A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Martin Beaver's 1729 Guarneri del Gesù
Wednesday, January 10, 2007

In May 1997, the University of Western Ontario announced the sale of three violins - a 1689 Baumgartner Stradivarius, a 1702 Lyall Stradivarius and a 1729 Guarneri del Gesù to an American purchaser. The buyer requested anonymity and then loaned all three instruments to the Canada Council Instrument Bank for a two year period. In 1997 Canadian volinist, Martin Beaver (31) was the winner of a competition, and as a prize he won the two-year loan of the Guarnerius.

I could post here sites comparing the Stradivarius (the Rolls Royce of violins) to the Guarnerius (the Bentley). The fact is that few may know that there were several Guarneri from Cremona who made violins, and that one, Bartolomeo Guiseppe Guarneri (1698-1744) is the most famous of the family. His violins always incorporated a label that had the Greek characters I.H.S. (iota - eta - sigma or iesu) and a Roman cross.

Guiseppe Guarneri has been known since as Guarneri del Gesù. It is only recently that the Guarneri violins have stopped being Bentleys.

Many experts and musicians, in spite of the fact that some of the Guarneri violins are bigger, almost fattish, and not too pretty, now believe that they are superior to the Stradivarius. I have heard Corey Cerovsek's Stradivarius in concert and he even brought it to my studio but I didn't dare ask him to play it. Beaver (left) did play his Guarnerius and he commented on the wonderful acoustics of my studio. I wish I had a musician's memory for this sort of thing so I could compare. And I have had a few opportunities to compare violins. Violinists Marc Destrubé and Paul Luchkow brought and played their instruments in my studio. Mark Fewer, concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra played his electric violin, and Karen Gerbrecht, and Cam Wilson, and Rebecca Whittling and Robin Braun, their violins and Laura Kramer her baroque cello, and Colin MacDonald his soprano saxophone, and Peggy Lee her modern cello, Glenys Webster played her viola, Patricia Hutter her string bass and.......my studio is on a third floor with no elevator. I believe I will never hear a piano. A harpsichord, perhaps?

Next time Corey Cerovsek comes to town I will invite him for tea to my studio and ask him to bring along his violin.

Addendum by Paul Luchkow

Hi Alex,

My friend Michael Jarvis has a square Chickering parlour piano that is easily moveable... You may get a piano yet. And, my current 'modern' violin is a true modern instrument--It was made by a couple of luthiers in NYC. It is, however, a copy of the "Alard" Guarneri del Gesu. (1742)


Addendum by CBC producer and broadcaster Michael Juk

Hi Alex,

I just had lunch with Mark Fewer and am at my desk editing a CD of music by Oskar Maorawetz performed by Jasper Wood so the violin theme seems to be very strong at the moment.

That del Gesu was a beauty. I remember being struck by how yellow the colour was. I think the finish had just been redone at that time. Martin told me the instrument required quite a bit of strength to play. Del Gesus tend to have a bigger voice than strads and are often used for concertos. Perlman has a Strad for chamber music and a del Gesu for concertos.


Martin Beaver
Corey Cerovsek


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