Masterpieces you can play

Princeton Symphony Orchestra and Princeton Public Library have collaborated for a number of years on a variety of endeavors – the Soundtracks lecture series, children’s programs, and even Pi Weekend. In anticipation of the final concert of the year, “Spun Beauty,” we were recently lucky enough to host Christophe Landon of Christophe Landon Rare Violins.

The man is a treasure – the sort of person who you pray you get to sit next to at dinner parties because he is a consummate story teller, full of life, charming – and yet completely dedicated to creating some of the most beautiful instruments in the world. When we spoke briefly before his talk, I learned that he has been keeping fit (mentally and physically) by practicing Shaolin Kungfu. Asked if that meant he had stopped playing polo, he said that he was taking a break because he had hurt his wrist snowboarding and went on to speak about the violin makers that he recently met in Beijing and the history of music in China. But I digress with behind-the- scenes reporting.

Standing in front of several pieces of violins, tools, and an array of completed violins, Landon spoke briefly about how he came to be a violin maker at 15. He then proceeded to weave a tale of the life cycle of a violin beginning with the wood from which it is built – Bulgaria offers the ideal conditions for the maple from which most instruments are created – to the long and treasured lives of the most famous violins, the Stradivarius which were produced during the golden age of violin making. Every person in the audience was completely astounded to learn that one of the violins lying on the table at the front of PPL’s very own Community Room was a Stradivarius from 1721 – it could be yours for $9.6 million. What makes the price so high? It’s a piece of art … art that you can play. 

It was a treat to hear PSO’s Kiri Murakami play, not only the Stradivarius but also, an Amati (a violin made by Stradivarius’s teacher), and two of Landon’s own violins – the famous ‘Blue Violin’ that he created for France’s Bicentennial of the Revolution and a stunning copy that he made of another Stradivarius.

Sorry you weren’t there? Those of lucky enough to be a part of this unique performance sympathize. You might catch Landon at one of his studio shops in New York, Paris, Berlin, Seoul or Shanghai or, if we are very lucky, he may come and visit us again.

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