Menage A Trois With A Violin

Musicians and their instruments often have a very particular relationship, almost ‘human’ in some respects. Here is an example of a three-way arrangement which offers even those on the side-line, in this case the notoriously long-suffering ‘orchestra wife’, something uniquely special and positive.
The Strad dropped through our post box this morning, arriving on cue for our monthly up-date of All Things Violinistic (or, as they say of themselves, as the ‘voice of the string music world since 1890’).
The magazine (journal?) carried the usual range of articles about performing styles, who’s the newest arrival on the block, current techniques for making instruments, the latest string recordings, and, in amongst the other inserts, a special poster of the exact dimensions of the Antonio Stradivari violin of 1721, the ‘Kruse’. Hardly the stuff of general reading, this, but that kind of specialist detail has been the backdrop to my life for the past four decades or so. In other words, I’m married to a professional violinist.
Three’s not always a crowd
There are no Stradivaris in our house, but there is a violin which has served very well for many years. It took some eighteen months to find – it had to ‘speak’ orchestrally and as a chamber instrument, whilst remaining within the stratosphere price-wise – and it caused us penury, but it’s been a very constant companion.
Here is an almost ageless piece of ‘equipment’, already over a century old, which carries without doubt a fascinating history. (Anyone who saw the film The Red Violin, with such an impressively reflective performance by Joshua Bell of
John Corigliano’s score, will want to know more… but we’ve been acquainted with this instrument – oddly, also red – only since the era of that very different cultural phenomenon, the age of Flower Power.)
A voice with a mind of its own
I’ve lost count of the number of violins which come and go in this household – tiny (‘quarter’ and ‘half’) ones for little beginner student violinists, tough relatively modern Mittenwald instruments for open air use, intriguing painted ones for amusement, most recently a genuine rock electric model – but ‘the’ violin remains aloof from these passing visitors, a trusted and constant companion to its owner, to his partner musicians and indeed to me.
This violin met its match in a beautiful bow, and it stays here, Elegant Music @ Heart & Soul (25.7.05) serenely assured of its incumbency. It has seen joy and sadness, comings together and partings, sickness and health. It has travelled the world and explored the local neighbourhoods.
A welcome guest
Often, I suspect, this instrument tells its owner more about inner thoughts and feelings than could any words.
In a very different way, the film Un Coeur en Hiver, with its haunting music from Ravel’s Piano Trio, also explored the enigmas of this violinistic inner voice. For me too, though much more happily, our musical domestic ‘trio’ has offered a partnership which crosses from what can be articulated in normal ways to what cannot.
Inevitably, there are times when the violin takes first call – though I doubt any real examples of the stereotypically self-denying ‘orchestra wife’ now exist, not least because so many current players are women (and in any case, what orchestral salary supports a whole family?). When the music plays I go about my business contentedly alone, taking the distant musical role simply of involuntary audience whilst I work.

But to know so well the relationship between an instrument, a player and that person’s music – to have heard almost as though performing them wonderful works such as the Brahms’ Quintet for Piano and Strings – is a gift well beyond any singular demands of this particular menage a trois.

Posted on May 26, 2006, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Liverpool And Merseyside, The Music. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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