13 June – 11 August 2013
The Ashmolean brings together 20 of the finest surviving Stradivarius instruments for the first major UK show dedicated to the Italian maker.
Taking centre stage will be the Viotti violin of 1709, the Batta-Piatigorsky cello of 1714 and the Ashmolean’s own ‘Messiah’ violin, a virtually unplayed instrument, considered, uniquely, to be in ‘as new’ condition.
One gallery of the exhibition will show a recreation of Stradivarius’s workshop, displaying his original tools, wooden models and patterns, on loan from the Museo Stradivariano in Cremona. The displays will allow visitors to follow the creation of a violin from a log of spruce wood through to the finished instrument and to explore the techniques and artistry of violin-making.
There will also be recordings of performances, lectures, workshops and a gala performance from James Ehnes on 14 June.
The 'Messiah' Stradivarius, dated 1716, is one of the most famous violins in the world. The Museum's entry on the instruments says: 'In the 19th century, one of its owners, Tarisio, often boasted about it but hardly ever produced it, until someone said: "It's like the Messiah, always promised and never appearing." The body has survived in excellent condition although the neck has been lengthened and the fingerboard, tail-piece and pegs are modern.
'The varnish is particularly well preserved. Joachim praised the tone when playing the instrument in the late nineteenth century. In recent years, it has not been played at all owing to the demands of conservation.'