Antonio Stradivari's very first viola, handmade by this legendary instrument maker in 1672, will be played by celebrated French violist Antoine Tamestit, in his debut with The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in the concert ‘Harold in Italy’.
The name Antonio Stradivari is synonymous with the violin-making; the seventeenth-century craftsman is widely regarded as the world’s best. It is a lesser known fact that he made other instruments including a handful of violas.
While there are roughly 600 violins made by Stradivari, only around 10 of his violas are known to have survived intact and the 2014 auction of a similar instrument at Sotheby’s in New York sought USD$45 million as a base price, dwarfing the USD$15.9 million sale of a Stradivari violin at around the same time. Many Stradivarius instruments are named, and the viola, on loan to Tamestit from the German-based Habisreuntinger Stradivari Foundation, is known as the Mahler.
In this performance with the TSO, Parisian Tamestit - whose playing was described by theNew York Times as ‘meltingly beautiful’ and ‘distinguished by a lightness and rhythmic buoyancy’ - will feature in Berlioz’sHarold in Italy, a work inspired by Lord Byron’s narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, which showcases the viola in a prominent part representing Harold as he takes in the sights and sounds of the Italian peninsular. Multi award-winning Tamestit has performed the work to acclaim throughout the world.
Speaking of his incredibly rare instrument Tamestit says, ‘There are no other Stradivarius violas that look like this one. He used a very beautiful kind of wood for the back. He didn’t use maple but he used poplar tree,’ he said, ‘there is something so rich about the colours that the instrument brings and really I feel that the instrument will suggest colours to me.’
Other works featured in the concert, led by German conductor André de Ridder, are Rossini’sL’italiana in Algeri and Maeterlinck’s symbolist dramaPelléas et Mélisande.
Antoine Tamestit talks about his 1672 Stradivarius viola: