I was deeply impressed by Joshua Bell’s performance with the Pittsburgh Symphony last weekend. But I was also sort of distracted by his violin — or rather, the reputation it carries.
Bell’s violin is a Stradivarius, and not just any Stradivarius but the 1713 Gibson ex Huberman Stradivarius, which has a storied history. He purchased it for a price in the neighborhood of $3.5 to 4 million dollars. In fact, he sold his previous violin, another Stradivarius called the “Tom Tyler,” to pull together the funds to buy the Gibson.
Are these instruments worth their cost? Mr. Bell obviously thinks so.
What makes them different? Many people have theories. A recent study examined the question. See my new post over at the PSO blogs for the details and results of the study.
As to how it sounds: The video above is Joshua Bell performing Bruch’s violin concerto #1, I Vorspiel, Allegro moderato. I believe he is playing the Gibson, but it might be the Tom Tyler.
To me, it’s the way Joshua Bell plays that makes the difference. To him, the instrument has immeasurable value — he plays no other violin than the Gibson.