News / Arts & Entertainment

Rare Violins Inspire Awe

'Art and Soul' of World's Most Expensive Violini
X
Adam Phillips
March 20, 2014 9:56 PM
When many of us think of precious objects, it is often the largest gems or the most famous paintings that come to mind. But certain rare violins inspire the same awe - and command the same astronomical prices - as these other treasures. VOA’s Adam Phillips tells us about one particular violin’s pride of place in the rarified world of high-end stringed instruments.
Adam Phillips
When many of us think of precious objects, the largest gems or the most famous paintings may come to mind.  But certain rare violins inspire the same awe - and command the same astronomical prices - as these other treasures.

The “Vieuxtemps” violin played by American virtuoso Anne Akiko Meyers is worth well over $16 million.  It was made in Italy in 1741 by Guarneri del Gesu and represents the pinnacle of violinmaking’s Golden Age.

Meyers says it is unlike any instrument she’s ever played.

“The G string is so dark and rich. It really can sound like a cello…. the E string sounds like you are in a really sky high cathedral listening to music pouring out," she said.

One treasure among many

The violin is dubbed “The Vieuxtemps” after Henri Vieuxtemps, the great 19th century violinist who once owned and cherished it.  It is only one of the ultra-rare antique instruments that pass through Paolo Alberghini’s showroom in Manhattan.

As he opens a safe which stores anywhere from $5 million to $50 million worth of instruments “depending on what we have for sale at the moment,” he explains that the Vieuxtemps, which was a nearly perfect violin when it was made, has been nearly perfectly preserved.

In Alberghini’s view, those who possess this treasure are more like stewards than owners.

“And to be able to be part of the life of this instrument in a meaningful way, and to share it with the world or to preserve it so that somebody else can share it in the future is something that attracts many wealthy collectors around the world,” he said.

Science meets art

Science has come to the aid of the luthier, or violinmaker’s craft. Ultraviolet lamps and endoscopes can detect cracks and other flaws invisible to the naked eye.

But in a nearby workshop, highly-skilled craftspeople repair, restore and even create these four-stringed wonders - all by hand.
 
Master Restorer Julie Reed-Yeboah maintains the Vieuxtemps. She says even the so-called "imperfections" in del Gesu’s masterworks add something wonderful to their sound.

“As he got older, his “F-hole’ styling became much different, longer and more eccentric as well as his heads became much more eccentric. They are a very distinctive style of that period," she said.

For playing, not just ogling

Many of the world’s rarest cellos and violins lie silently in museums and private collections.  But some, like the Vieuxtemps, continue to provide musical pleasure.

Anne Akiko Meyers, for example, regularly thrills audiences with it at Carnegie Hall and other venues.  She has owned two Stradivari violins, which approach the Vieuxtemps in quality. Still, she calls this particular violin her soulmate.

She remembers when an anonymous donor offered it to her for her lifetime use. 

“I cried like a baby. As an artist you are dreaming of that moment your whole life. I couldn’t believe it," she said.

Meyers likes to quote Vieuxtemps, who famously was supposed to have said that “anyone can actually play the notes, but you have to let it sing."

“And now I am playing on the Vieuxtemps and thinking like a singer that needs to sing,” Meyers said.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

The Hamilton Live

Paquito D'Rivera, who has won 12 Grammys, is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer. D'Rivera's latest project, “Jazz Meets the Classics,” was released this month. He joins us on the latest edition of "The Hamilton Live."