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For the past four years, The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s sound has been enriched by principal violinist Richard Tognetti’s $10-million instrument, the 1743 “Carrodus” made by Giuseppe Guarneri "del Gesù" and rumoured to have been played by Paganini. Now assistant leader Satu Vänskä has been entrusted with the latest addition to the ACO’s arsenal: a coveted Stradivarius.
In a manner of speaking, the $1.79m violin is two instruments for the price of one: it is a composite of two examples of Antonio Stradivari's work from 1728 and 1729, the original front of one violin joined with the back and sides of another. This is common practice in the restoration of treasures from the "golden age of stringed instruments". Stradivari was the most revered luthier of his time, of whose work only 650 specimens survive today.
Vänskä gives her debut with the violin in the ACO’s Baroque Virtuosi tour in July, in which the notoriously difficult Devil’s Trill will showcase this Strad's unique sound.
She has already formed a strong bond with her fiddle. "This beautiful instrument has a very keen and admiring custodian," she said today in a statement. “Its distinctive, brilliant beauty of sound carries in a concert hall through the ears, straight to the listener's heart.
"Part of the mystery and fascination of a fine Stradivarius is that it has a soul and a personality of its own. For the violinist, this means that the violin seems to play the player.
"Being allowed to play this Stradivarius is the realisation of a dream I didn’t dare have.”
The violin has been purchased through the ACO’s Orpheus Instrument Fund, making it the only Australian-owned Stradivarius. Unlike Tognetti’s Carrodus (named for its former owner, an English violinist), the new acquisition does not have a nickname, so the ACO is inviting the public to suggest one.