January 26, 2013 at 11:18 PMWhen violinist Anne Akiko Meyers announced this week that she had been granted lifetime use of the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu, a number of people asked why someone who already owned two Stradivari violins would also accept this valuable violin, which apparently was sold for a record-breaking price to an anonymous patron.
After the announcement, I e-mailed Anne, and here is our conversation:
Laurie: When did you first learn about the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu?
Anne: I read about it when it was being called the priciest violin in the world. I thought it was a little bit of a gimmick but when I got the opportunity to play on the violin for the first time late in the summer I was immediately struck by the sound which had a richness I'd never before heard from a violin. I have played many Strads and del Gesu's throughout my lifetime, but nothing compared to this sound.
Laurie: Were you interested in the instrument, then found a sponsor, or did the sponsor kind of find you?
Anne: I have been fortunate to have violins from foundations and private donors most of my life. When I was about 10 years old, Dick Colburn loaned me many violins (Grancino, Guadagnini) until I made my debut recording at age 18. In my 20's, I played on the 'Rose' Strad, thanks to a private donor, and then performed on several Guarneri del Gesu violins subsequently. It was quite a relief to purchase the 'Royal Spanish' Strad of 1730 in 2005, because instruments that are given on loan are often taken back at any time. The lifetime loan of the 'Vieuxtemps' del Gesu is truly extraordinary because I have an arrangement where I do not have to worry about being asked to return it. I was crying tears of happiness, joy and disbelief when this extraordinary event happened.
Laurie: What are you going to do with your Strads, now that you have use of the del Gesu?
Anne: I believe that instruments should be played -- this is the purpose and end goal of all the makers. Last year I gave away an Arcus bow because I thought it would be better used by an aspiring artist. I also donated a modern violin to a music conservatory in Cartegena, Colombia a few years ago.
The 'Royal Spanish' is on the market now, and I am thinking of Molly's future as well. Since life is full of surprises, it may make sense to always have my own violin. Plus I have restrictions on the use of the Vieuxtemps.
Laurie: Are you permitted to loan out the del Gesu?
Anne: No. I have restrictions on its use to help protect the instrument.
Laurie: How does one go about getting sponsorship for an instrument? How does a sponsor decide whom they'd like to loan a valuable instrument?
Anne: Classical musicians have been helped by great arts patrons for centuries, and for string players, there are a large number of foundations and generous collectors who have made great instruments available. Often, the value of the instrument can be enhanced by the exposure it gets when an important artist plays the violin, so it can be a win-win for both the donor and performer.
Laurie: Do you have anything to add?
Anne: I feel like Cinderella playing this violin. That fate and destiny have brought this unique piece of history into my hands is really humbling and a major responsibility to preserve it for future generations.
Surely much more important to all of us will be to know whether she plans to install the gear pegs on the $15 million violin.
Maybe I'm naive, but I was happy for her when I heard about the gift of the Del Gesu. Whoever had bought it can do with it whatever he wants and if he wanted her to have it, what business is that of ours?
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