LACO Brings 8 Superstar Stradivarius Violins Together for First Time in STRAD FEST, Now thru 3/29
Imagine a festival with some of the world's most illustrious superstars of a certain age gathered together in one room. But instead of classics like Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman and Vivien Leigh - all unquestionably stars for the ages - the marquee names are eight of the world's most celebrated and rare Stradivarius violins brought together for the first time ever.
This remarkable gathering of instruments comes courtesy of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra (LACO), which transforms the Southland into "Strad Central" with STRAD FEST LA from today, March 26 to 29, 2014, an unprecedented showcase for eight of luthier Antonio Stradivari's most divine creations and played over four days at one private and three public events in venues throughout the area. With approximately 650 surviving Stradivarius violins, violas, cellos, harps and guitars in the world, this feat is akin to assembling a musical instrument "dream team."
"We may never see a gathering of Stradivarius violins like this again in our lifetime," says LACO Executive Director Rachel Fine. "With eight of the finest Strads in the world on display and being played in such an eclectic range of events, it is truly an extraordinary celebration."
Uniting the "crème de la crème" of these musical siblings, all from the Strad's Golden Period handcrafted some 300 years ago during the late 1600's and early 1700's in Cremona, Italy, LACO's STRAD FEST LA features the 1666 "SERDET," the earliest known of the Stradivarius violins; the 1708 "RUBY," named for its rich, extremely well preserved ruby-tinted varnish and owned by The Stradivari Society, which lends great instruments to leading emerging artists; the 1711 "KREISLER," formerly owned by the great Fritz Kreisler and currently owned by the LA Phil and played by its Concertmaster Martin Chalifour; the 1714 "LEONORA JACKSON," named for prominent American violinist Leonora Jackson, who died in 1969 in obscurity; the 1715 "TITIAN," considered among the finest violins of the maker's Golden Period and revered for its unusual power, scope and focus, which was named "Titian" by a French dealer who said its orange-red color reminded him of the paintings of the famed artist; the 1716 "MILSTEIN," played for nearly 40 years by virtuoso Nathan Milstein and currently owned by Southern California philanthropists Jerry and Terri Kohl, who loan it frequently to LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer; the c. 1720 "BEECHBACK," whose simple understated dark exterior belies its rich tone and full sound; and the 1720 "RED MENDELSSOHN," which surfaced in the 1930's in Berlin and is the inspiration for the 1999 Academy Award-winning film The Red Violin that speculates on the instrument's mysterious history after it disappeared for more than 200 years following its debut (currently owned by Elizabeth Pitcairn).
STRAD FEST LA's opening event is a private, invitation-only scholarly discussion forum with violin demonstration on Wednesday, March 26 jointly presented by LACO and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. KUSC Classical 91.5 FM Executive Producer Gail Eichenthal is the moderator.
The other three events are all open to the public, beginning with a LACO BAROQUE CONVERSATIONS series concert on Thursday, March 27, 7 pm, at Zipper Concert Hall in downtown LA, spotlighting the Strads in Georg Philipp Telemann's Concerto for Four Violins in D major and featuring the 1708 "Ruby," 1716 "Milstein," and 1715 "Titian" and c. 1720 "Beechback" played by critically acclaimed artists Margaret Batjer, LACO's Concertmaster, Chee-Yun, Cho-Liang Lin and Philippe Quint. The program also includes LACO Principal Oboe Allan Vogel, leader and host, soprano Elissa Johnston, bass Steve Pence and LACO musicians who perform three Bach cantatas - "Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke" ("I am content in my good fortune"), from Cantata No. 84; "Es ist vollbracht" ("It is accomplished"), from Cantata No.159; and "Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn" ("Walk in the way of faith"), from Cantata No. 152. Tickets begin at $65 and include a complimentary wine reception at 6 pm.
The Strad "extravaganza" continues with STRADIVARIUS FIDDLEFEST, on Friday, March 28, 7:30 pm, at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica, a dazzling once-in-a-lifetime fiddle "face-off" starring five of the Stradivarius violins played by world-class violinist virtuosos attempting to outplay one another in an acrobatic program of solos, duos, trios and quartets. Trading the exquisite one-of-a-kind Stradivarius instruments throughout this fun-filled display of edge-of-your-seat one-upmanship are LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer, Chee-Yun, Cho-Liang Lin, Philippe Quint and Xiang Yu, joined by LACO Music Director Jeffrey Kahane on piano and LACO Principal Double Bass Nico Abondolo. The repertoire includes such showpieces as Telemann's Concerto in D major for Four Violins, TWV 40:202; Moszkowski's Suite in G minor, Op. 71; Kreisler's, Mélodie (from Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice) and Tambourin Chinois, Op. 3; Brahms's Scherzo in C minor, "Sonatensatz"; John Corigliano's The Red Violin Caprices; and Franck's Sonata in A major. Also featured are Saint-Saëns' Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, Op. 28; de Sarasate's Navarra ("Spanish Dance"), Op. 33; Ravel's Pièce en Forme de Habanera; Bartók's Romanian Folk Dances, Sz. 56; and two works by Piazzolla, Oblivion for Four Violins and Bass, and Libertango for Four Violins and Bass. Tickets begin at $45.
Concluding STRAD FEST LA is STRADOSPHERE: A STRAD-STUDDED GALA EVENING, on Saturday, March 29, at 5:30 pm, at The California Club in downtown Los Angeles. Rather than honoring a celebrated artist or philanthropist at its annual fundraiser, LACO instead fetes all eight STRAD FEST LA violins. Taking center stage on the Strads are noted violinists Margaret Batjer, Martin Chalifour, Chee-Yun, Cho-Liang Lin, Philippe Quint, Xiang Yu and 12-year-old prodigy Ray Ushikubo. LACO Music Director Jeffrey Kahane is conductor and harpsichord for the evening's breathtaking program of violin works by Bach, Vivaldi, Maurer and Piazzolla, joined by Principal Bass Nico Abondolo and members of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. Guests also enjoy a sumptuous dinner, auctions of one-of-a-kind items and a unique opportunity to visit with knowledgeable luthiers and experience the "Red Mendelssohn" up close with owner/violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn. The cocktail attire/black-tie optional Gala is chaired by Pat and Sandy Gage. Tickets begin at $750 per person.