practice she said, “When I was younger I didn’t want to practice at all ...”]

[Photo credit: Photo of David by Masie Mansfield-Greenwald, David’s daughter]

[Violin photograph in this post is generic – not, repeat, not – Newton’s actual violin.]

[Full disclosure:  David is married to my sister Maggie Greenwald, the award-winning independent film director and writer.]

My George Washington

When the angry ferocity of hurricane Idalia began blowing through the news, concern pulled me toward the east coast of Florida (St. Augustine) where a precious childhood friend resides. His name: David Nolan. Our connection: he, his sister, mother and father were neighbors in around 1955. They lived downstairs, we lived upstairs. After decades without contact, David and I had a back-and-fourth a number of years ago (on the occasion of one or another bereavement) and reconnected. Thus, I still had an email contact and quickly wrote: Re: Checking up on you, also (in the body of the email) STAY SAFE! SENDING LOVE. Quickly a reply bounced back, reassuring (in part): So far, it’s a cinch: grey sky, a light wind, occasional rain. We are fortunately just – JUST – outside the area of alarm. It couldn’t have picked a less-populated part of Florida for the worst hit, over the Big Bend region of small fishing villages. I feel sorry for the people. (signed) George
David Nolan is an historian. We haven’t come face-to-face later in life, but here’s a photo I found of David as an adult:

Seeing the image of the appealing, friendly, tie-wearing man in the photo, I recalled the blond crew cut he’d sported as a boy, how springy it was when patted.

As the hurricane traveled in David’s direction I read the following article about him in FIRST COAST NEWS written by Keitha Nelson that was published on July 28th:

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla: Leaders sweeping Black history under the rug, choosing not to share at times a dark past. That’s what David Nolan says he faced when he moved to St. Augustine in the 1970s. He says the city known for its history, at a point in time, failed to share its Black history.

Nolan, an author, historian, and civil right activist helped to change that.

“I dropped out of school in the 1960s to work in the civil rights movement,” Nolan said.

In 1963, there was a movement taking place, one Nolan couldn’t ignore.

“That was the most meaningful year of my entire life, I’m sure,” Nolan said.

It was the year of the demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama. Four young girls were killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing and Medgar Evers was assassinated in his driveway. Also in 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his I Have a Dream speech in Washington D.C. Then on Nov. 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

“This was what was happening in America,” Nolan said. “And I was, you know, growing up and you had to decide which side are you on. And to me, there was no question it was going to be that side.”

He’s held on to old articles and memorabilia over the years, detailing his journey, choosing at times the unpopular path. From Virginia to the South Carolina Sea Islands, Atlanta to St. Augustine, Florida living among history.

“It’s almost like heaven except there’s also hell attached to it,” Nolan said. “But, you’re right. I mean, for me, as a historian the greatest pleasure is walking down the street and walking past people who made history.”

Nolan arrived in the Ancient City in the 1970s and was among a group created to survey the city’s old buildings.

“I walked up and down every street of St. Augustine for two years, I walked through the soles of many pairs of shoes,” Nolan said.

His worn-out soles led him through the city’s historically Black neighborhood of Lincolnville.

“St. Augustine had been this incredibly important place in the civil rights movement, it was the place between Birmingham and Selma,” Nolan said. “It was the place that gave rise to one of the two great legislative accomplishments of the movement, the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And yet, when I came here, it was never talked about, it had been completely swept under the rug.”Nolan picked up that rug, dusted it off and put just about everything he could find underneath on display. These included things such as a permanently marked Freedom Trail of historic sites of the Civil Rights Movement, trolley tours sharing the city’s Black history, and Florida’s first civil rights museum.

A founder of ACCORD, recognizing St. Augustine’s role in the Civil Rights Movement, Nolan still lights up while sharing the past.

“St. Augustine is really a treasure but we’ve got to guard it constantly,” Nolan said.

Nolan shared a wide range of stories while sitting in the ACCORD museum, the former dental office of Dr. Robert Hayling at 79 Bridge Street in St. Augustine. Stories in which include how he says he became the first person beaten by the Ku Klux Klan in the state of Virginia since the 1920s.

All roads lead to ….. acupuncturists

Intake: Initial visit – 9/15/22

Going: Uptown E to Lexington ave, Changed to Uptown 6 to 68th Street

Coming: Downtown Q to 14th Street, crosstown L to 8th Ave, Uptown C to 23rd Street

Sundry walking total: 1.9 mile

Visit #1 – 9/20/22

Going: Uptown C to 72nd (M72) Street, crosstown bus to 2nd Avenue

Coming:  72 street crosstown bus (M72) to CPW, downtown C home

Sundry walking total: 1.3 mile

Visit #2 – 9/27/22

Going: 23rd Street crosstown (M23)  bus to 3rd ave, uptown 3rd ave (M101) Bus to 72nd Street

Coming: 2nd Avenue downtown bus to 23rd Street, crosstown 23rd (M123) bus  to 8th avenue

Sundry walking total. 1.6 mile

Visit #3 – 9/29/22

Going: Uptown C train to 72nd Street, crosstown 72nd Street (M72) bus to 1st Ave.

Coming: Downtown Q train to 63rd and Lexington Ave, F train downtown to 23rd Street and 6th Ave

Walking total: 2.1 mile

Visit #4 – 10/4/22

Going: Downtown E train to west 4th Street, uptown F train to 63rd & Lexington Avenue, Q train to 72nd and 2nd Ave

Coming: Downtown Q train to 63rd & Lexington Avenue, F train to 23rd Street, M23 crosstown bus to 8th Avenue

Walking total: 1.1 mile

Visit #5 – 10/6/22

Going: Downtown C to W 4th street, uptown F to 63rd Street & Lexington Avenue, Q train to 72nd Street

Coming: Downtown to 63rd & Lexington Ave, Q train to 72nd Street, M23 to 8th Avenue

Walking total: 1.5 mile

Visit #6 – 10/11/22

Going: Downtown c to W 4th Street, uptown F to 63rd Street & Lexington Ave, Q train to 72nd Street

Coming: Downtown from 79th & Lexington Ave, #6 train, to M23 crosstown at Lexington Ave

Walking total: 2.0 mile

Visit #7 – 10/13/22

Going: Downtown E to W 4th Street, Uptown F to 63rd Street & Lexington Ave, Q train to 72nd Street

Coming: Downtonn Q to 63rd & Lexington Ave, F train downtown to 23rd Street, crosstown M23

Walking total: 1.2 mile

Visit #8 – 10/18/22

Going: Downtown C to W 4th Street, Uptown F to 63rd & Lexington Ave, Q train to 72nd Street

Coming: Downtown Q to 63rd & Lexington Ave, F train downtown to 23rd Street, crosstown M23

Walking total: 1.2 mile

Visit #9 – 10/27/22

Going: Downtown E to W 4th Street, Uptown F to 63rd & Lexington Ave, Q train to 72nd Street

Coming: Downtown Q to 63rd & Lexington Ave, F train downtown to 23rd Street, crosstown M23

Walking total: 1.1 mile

Final Visit #10 – 11/3/22

Going:  Downtown C to W. 4th Street, Uptown F to 63rd & Lexington Ave, Q train to 72nd Street

Coming: Downtown Q to 63rd & Lexington Ave, Downtown F to 23rd Street, Crosstown M23 to 8th Avenue

Walking total: 1.2 mile

Tale of two emails: First email



Two emails were received in the space of five days in the ninth month of pandemic:

First email:


Tue, Nov 17, 2020 4:51 pm
C____ (
hello Alison,
i was watching a movie recently about a girl living on her own in a camper van
– and she was reading found & lost* which I ordered and am now enjoying so much!
do you happen to know my friend L____ L___ L___who has also been coming
here to Amsterdam for many years, from New York?
best from Amsterdam
C___  K____
I wrote to the sender, asked: a) what movie? b) do I know you? and replied c) No, I don’t know L____ L___ L_____
Received a reply to my reply. In it a) a still photo in which a young girl holds my book “Found and Lost” in her fist And, further, discovered that the still  photo is from the following film
How grand is that?
Have now watched the beguiling film with pleasure and respect. Have a look at its trailer – “The Short History of the Long Road” ** The lost girl (played oh so sweetly by Sabrina Carpenter) in the photo is traveling alone in a van across the American southwest, against its mesmerizing landscape. On the journey she reads, among other books, my memoir, Found and Lost. I’d like to think the book’s travails help the innocent girl on her way to self-discovery. The film was written and directed by young, mega-talent Ani Simon-Kennedy.
Answer to second question, b) “You don’t know me” *** Which is true. (Have a listen.)
The unknown sender of the email, I’ve now discovered, is a talented male poet/writer living is Amsterdam. I’ve now read some of his work and wait for more to be revealed. He’s a jewel of a poet. (I’ll ask if I might reveal his name. If he says yes, I’ll insert.)
**[“The Short History of the Long Road” is directed by Ani Simon-Kennedy ;
the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019 ]
*[Found and Lost by Alison Leslie Gold – Nottinghill Editions, UK, 2017; NYRB, USA, 2018]
***[  “You don’t know me” by Willie Nelson written by Cindy Walker and Eddy Arnold. Have a listen.]

Loose ferrule


Long time member and experienced gardener S. A. has been unable to locate her trowel which may have been left or loaned out, earlier in the season. It is a family heirloom she dearly misses. If you find/have it, she would be grateful if it could be returned. It looks similar to the one below. The blade is silver metal, the handle wood. The ferrule covering the base of the handle is loose and tinkles when you use it. If found, please reply to this. Thank You!   [JDIG Executive Committee]After noticing this plea in the communal garden’s newsletter, a surge of deep identification bled through my handle since (as it happens) my own (blotched, bent) ferrule is loose; has been tinkling at all the wrong times. It’s so slack (do I dare admit it?) there are moments when I think I’ll split in two allowing my curved scoop to drop willy-nilly. Another point: At this late point in life, we ‘heirlooms’ hardly maintain the wherewithal anymore to scrape caked loam away from our alloy. More accumulates … mud everlasting. … mud unbecoming … mud hardening over geological time. Point taken, in Miami too, see below:

… a worker, and Justice who had practiced his childhood piano
on one of Miami’s old streets

could recall a sunburned man with a bucket of masonry trowels
who had walked by the porch window of his piano teacher

one summer at the end of a lesson hour, his red hair
stiffened by mortar.

[from “Poem/Old Miami” by Kevin Cantwell, 2017]

What kind of gardener steals a trowel, especially an older model (one of us) that tinkles nervously? What kind of gardener misplaces or replaces or mislays or buries or otherwise misappropriates? As it happens, just now, a spider web has attached itself to my scoop leaving me at a loss as to whether to anguish or languish in the event that a firm fist pulls asunder what God has joined together.

Chelsea’s best photographer

The neighborhood is Chelsea. It’s become my home-base as well as a much-loved ‘nest’ in recent years. Chelsea’s been Ron Rutherford’s neighborhood since 1956 when his family left Miami and relocated here. When he was a boy he was particularly close to his Grandmother – a short, strict, smart Caribbean woman he refers to as ‘Grand Mama’ who ‘didn’t take any crap from anyone’ She passed away in 1976. ‘I still miss her.’ he admits over coffee at one of the local Greek coffee shops on 23rd Street. ‘Chelsea was very different when I first moved here. You could leave your door open then.’ The maternal side of Ron’s family originated in the West Indies;

[West Indian Grand-Mama]

[West Indian Great Grandmother]

he was brought up both Baptist and Catholic. From early on he loved celebrating all the West Indian holidays but Thanksgiving was his favorite. He attended P.S. 33, J.H.S. 3, Louis D. Brandeis High School on 85th Street. Being practical, knowing he’d need to earn a living, he decided to go to a trade school to learn offset printing as well as air conditioner and refrigerator repair, including electrical wiring. He discovered he had a knack for taking apart automobile engines and shifted his focus toward mechanics, specializing in auto and motorcycle repair. ‘I was a fast learner and the boss took me under his wing.’ Ron excelled in this work, made good money and loved what he was doing. As a hobby he became an amateur ham radio operator. After a few years, he injured his back in an unfortunate accident at work and was no longer able to continue on as a mechanic. Being unsure of what he would do after such a setback, he worried. As it happened, while ruminating, his brother gave him an old computer – a 1995 IBM 8088. This early computer peaked his curiosity, tempting him to see if he could take it apart. He could. Once it was in pieces … ‘I got really curious’ …. and he began to rebuild it. This launched a period spent at computer shows inspecting all the new models and buying parts. He soon was able to take apart and rebuild both Mac computers and IBM’s, any and all. This adventure with computers became both a hobby and a source of income and with some of his first earnings he purchased something he’d been wanting all his life – a good camera. He bought himself a Canon and began taking photos. Later on he bought a Lenox by Panasonic and, eventually, realized what he liked best – a Canon 50 D, the camera he still uses – of which he comments: ‘A good camera is like a good woman. You’ve got to take good care of it.‘ Roaming our Chelsea Piers with his Canon he noticed the arrogance of its

seagulls. Click. In the local park he observed curious squirrels. Click. More animal photos followed, all neighborhood creatures.

When invited by the tenants association of his apartment complex to take photos at its annual Family Day in July, he said he would. A few of these portraits follow: ‘I’m not much of a people person.’ Ron told me as I too sipped coffee across the table from him alongside our friend Robin Shea as I admired his portfolio of photographs – both human and animal. ‘You could have fooled me.’ I commented, knocked out by the warmth, beauty and joie de vivre of his human subjects. Ron Rutherford is my neighbor; he’s my friend; he’s a marvelous photographer whose work I would like to share. Have a look at a few of his photos and see what I mean.

Contact for Ron Rutherford:

[ puterfor@AAAHAWK.COM ]