Thursday, April 29, 2010

Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu Project

I was privileged to be part of an international team of experts invited by Geoffrey Fushi of Bein& Fushi Rare Violins to study one of the world’s greatest violins, the 1741 “Vieuxtemps”Guarneri del Gesu. The project was organized by violin maker Joseph Curtin and the team also included violin maker Terry Borman. The three of us travelled to Chicago last month to do acoustical testing, modal analysis, CT scans and recordings of the "Vieuxtemps" and other great violins generously provided by Geoffrey Fushi.

One of the highlights was a recording session with violinist Ilya Kayler, with three del Gesu’s, two Strad’s and a Guadagnini arrayed on a table - a feast for the eyes and ears. Terry Borman has some pictures of our project at his website:

Geoff Fushi has written in a recent Bein & Fushi newsletter that the “Viuextemps” del Gesu “..stands at the pinnacle…it is the most exciting violin I have ever heard. Even more exciting than the magnificent “Canon” del Gesu that was once played by Paganini…the "Vieuxtemps" [is] the greatest violin masterwork of all time with unmatched tonal qualities.”

My friends ask me, is the “Vieuxtemps” really the greatest sounding violin in the world? Is it really worth $18million? It is probably the best violin sounding I have had the pleasure of playing, out of the three dozen or so Strads and del Gesus I have held in my hands. Determining the “greatest”, though, is like comparing Bach to Beethoven, or Beethoven’s 5th to his 9thSymphony. As in any great work of art, each violin has its own unique character, the depth and complexity of which is revealed only with time, though greatness is apparent even from the first brief encounter. More specifically, what I heard and felt in my short time with the “Vieuxtemps” was that it had a higher limit than any other violin I have played. The more I dug in, the more it gave, seemingly without limit.

After my all too brief encounter with these masterpieces, I returned home, dreaming not of owning these magnificent instruments (I don’t have $18million…), but with the words of violin maker Joe Grubaugh in mind: “Fan, can you design strings that will make any violin sound like a Guarneri del Gesu?”

Joe - I’m working on it! (Meanwhile, you can try the Zyex Violin Strings I designed - it should give any violin a deeper, richer sound.)