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Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013

‘A Violin’s Life’

Frankly Music’s CD preview

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Frank Almond
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Frankly Music features Frank Almond and pianist William Wolfram in a program previewing their CD, A Violin’s Life, scheduled for release on Avie Records later this spring. All of the works on the CD have direct historical connections to the “Lipiński” Stradivarius violin on which Almond performs. This preview concert program will highlight works from the CD, including music by Johannes Brahms, Franz Liszt, Robert Schumann and a violin and piano sonata by Julius Röntgen. Almond’s recording project was inspired by the history of the “Lipiński” Stradivarius violin. Italian master instrument-maker Antonio Stradivari (1644-1737) crafted it in 1715, during what is known as his “golden period.” Stradivari is famous for having made the finest stringed instruments of all time. The ingenious craftsmanship and design of Stradivarius violins have not been surpassed to date, making them the world’s most coveted and valuable stringed instruments worth millions of dollars.

“Strads are better than other violins from a player’s perspective, because the instrument allows you to maximize everything,” Almond says. “No one else is more associated with high-level violins than Stradivari is.”

The recording project was funded by a 2012 Kickstarter campaign, the world’s hottest source of “crowd funding” for creative projects.

Many Stradivarius violins have an interesting history and pedigree, and the “Lipiński” is no exception. The instrument gets its name from Polish violin virtuoso Karol Lipiński, who performed on it from around 1818 to his death in 1861. Lipiński received the violin from a student of Giuseppe Tartini. An Italian violinist, composer and teacher, Tartini (1692-1770) was the instrument’s first known owner.

Lipiński, a respected performer and composer in his day, associated with the great cultural figures of his time, including Liszt, Schumann and virtuoso violinist and composer Nicolò Paganini, with whom he had an ongoing rivalry.

Following Lipiński’s death, the violin eventually came to the Röntgen family, which included several violinists and the esteemed composer Julius Röntgen (1855-1932). The violin changed hands in the early 20th century and, in 1962, arrived in the possession of Estonian violinist Evi Liivak. After Liivak’s passing in 1996, the “Lipiński” made its way into the hands of MSO concertmaster and Frankly Music artistic director Frank Almond, who has played on the violin since 2008.

In Almond’s words, the aim of the CD project is “to partially chronicle some of the extraordinary history of the ‘Lipiński’ violin and its associations.” The CD will include Tartini’s famous Devil’s Trill Sonata, a virtuoso solo violin piece by Karol Lipiński, one of Röntgen’s unjustly neglected violin sonatas and Robert Schumann’s Sonata in D Minor. A friend of Lipiński’s, Schumann so admired the violinist’s playing that he dedicated his piano work Carnival to Lipiński. Schumann’s Sonata in D Minor is tightly woven into the history of the “Lipiński” violin. It is most certain, says Almond, that this work was “performed during their lifetimes with Schumann at the piano and Lipiński playing this very instrument.”

All who attend the Frankly Musicprogram will be treated to the rare performance of Julius Röntgen’s music. Röntgen was a lesser-known compositional figure of the last century. “This is the first time this sonata has been recorded,” says Almond. The Frankly Music performance of the Röntgen sonata is likely the first in the area.

The performance takes place at 7 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 25, at Wisconsin Lutheran College’s Schwan Concert Hall. For more information, visit franklymusic.org.