Stories of Rare Stradivari Instruments Take Center Stage
A collaboration between Spartanburg businessman Roger Habisreutinger and The Carlos Moseley Chamber Music Series at Converse College is bringing four of the world’s rarest instruments, played by renowned musicians dedicated to “breathing life into the work of great artists, master violin maker Antonio Stradivari and renowned composers,” to Spartanburg. The Stradivari Quartet will make its debut on the Moseley Series in Daniel Recital Hall. Admission is by season subscription.
“The instruments are only one part of the equation. The greatness of the musicians is the other.”
In the midst of the impressive accolades and resumés of the Stradivari Quartet members, it is the instruments themselves whose intriguing stories take center stage and captivate audiences across the world. Hand-crafted by master violin maker Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737), widely considered the greatest artisan in this field, and on loan to the Stradivari Quartet, the instruments enjoy a unique connection to Spartanburg: they are owned by the Habisreutinger-Stradivari Foundation, founded by Roger Habisreutinger’s father, Rolf. A Swiss textile industrialist and amateur cellist, Rolf Habisreutinger spent his lifetime collecting the Italian master’s instruments. Today, Roger Habisreutinger continues the legacy his father began by serving on the Foundation’s board.
Of the approximately 1100 legendary stringed instruments Stradivari made, around 650 remain, including an estimated nine violas and 50 cellos. “Only the best musicians have had the honor of playing these instruments,” said the Quartet in a statement on their website. “We consider ourselves fortunate.”
Each instrument in the quartet has its own story. The King George Stradivarius violin (1710), for example, was given by the king to a Scottish officer, whose motto was reportedly “Not without my Stradivari.” It was found undamaged in the officer’s saddlebags after he was killed in the Battle of Waterloo. The Gibson Stradivarius viola (1734), crafted when Stradivari was ninety years old, was played in the very first performance of the same Brahms string quartet that the Stradivari Quartet will play at Converse. The Bonamy Dobree-Suggia Stradivarius cello (1717) was owned by the colorful and mysterious Portuguese cellist Guilhermina Suggia, whose portrait—holding her famous cello—hangs in London’s Tate Gallery.
“Our music goes hand in hand with a huge thank you to the Habisreutinger family and the (Habisreutinger-Stradivari) Foundation’s trustees. We are very fortunate that Rolf Habisreutinger began collecting valuable Stradivari instruments… (and) that the collection contains four of the most beautiful instruments on which a quartet could wish to play. It is a matter of particular importance to us to prove ourselves worthy of the confidence the foundation has placed in us,” stated the Quartet.
Comprising the Stradivari Quartet are violinists Xiaoming Wang and Soyoung Yoon, violist Lech Antionio Uszynski and cellist Maja Weber. The ensemble’s repertoire includes music from across the centuries and periods from 1750, through classicism to the Romantics and right up to contemporary music. Aware that many of the greatest masters wrote commissioned works, the Stradivari Quartet regularly commissions works in order to promote contemporary composers and create possibilities for new chapters in the history of music.
“It is very rare that a chamber music formation of any size plays on all genuine Stradivari instruments,” said Roger Habisreutinger. “In fact, the only other chamber music group that does so is the Tokyo String Quartet. But the instruments are only one part of the equation. The greatness of the musicians is the other. The members of the Stradivari Quartet are phenomenal artists in their own right. All have achieved enormous success on the world stage and have won numerous international competitions on the highest level. The five trustees on the board of the Habisreutinger Stradivarius Foundation are charged, among other things, with the task of deciding who is worthy of playing these instruments and where they are to be played. Needless to say, with Spartanburg being my new home for nearly 45 years I lobbied hard for the instruments to come here.”
More information about the Quartet can be found on their website at www.stradivariquartett.com. This concert is made possible through the generosity of Roger Habisreutinger.