Testing the Sloan Strad and del Gesù Violins with Hao Zhou and Lucy Wang

September 10, 2019, 2:58 PM · What happens when you put two talented violinists in the same room with a 1742 Guarneri del Gesù violin and a 1714 Stradivari violin?

I found out last week, at the Los Angeles home of Dr. William Sloan, who invited violinists Hao Zhou and Lucy Wang over one evening to try out his beloved Italian fiddles, as well as several violins that he made himself.

Zhou, Sloan, Wang
Hao Zhou holds the 1714 Strad; William Sloan holds "Sloaneri 3"; and Lucy Wang holds the 1742 Guarneri del Gesù.

Not surprisingly, it was a joy to hear this combination of beautiful playing on beautiful violins.

Zhou and Wang are both members of the Viano String Quartet, which made headlines earlier this month when it won first prize in the Banff International String Quartet Competition 2019. The quartet also is currently the string quartet-in-residence at the Colburn School.

Currently, Zhou plays on a Becker violin, and Wang plays on a 1715 Montagnana violin on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank.

Playing some Bach on the del Gesù, Zhou observed that "it's really comforting to play - it produces a really gorgeous, round sound." Wang played some excerpts from Chausson's "Poeme" on the Strad, and then things got really fun because they started playing together, Wang on the Strad and Zhou on the del Gesù. Fortunately I have some nice video, enjoy!

Sloan is a remarkable collector because he does more than collect; he actually has taken up the art of making violins himself, going every year to the Oberlin Violin Makers Workshop to work on his latest violin. He told us that making a violin is actually difficult and more scary than doing surgery!

Sloan has completed four violins -- all patterned after a Guarneri del Gesù violin -- and is about to start on a fifth. Wang took a particular liking to the third violin he made, which he calls the "Sloaneri 3." That violin "was made with wood selected by Bernard Millant in 1960, when he was a student in Mittenwald," Sloan said. "Since then, he went on to become a famous bow-maker and appraiser, and apparently did not make that violin. He gave the bag of wood to me as a house present in 2013, when he visited California for the first time."

Millant died in 2017, at age 87. "Interestingly, this del Gesù model is constructed on the same internal mold used for my previous violins," Sloan said, "but the completed instrument has the mellow vibrant tone of an old 18th-century violin."

Below, Wang plays some Sibelius Violin Concerto on "Sloaneri 3," while Zhou plucks harmony on the 1742 del Gesù. .

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September 10, 2019 at 08:23 PM · Delightful. Thank you for sharing that. One comment I have, as a dog lover, is that they should have let that dog into the room. All the dog wanted was to be with the people. ;)

September 10, 2019 at 08:43 PM · Leonora (very cute little white doggy) did join us right after that video and was under the table for the next one!

September 10, 2019 at 11:31 PM · I'm sure you probably thought that being in the same room with these magnificent violins would give you a first-hand appreciation of their tone. But to really hear them as they were meant to be heard, you would have to record them and then play them back on vinyl records using an amplifier containing vacuum tubes. Only then will the warmth, rhythm, and dimensionality of their sound be revealed.

September 11, 2019 at 12:02 AM · Laurie,

Thank you for posting this video. What beautiful playing! I had the privilege of playing on both instruments in the late 80’s when I was an undergraduate at the University of Toledo. Dr. Sloan lived in Toledo then and on occasion would attend the university orchestra rehearsals. To this day, I remember the singing e string of the Strad and the beautiful depth of the Guarneri! What a treat.

September 11, 2019 at 12:33 AM · LOL paul.

Also, Lucy is adorable.

September 11, 2019 at 02:45 AM · I can easily see why making a violin would be more scary than surgery. Flesh heals itself. Wood doesn't.

September 12, 2019 at 05:36 PM · As a crazy for Dogs, Doggie Lover, I so wanted to see the darling pooch, panting and as Mark

Bouquet, felt the same that (I understand) Leonora just wanted to be with the people!!!! Having had

the blessing of a del Gesu, performing throughout Scandinavia & continental Europe + making some recordings on my del Gesu,it is an indescribable luxury to play on a great Guarneri that

speaks back to one's heart, if taken care of with love by the handling of left hand navigation and

sensitive bowing ~ Not every del Gesu responds similarly, of course, but if you live it, it will love

you back!!!!!! The Sibelius seemed to greatly please my del Gesu with much practise together &

learning the instrument well. It takes time to learn an instrument, and certainly a Guarnerius del

Gesu!!! They are 'people' with souls of owners who made great music as Mr. Milstein did so

lovingly for over 45 years on his 'Marie - Therese Strad, which I knew quite well, playing it often

when privately studying with NM in London over 3 & 1/2 Years. I truly believe Mr. Milstein's Straf misses its Owner now in Heaven ~ (This makes me cry.)

The Doctor seems a lovely chap who loves the violin and the, yes, fearful feeling in making one!

The violinists were nice people and obviously more than careful holding & playing these great

violins!!! I knew Dick Colburn from 1965 until his passing ~ He was a true violin & string great

aficionado, who would sometimes invite me to stay at his London residence, a few doors down

from my Great Violin Mentor & his wife, Nathan & Therese Milstein ...

Thank you for this, Laurie!!

Elisabeth Matesky

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