Sherlock Holmes is known for his sharp wit and keen eye for detail. But he also had a passion for music, and particularly violin music. In the stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Watson describes Holmes as an enthusiastic, capable, and "eccentric" violin player, and he took great care of his Stradivarius, purchased cheaply from a pawnbroker. We can get a sense of Holme’s playing ability by listening to modern recordings of Mendelsohn’s “Lieder ohne Worte”, arranged for violin and piano, favourites of Watson. Follow these links to listen to Op 30 No 1 and Op 62 No 1.
Holmes' love of music is evident throughout the stories, with several descriptions of him attending concerts featuring well-known violinists of the time, such as Whilhelmina Norman-Neruda and Pablo de Saraste. He also had a particular preference for "German music" due to its “introspective” nature. His musical tastes hint at a depth of character and emotional complexity beyond his usual detached, analytical demeanour.
How did this character relate to the author? Although little is known about Conan Doyle's own musical achievements, it is believed that he learned to play the violin as a child and sang in the school choir. He enjoyed playing traditional Scottish folk music, reflecting his Scottish upbringing and heritage. Throughout his life, Conan Doyle regularly played the piano for friends and family, often accompanying his wife singing, and he (like his character) enjoyed listening to both classical and popular music of his time.
There has been some well-founded speculation that some of Conan Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes came from the work of William Crawford Honeyman, a contemporary Scottish violinist and conductor, who was also a published mystery writer.