Lady Tennant is a Stradivarius violin made in 1699 and sold at auction recently for over $2 million USD. The buyer gave it to a young Chinese violinist, Mr. Liu, on a long term loan. Yesterday I went to hear the first public performance of the Lady Tennant Strad in a generation. I’m glad that Jim, a fellow v.commie, encouraged me to go. My fears about the venue were completely unfounded. There were no crowds milling around the vast corridor outside of the concert stage at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. There were only 50 or 60 people in the audience, including some family and friends of the violinist, a young Chinese man named Liu. (I didn’t recognize Claire Blaustein, a fellow v.commie there.) The audience listened in rapt silence.
I’ve never heard a Strad played solo before. This one had a very distinctive personality. I could tell that even when he was tuning up. It’s hard to describe it in words, but I’ll try. The sound was rich, warm, and full. This was especially evident in the higher registers. Sometimes the high pitched notes on a violin sound thin or skin deep, but not this one. There was a very rich and full sound in every note. I’m sure that this was due, in part to the age of the violin and its long history of use, but there was something more than that. I could almost feel the wood speaking to me, telling me of its generations of playing and all of the life learning behind it. It was almost religious.
Liu was, of course, a wonderful violinist. I still prefer recordings of the great masters playing Bach’s Chaconne, but the current player put his own life and spirit into the violin and made it richer.
You can hear the performance online at http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/millennium/search_results.cfm?RequestTimeout=500# , but he sounded a lot better in person. Claire, please let us know when the review is published in the Washington Post.
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