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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”