CSQ How do you tell people who are unfamiliar about the truly remarkable nature of the instrument?
Anne Akiko Meyers I perform on the ex-Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesu, dated 1741, and [it is] considered one of the two or three greatest violins ever created. Many of the other top sounding violins aren’t heard much in public today because they are owned by museums or private collectors who do not loan out the instruments.
The violin gets its name from Henri Vieuxtemps, a Belgian violinist and composer who owned the instrument until his death in 1881. Vieuxtemps was considered by many to be the greatest violinist of his day and was so in love with this instrument, he wanted to be buried with it. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and its ownership passed through the hands of several financiers eventually ending up in Ian Stoutzker’s private collection for more than half a century before it went on the market where it was touted as the most expensive violin. In 2012, a private collector purchased it and awarded the violin to me for lifetime use.
CSQ How do you connect with an instrument that has such history and value?
AAM I cannot think of any other profession that relies on priceless historical antiques (imagine walking around with a Matisse or Monet and regularly working with it). I feel that it is the sound and soul of the instrument that inspire all instrumentalists. The ex-Vieuxtemps resonates with a powerful, incredible range of color and rich, deep bass notes. The high notes speak clearly and with cathedral-like projection. It covers such extremes much like the earth and sky wrapped into one instrument.
CSQ How important is the legacy of the instrument, knowing it is on loan until your death?
AAM This instrument has survived 276 years, which makes it older than our country. Its overall health is pristine and I hope that many more generations of audiences will enjoy its sound. She is so entirely extraordinary.