Monday, December 19, 2011

Gregg - The London Philharmonic Visits Ann Arbor

Several members of the LPO stopped by Alf Studios last week. The orchestra was in town for a concert at Hill Auditorium, which included a rare performance of Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony (brilliantly done, by the way) and a sensitive rendition of the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 5 performed by Dutch super-star Janine Jansen.  It was a great concert, and I feel lucky to live in a small, quiet town that nevertheless receives such distinguished guests.

The LPO at Hill Auditorium

  Two members of the first violin section had Alf violins, and they brought over some colleagues to try out my latest work.  I had on hand a Strad model violin, being delivered to Korean violinist Jaeha Lee this week, a Guarneri copy after the ‘Ole Bull’ del Gesu, and various apprentice instruments.  Hearing one’s creations played so well is always a thrill, but observing how professional string players go about such an occasion is equally inspiring.

Stopping by a wine market, average shoppers will rely on number ratings, some colorful language “corpulent cocoa with a bing-cherry finsh” (link to outrageous Wine Notes generator), and a price tag to make their selection.  But the LPO players who visited my shop seemed indifferent to such guidance.  Like sommeliers of sound, they wanted to know the instruments before them first hand, without questions of pedigree or price.  When the LPO left town, another Alf Studios violin, this time a studio instrument by one of my apprentices, left with them on their tour … and one LPO instrument was left with us for sound adjustments and eventual resale. 
Members of the LPO at the shop.

Over the years, I have noticed that professional orchestral musicians need a different sound than soloists.  As my London guests played instruments in my studios, there was a constant reference to the collective sound of their section as a whole.  Whereas soloists want to stand out, orchestral players do not.  The ability to draw a clear, liquid sound while playing flautando, may be a need common to all my clients. But, soloists dream of Strads with a big sandy sound that cuts to the back of the hall while their orchestral counterparts envision that same instrument with a warm rich tone.  Great violins deliver both and I am most grateful today for yet another reminder of where my musical mission is taking me.

In our next post we'll discuss this violin that I recently completed for Jaeha Lee, who just picked it up last week.