Obituary: Robert Lewin

WHENEVER a sale of valuable stringed instruments took place at one of the big auction houses, Robert Lewin was never far from the scene. From very modest beginnings, he became one of the most knowledgable "fiddle- fanciers" in the business, and contributed articles on the London sales in the Strad magazine for over 40 years.

"Bob" Lewin was born in 1906 over his father's fish shop in Stratford, east London, and attended the local elementary school in Tottenham when the family moved there shortly afterwards. He showed an interest in music from an early age and when quite a small boy had some instruction on the violin from a local teacher. He later had lessons with the Spanish-American Achille Rivarde and the Russian-born Sascha Lasserson (a pupil of Leopold Auer), who became one of the most celebrated London teachers in between the two world wars.

In addition to working in his father's shop, Lewin played in cinemas accompanying silent films and led a number of amateur orchestras. He was also a very able chamber music player and at one time had his own string quartet who gave broadcasts of light music from the BBC. During the Second World War he served in the Auxiliary Fire Service.

His great interest in stringed instruments led him to be engaged as a valuer for World Auxiliary Insurance - later to become British Reserve; eventually he became recognised world-wide as one of the most respected advisers in the field.

His skills as a writer - at first for a fish trade paper, were such that by the Sixties he found himself contributing articles to the Strad, and it was here that he reported on thousands of sales at the leading London auction houses. He also wrote numerous obituaries of string players for the same journal.

Another of his passions was to study the stock market daily and when it became available on Ceefax, almost hourly. Most of his many accomplishments were self-taught and he was an avid reader right up to the last few months before his death.

As a young man he was a keen tennis player and over the years regularly visited Wimbledon. Here again, he was an astute observer of the game and could discuss the subject with authority.

Bob Lewin always looked as if he had dressed in a hurry with clothes from a jumble sale, and had no time for sartorial elegance. He had a whimsical sense of humour, and was a great practical joker and a brilliant raconteur. He was extremely generous and liked nothing better than to entertain his friends at a gourmet restaurant.

Robert Lewin, violinist and valuer of musical instruments: born London 18 July 1906; died London 25 March 1998.