Australian Chamber Orchestra Acquires A Stradivarius

Satu Vänskä
Satu Vänskä Image credit Nic Walker

The name Stradivarius is associated with the very best in violins and now, the Australia Chamber Orchestra is the proud owner of one of these instruments. The ACO has announced that Chairman Guido Belgiorno-Nettis AM and Michelle Belgiorno-Nettis have purchased a 1726 Stradivarius violin and will make it available for long-term loan to the orchestra.

The instrument will be named the 1726 Belgiorno Stradivarius by the ACO in honour of the Belgiorno-Nettis’ generosity, and will be played by ACO Principal Violin Satu Vänskä.

The 1726 Belgiorno Stradivarius violin was made during the later years of Stradivari’s life and is a supreme example of the celebrated craftsman’s work. It will join the only other known Stradivarius instrument in Australia, the 1728/29 Stradivarius violin, which was purchased by the ACO Instrument Fund in 2011 and is currently played by ACO violinist Glenn Christensen.

Vänskä describes the tone of the violin as being “exceptional in its brilliance… and it has a spectacular palette of colours and expressions. But what makes this instrument so special is that, like all of Stradivari’s best instruments, it has a soul and a personality of its own. Owning a Stradivarius is practically impossible for my generation of musicians, so to be the custodian of an extraordinary instrument such as this one is the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Chairman of the ACO since 1996, it has been a long-held dream for Belgiorno-Nettis to purchase an instrument of this calibre and make it available to musicians of the ACO. Paying tribute to his late mother he says “I would like to thank my late mother and the proceeds of her estate for the opportunity to purchase this wonderful instrument…In the hands of  Satu Vänskä this remarkable Stradivarius becomes a living, breathing piece of art that will be heard and appreciated by audiences all over Australia and beyond.”

Antonio Stradivari lived in Cremona in northern Italy, a town synonymous with the crafting of stringed instruments,  during what was considered to be the ‘Golden Period’ of violin making. He and his contemporary Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù are widely acknowledged as the greatest and most influential violin makers of all time. Stradivarius instruments are highly prized for their unique blend of tonal excellence, design, beauty to the eye, and accuracy of workmanship, and while he produced over one thousand stringed instruments in his lifetime, only 650 survive. Many of the world’s great violinists have played on Stradivarius instruments, including Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman and David Oistrakh.

The 1726 Belgiorno Stradivarius can be heard when Satu Vänskä performs Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra in F major in the ACO’s Nicole Car series, touring nationally from 8-24 April 2018.

Some of the instruments of the ACO:

• A 1743 Guarneri del Gesù violin kindly on loan from anonymous Australian benefactors (played by Artistic Director Richard Tognetti); • A 1759 JB Guadagnini violin kindly on loan from the Commonwealth Bank Group (played by Principal Violin Helena Rathbone); • A 1729 Giuseppe Guarneri filius Andreæ cello kindly donated to the ACO by Peter Weiss AO; • A late-16th century Gasparo da Salò double bass kindly made available by an anonymous Australian benefactor;
• A 1728/29 Stradivarius violin kindly on loan from the ACO Instrument Fund; • A 1616 Hieronymus and Antonio Amati cello kindly on loan from the ACO Instrument Fund; • A 1714 Joseph Guarneri filius Andreae violin kindly on loan from the ACO Instrument Fund; • A 1610 Maggini viola kindly on loan from an anonymous Australian benefactor.

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