Stradivarius for the 23rd Century

The Return of the Prodigal Son“ (New) W. Zeitler (1954- )

Allegro H. Servetus (1692-1757)

The Canadian Opera Company was a good gig, but I’m REALLY glad to be home!

One of the string players came to my rescue when a minor problem came up (and I don’t know the ropes). Turns out he plays a Rogeri—a colleague of Stradivarius and considered a close rival—worth $3.5 million. He has a prominent solo in the opera, so I was able to hear him play it many times. I don’t know how else to describe it except that it was buttery smooth, without any harshness to it at all. To hear that caliber of instrument on recordings is easy—in person rather rare. And when my friend plays, you can hear him just POURING Love into his instrument.

I asked him: “So how is it that you have an instrument like this? I’m guessing you’re not in a position to write that kind of check.“ No, he explained, there’s an anonymous billionaire in the States who collects string instruments by the 17th century Italian Masters like Stradivarius, Guarneri and Rogeri. Then he loans them to worthy musicians because he wants them to be played and shared. My friend has never met his benefactor—doesn’t even know his name, although he has talked to him and played for him over the phone. He takes his instrument in once a month for a check-up, and the benefactor covers all those sorts of expenses.

I also asked him: “So is it not possible for us to make instruments this good today?'' “Why yes,'' he said, “we have makers today every bit as good as Stradivarius. But violins improve with age—like a fine wine, and it takes several centuries for a violin or cello to really come into its own. There are violins being made right now that will be equally priceless treasures — the Stradivarius’s of their day — in the 24th century.''

Somehow, after enduring the latest round of horrors on the news, the idea that there are makers today quietly making Stradivarius’s for humanity three centuries from now — that gives me hope.