Both the violin and its player surely will be among the finest to ever appear with our homegrown symphony.
I can’t say I know old violins as well as I know old guitars, but instruments generally rise in value based on the materials used in their construction and skill of the craftsmen who build them.
My grandmother owned a delicate, small-bodied 1880s Martin, and my folksinger friend Jon Adams played a similar Martin from the 1890s. Of course, pre-World War II Martins go for 10 times what a new model would cost you — and up.
And the late Frank Hicks, a western swing guitarist from the 1940s (dubbed “the king of the passing chord”) had a pristine Gibson Super 400 acoustic that was once on display at the Smithsonian.
As you might imagine, all of these guitars sound absolutely fabulous.
But there’s a huge difference between a 100-and-something year old instrument and one that was built nearly 300 years ago, decades before the American Revolution.
For centuries, stringed instruments, especially violins, made by Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari (1666-1737) have been considered among the best ever made.
Those made between 1700 and 1720 come from what is known as his golden period.
Pitcairn brings one of those golden period Stradivari-made violins for her performance with the Susanville Symphony.
Only a few hundred of Stradivari’s violins have survived the ravages of the last 300 years or so — proving the high esteem their owners afford them.
Believe it or not, many of these violins actually have names and have been used by many of classical music’s greatest artists (Yo-Yo Ma, the Davidov Stradivarius, and Julian Lloyd Weber, the Barjansky Stradivarius, for example).
The world’s greatest philharmonic orchestras also own many Stradivarius violins. Some even have found their way into museums.
True, the age of these violins contribute to their priceless value, but as with all musical instruments, it’s all about the sound they create.
Surprisingly, Pitcairn’s Red Mendelssohn Stradivari was unaccounted for nearly 200 years before it turned up with members of the famous composer’s family — and thus its name.
For centuries researchers, musicologists and luthiers have tried to reproduce that famous Stradivarius noise — to no avail.
Some say it’s the wood from an old spruce tree that grew during an extremely cold period.
Others say Stradivari must have rubbed the wood with some unknown substance. Still others claim it must have something to do with the varnish he used.
Whatever he did 300 years ago, no one has ever been able to duplicate the sound his instruments create.
We have an opportunity to hear this phenomenal instrument in the hands of a consummate musician playing with a symphony orchestra comprised of our friends and neighbors this Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.
You tell me — what could be better? I can’t wait.
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