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Sunday, April 6, 2014

STRADIVARIUS VERSUS GUARNERI


Serendipitously, I was on the verge of posting on the Stradivarius violin, when I saw an article featuring Anne Akiko  Meyers (above) about the Mona Lisa of violins, the ex-Vieux-temps Guarneri del Gesu (eTtGdG), created by Giussepe Guarneri (could not find an image of what he looked like, but here is a scroll he made to the left) who lived from 1698 to 1737.  Antonio Stradivari (right) 1644 to 1737, was, of course, the most renowned, crafting more than a thousand, although perhaps 650 Strads remain, while Guarneri only fashioned 140.  Many of these instruments, mind you, are three centuries old, and made of wood.  Yet, they not only are still regularly used today, most of them still look virtually new and sound extraordinary.

Conventionally, Guarneri signed his creations IHS, the monogram name of Jesus Christ, which is why his fiddles are called Guarneri del Gesu.  And, by the way, a violin is a fiddle and a fiddle is a violin.  The difference is the music played on them.  The dTtGdG, only 273 years old, was sold for up to $18 million a couple of years ago, and the anonymous owner passed it on to Meyers as a lifetime loan.  This then is the most expensive violin, as the previous high was the 293-year old Lady Blunt Stradivarius (right) which sold in 2011 for $15.9 million, with the proceeds going to the Nippon Foundation Great Tohoku disaster relief fund.

The key to greatness is in the tree.  Read about the Stradivarius tree, which is invariably a spruce, grown in a cold climate on a mountain with low falling moisture.   A cold snap, condensing the grain, supposedly gave the dTtGdG its special qualities.  Here is legendary tree-picker, Lorenzo Pellegrini in Italy's Abruzzo mountains in the Risoud Forest with his trees.  Not only does he spend his time finding the next Stradivarius tree, but waits for the perfect autumn day when sap has settled and the moon is low on the horizon, as far as possible from Planet Earth.  Hey, we are taking fantasy here, anyway.

Anne Akiko Meyers played the dTtGdG last night at the Blaisdell Concert Hall, and if you read this in time and happen to be Honolulu, performs again at 4PM today (Sunday).  She will play Prokofiev and Strauss on the 273-year old most expensive violin ever crafted, the ex-Vieux-temps Guarneri del Gesu.

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