The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford will hold the first major UK exhibition on the life and work of violin maker Antonio Stradivari.
Of the 700 Stradivari instruments that survive, the exhibition will showcase 20 from Stradivarius’s ‘Golden Period’ (1700–1720), some of which have never been displayed in public.
Antonio Stradivari, or Stradivarius, is one of the most famous stringed-instrument makers in history. A Stradivari violin known as ‘Lady Blunt’ was auctioned for charity last year and fetched £9.8m.
The Ashmolean exhibition will include ‘The Messiah’ violin (see above), the Viotti violin of 1709 and the ‘Batta-Piatigorsky’ cello of 1714. One gallery will be dedicated to a recreation of Stradivarius’s workshop with his original tools, wooden models and patterns on loan from the Museo Stradivariano in Cremona.
Violin expert Mr Charles Beare OBE said: ‘This exhibition is of supreme importance. The 20 of the Stradivari instruments on show will be the very finest and best preserved examples. The exhibition will be an inspiration to all violin enthusiasts, players, and makers world-wide’.
The exhibition will also include recordings and interviews with leading musicians, giving the visitors the rare opportunity to hear Stradivarius’s instruments.
Violinist James Ehnes will launch the exhbition with a gala concert in Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre of works by Bach and Paganini performed on a number of Stradivarius instruments.
‘Performing on a Stradivarius is a dream come true for a string player,’ said Ehnes. ‘The beauty of tone, range of dynamics, and, possibilities for tonal nuance in a great Stradivarius is unsurpassed, and the inspiration one receives from working day-in and day-out with one of these marvelous instruments cannot be overstated.’
Photo: ‘The Messiah’ violin (c) Ashmolean Musem, University of Oxford