Gil Shaham celebrates his 41st birthday today and it was a tough choice between the Vivaldi and the Bach for a clip – he is brilliant at both – but the Bach gives a better view of his very interesting violin. It’s the Comtesse de Polignac and was loaned to him by the Stradivari Society of Chicago in 1989.
The Stradivari Society is an unusual non-profit that puts musicians and owners of Strads together, a good deed since most young musicians, however talented, don’t have millions for a violin. And while there are many good musicians, there are only about 500 Strads in the world, plus a handful of violas and cellos. Yo-yo Ma, for instance, plays the Stradavarius that once belonged to Jacquelin du Pre.
A number of Strads have gone missing – stolen and never recovered – although a few have turned up eventually. Bronislaw Huberman’s Gibson was stolen and recovered twice and then went to Joshua Bell. Anna Sophie Mutter owns two of her own. There is a story to go with every name, but I have to say my favorite Stradivarius is one of the two owned by the L.A. Philharmonic. Not the Earl of Plymouth that Fritz Kreisler sold them – the other one, the Benny.