Over the course of the LSO International Violin Festival, we’ve been finding out more about the world's top violinists and some of the world's top instruments. This week, we speak to our very own superstar violin section about their instruments and bows.
Claire Parfitt, First Violin
My bow, a Lamy, was found in a Cardiff junk shop in 1960 and bought for ten guineas by my father. There was a case of them, but he didn’t have the money to buy the rest. Lamy bows are French, amazing and very expensive!
A LSO colleague, who shall remain nameless, covets my bow! It is a wonderful one!
Julian Gil Rodriguez, Second Violin
I bought my first violin in a pawn shop in Columbia about 15 years ago. Someone told me a violin was for sale so I went to see it – it didn’t look like anything spectacular, and it only had two strings! I mainly bought it because it was a good deal at £90. After I bought it I spent around £100 getting it repaired: it was in a playable condition but I wanted to see how good it could sound with a good set up.
I think my violin sounds just as good, if not better, than some of the brand new £20,000 violins you can buy now. Lots of people have been impressed by how great it sounds and have asked what violin I am playing - it doesn’t look beautiful, but for the sound I can create it was the best value ever. We have a saying in Columbia, that it is not the arrow, but the archer.
The LSO also loaned me an amazing violin, a Jean Baptiste Vuillaume – it was a big step up from my £90 one! I mainly use this violin for LSO concerts because they are very different. I want to start using my own violin more: I’d like to send it to for restoration – like a spa treatment for it!
William Melvin, Second Violin
My violin is a Georg Kloz made in Germany in 1775. I bought it about 13 years ago from Ealing strings and I use it for all concerts.
I think my first violin was lent to me by my first teacher Alison Hunka who lived down the road. I was 4 when I started learning and wasn't allowed to use a bow for the first 6 months!
Maxine Kwok-Adams, First Violin
I am very fortunate to play on a beautiful Johannes Tononi from 1701. I had tried hundreds of violins at that time, but the moment I tuned the violin, I knew he was the one! Unfortunately the owner had not planned to sell and was unwilling to part with it unless he heard me play so that was a rather stressful until he could see I truly loved the violin.
The majority of the time I use my younger violin, an 1839 Baldantoni I have had since I was about 15. Whilst the Tononi has a wonderful carrying sound, the Baldantoni is more immediate under the ear which is useful when playing in a 16-strong section. Also, I find the Baldantoni reacts better to the constant travelling and differing temperatures that the instruments are subjected to.
The Tononi does get the occasional outing at the Barbican and will be used for the lunchtime duo concert I'm performing in with Philip Nolte at St Luke's on 26 June. It's important to have a good violin repairer on hand for the annual 'MOT' and for emergencies… as I discovered on tripping up the stairs to the Barbican stage recently! Fortunately I only smashed the violin bridge but the sound the Baldantoni made as it hit the step will stay with me forever! I now also have a framed pieced-together bridge on my wall to remind me to take more care!
I own two other violins although they are not really designed for playing on. One is a mute violin, basically a violin without a soundbox. It's designed as a practise instrument since you cannot get anything louder than a whisper out of it, but I liked it so much I just hang it on the wall like a piece of artwork. The other is the violin I played on in the 2012 London Olympic closing ceremony. As we had to be prepared to sit and play in all possible weathers, the management decided that it would be impossible for the orchestra to use their own instruments. We therefore mimed to our own playing using mass-produced cheap instruments. It's bright red, barely makes any sound but I thought it would be a lovely souvenir to keep, especially as I had London 2012 and the Olympic Rings picked out in crystals on the back.
I have been looking into carbon fibre bows as I think they would be long-wearing and apparently great advances have been made in the last few years. I do have two carbon fibre bows which I use solely for education. One is bright pink and has pink hair I had to source from the USA and the other bow is partly studded with sparkly crystals. I find this instantly gets the kids engaged and interested with the added benefit of it displaying the eccentric side of my personality!
The LSO International Violin Festival is drawing to a close, but there's still time to catch the last few performances!
> Take A Bow (Tue 23 Jun, 6.30pm) - LIMITED AVAILABILITY
> Nicola Benedetti and Alexei Grynyuk (Thu 25 Jun, 1pm) - RETURNS ONLY
> Maxine Kwok-Adams and Philip Nolte (Fri 26 Jun, 12.30pm)
> Joshua Bell (Sun 28 Jun, 7.30pm) - RETURNS ONLY
The final Violin Festival Blog will follow next week, focusing on our final performer Joshua Bell. Check back for the latest interviews and behind the scenes stories.