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May 17, 2007
Library of Congress Receives Guarneri Violin for Collection
Violin to Be Played With Its "Twin" During May 18 Concert
More than 50 years after acquiring its first Guarneri del Gesù violin, the Library of Congress will now be able to boast that it has twins. Around 1730 to 1732, Guarneri made two violins from the same piece of wood. The Library’s newest addition, the "Baron Vitta," will donated by the estate of the late Miyoko Yamane Goldberg, wife of the late teacher and violinist Szymon Goldberg. The other violin is the "Kreisler," owned by the late eminent Austrian violinist Fritz Kreisler and given to the Library in 1952.
Last year, the "Kreisler" and the "Baron Vitta" were brought together, perhaps for the first time in 276 years, at the Library for a musical reunion with Nicholas Kitchen, a former student of Goldberg and founding member of the Borromeo Quartet. Goldberg’s wife made a lifetime loan of the "Baron Vitta" to Kitchen, believing the instrument should be more than a museum piece.
More than two centuries since their creation, the violins will be brought together in a public concert featuring the Borromeo String Quartet, with guest pianist Wu Han, on Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m. in the Coolidge Auditorium, ground floor, Thomas Jefferson Building, 10 First St. S.E., Washington, D.C. Although the supply of tickets has been exhausted, interested patrons are encouraged to try for standby seats at the will-call desk in the Jefferson Building by 6:30 p.m.
Preceding the concert will be a musical demonstration at 6:15 p.m., featuring Kitchen, who will alternate playing the two Guarneri violins, accompanied by Han. No tickets are required for this event.
Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù has often been called one of the finest Cremonese violin makers of the 18th century. The famed violin virtuoso Niccolò Paganini’s favorite instrument was a Guarneri del Gesù violin, and contemporary violinists such as Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman and Sarah Chang have played his instruments at times in their careers.
Goldberg acquired the "Baron Vitta" in 1958. The violin, originally named after the first known owner, Baron Joseph Vitta of Paris, will henceforth be called the "Goldberg Baron Vitta."
Kreisler obtained his violin in 1926. Prior to his ownership, the violin was in the hands of Marshall Junot, a commander in Napoleon’s army. Junot had the instrument sent to Lisbon, but before reaching its destination, the violin was seized by an English privateer and sold to a parson in Whitehaven, Cumberland. The violin remained in England for many years and belonged successively to William Thompson, who branded his initials on the scroll; the Day sisters; the collector John Mountford; W.E. Hill and Sons; R. E. Brandt; and back to Hill again, who then sold it to Kreisler.
For more information on the twin Guarneri violins, visit www.memory.loc.gov/cocoon/ihas/html/violins/violins-home.html.
In addition to the May 18 concert, the Library is embarking on a project that will include performances, lecture demonstrations, master classes, workshops, "meet the instruments" opportunities and other events designed to bring maximum exposure to the twin violins and to develop a picture of musical life and instrument craftsmanship during the 17th and 18th centuries.
The Library is also the home of instruments made by Niccolò Amati and Antonio Stradivari. This Cremonese Collection is played regularly by guest artists and is available for study by researchers. For more information on the collections, visit www.loc.gov/rr/perform/ihas/lcp-home.html.
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