the stories of a los angeles violinist

the million dollar quartet

Added on by Jordan Martone.

it's not every day that you get to perform on a million dollar violin in a quartet with other million dollar violins. 


this past saturday was the day of CSUN chamber music recitals. by a "day of recitals" i mean there was one at 2, one at 4:30, and one at 7:30. and i was actually on campus for my job with the CSUN youth orchestra at 8am, so i was at school from 8am-9pm. 


but this was a special day. my violin professor is big into violin dealing and just bought a bunch of incredible instruments. (read up on his haul here) and he had us, a group of three of his senior violin students, play them in concert. 

at the beginning of this semester, our area coordinator failed to place the three of us students into a chamber music ensemble. he then promptly went out of town for two weeks and by the time he came back, we had become angry with his forgetfulness and it was now too late to register for the chamber music class. our professor had to pull some strings for us and, long story short, the three of us forgotten students were put in a group with our professor to perform the telemann concerto for 4 violins. 

if you know anything about this piece of music, you'd know that babies can play this music. it's the easiest quartet on the planet but it's really the only thing we were able to play under our unfortunate circumstances. so, in order to make this music more interesting, our professor had us perform on his new violins:

a gagliano- previously performed on by ruggiero ricci.

a balestrieri- previously performed on by the 2012 winner of the max rostal competition in berlin.

a guadagnini- previously owned by the concert master of the berlin philharmonic. 

and the rotondo- my professor's most prized possession, formerly behind glass at the smithsonian.

all these instruments were made during telemann's lifetime, the 1700's. they are over 300 years old and have a combined worth that is over 5 million dollars. our professor had a police escort on and off campus the day of the recital and we felt like violin-bodyguards more than violinists, really. it was a funny little dance of being careful with the instruments and playing the crap out of them. 


i performed on the balestrieri, 1755 i believe, and worth 1.5 million. it was unbelievable that an instrument could make such a beautiful sound with very little effort. i didn't even have to try to make it sound good, it already was good. mr. benning of benning violins in studio city worked on this violin for my professor and called it his favorite violin, which is saying a lot for a man who has seen and held and worked on the world's best. i personally loved the guadagnini the most. it sounds like butter. but the balestrieri's low-end was unparalleled. 


i finally discovered something that my professor loves more than teaching: violin dealing

he has been jabbering non-stop about these instruments since the first idea of purchasing them popped into his head, and it hasn't stopped since he bought them. he just loves the care and quality and history behind these violins and he loves being able to share them with his students. 

he's like a kid in a candy store but he bought the candy store. 

this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. i will never be able to do this again: play on a violin of this caliber with 3 others of incomparable quality in one room together. i thanked my professor a hundred times but it doesn't seem to be enough. he trusted us with his babies. he didn't have to but he saw the value in it, so he did. this was the perfect way to say goodbye to my final chamber class. 

A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; 
what else does a man need to be happy?

-Albert Einstein