Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stradivarius Violins at upcoming "Strad Fest"


Stradivarius Violins at upcoming "Strad Fest"

The Holy Grail among string players and owners is the famed Stradivari.  The world-renowned sound of violins created by Cremona, Italy, luthier, Antonio Stradivari, are so unique and beautiful, it is said that his hands were guided by God.  Few on earth have ever heard such sound, so an upcoming event is truly a ‘chance of a lifetime.’  For four days in March (the 26th through the 29th), the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra will showcase eight of these violins, worth more than $25 million collectively, at an event called the “Strad Fest.”  These masterpiece instruments will be showcased, played and displayed.  Most of these have been owned by collectors, so precious are they, most musicians cannot afford such a luxury.  Fortunately, these collectors know that the instruments must be played to maintain the sound.  Foundering in a museum would ruin them.  Thus, they are heavily insured, and then loaned to professional musicians.

Each of them has a story unto itself, many of world travel and intrigue.  Following is a brief history of four, which will then add Strad Fest to their lengthy resumes.

The Serdet Stradivarius, 1666:

The earliest known Stradivarius violin still bears its original label with the year 1666.  Its name is derived from the Paris shop of violin dealer, Paul Serdet, who sold it in 1900.  Last summer, it was featured at the first significant exhibit honoring Antonio Stradivari at the famed Ashmolean Museum at Oxford University in Oxford, England.

The Titian Stradivarius, 1715:

The orange-red color of this reminded one French violin dealer of the paintings of Titian, and it was thus named.  It is known the instrument traveled to the United States and was in Boston in 1872.  The famed Rudolph Wurlitzer Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, owned it from 1924 to 1926.  Currently, it is owned by Cho-Liang Lin who played it in residence with the Shanghai Symphony.


The Milstein Stradivarius, 1716:

An Olympic sailor from Viborg, Finland, by the name of Harry Wahl owned this violin until his death in 1940. Soon after, virtuoso, Nathan Milstein, played this violin in London and other European cities for more than 40 years.  Its current home is in Pasadena, California, owned by philanthropist couple, Jerry and Terri Kohl, who lend it to various fortunate concertmasters in Los Angeles.

The Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius, 1720:

The 1999 Academy award-winning film, The Red Violin, was inspired by the story of the Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius.  Soon after it was crafted, this violin disappeared for Elizabeth Pitcairn, played it for the premier of a Swedish concerto in Helsingborn, Sweden, in 2005.

I can’t resist throwing in a quick book review.  There is a new crime novel called The Tooth Tattoo – a Peter Diamond Investigation, that deals with the classical musical community and speaks about the nature of these priceless, collectable instruments and their loan to masters.

“Peter Diamond, head of the Criminal Investigation Division in scenic Bath, England, is investigating the murder of a young woman whose body has been found in the canal, the only clue to her identity a tattoo of a music note on one of her teeth. For Diamond, who wouldn’t know a Stradivarius from a French horn, the investigation is his most demanding ever.

Meanwhile, jobbing violist, Mel Farran, finds himself scouted by a very elite classical quartet with a cushy residency at Bath Spa University -- one whose previous violist disappeared without a trace.  As the story unfolds in fugue-like counterpoint, Peter and Mel both learn frightening secrets about fandom and about what it takes to survive in the cutthroat world of professional musicians.”




Detwiler, Jacqueline.  “The World on a String.”  Hemispheres.  March 2014.

Lovesey, Peter.  The Tooth Tattoo – a Peter Diamond Investigation (Peter Diamond #13).  New York: Soho Press, 2013. 

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