Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra: making great music personal

in the minds of the musicians

instruments have history: unleashing the beast

July 30, 2010

“It was like wrestling a wild animal – I remember of the first time I attempted to play this historic violin. It took months – in the end, I did not master the instrument. Instead, it taught me to play better…”

Katia Popov, violin II tells us the history behind her beautiful instrument:

“Having left Bulgaria to study music at the Paris Conservatory, I became a Concertmaster of the European Symphonic Orchestra in Paris. After performing one of my solo concerts there, a mysterious benefactor appeared, offering me the use of the instrument now we know of as the rare Pietro Guarneri of Mantua, circa 1691. He admired my work, and told me this violin must be played. It is on loan to me for life. It is an incredible opportunity and a constant strive to reach the heights of the brilliance, the perfection, the depth and the richness of this incredible violin.

Along with the violin, I have in my possession a faded, yellowed document attesting to the violin’s authenticity and describing its unusual ‘voice,’ hand-written in 1901 by the founder of the London firm “Hart & Son”, famous for certifying the authenticity of Stradivari and Guarneri instruments.

The instrument had belonged to the most celebrated German violinist of the 19th century, Wilhelmij. A major soloist, professor and author, his close friendship with the mystically inclined Wagner led to Wilhelmij’s playing this particular violin as Concertmaster for the premieres of every opera in the Wagner Ring Cycle.

He also took the violin to Istanbul on the Orient Express to perform for the Harem of the Sultan of Turkey. The only man (not castrated) ever allowed to be inside the Harem. It is really pretty unbelievable to be able to touch this amazing instrument every day and think of the sounds it made for all these famous and talented people who were around to enjoy it. And Yes! – it did teach me to play better and gave me a taste of the Wilhelmij’s sound, so pure and lush like gold.

Performing is an addiction for me. The feeling is extraordinary. I am possessed.”

You can read the first installment of instruments have history. Do you want to hear the history of a specific musician’s instrument? Let us know in the comments, and we will find out for you!


Instrument history is so cool!

  • —Anonymous, August 10, 2010 12:52 pm

i can't wait to hear "the beast" at belgium a la carte!!!

  • —Anonymous, September 10, 2010 09:20 am

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