There is a lot to hate about Houston. It is big, sprawling—not a beautiful city. It was the last place I'd thought ever to return. In 2003, when I left for South Carolina, as the country music song says, I tore off the rearview mirror in my truck (Miata) so that I couldn't look back.

There is a lot to love about the city as well. Last night, a friend and I attended a Faculty Recital at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University (a hop skip and jump from where I work). I like violin. I LOVE PIANO. This was a recital for violin and piano.

Last year, I heard the famous violinist Joshua Bell when he played with the Houston Symphony on his 300-year-old Stradivarius called the Gibson ex Huberman, which was made in 1713 during what is known as Antonio Stradivari's "Golden Era." Bell played the solos in the movie Ladies in Lavender and The Red Violin. (Sidebar: The Red Violin follows the life of a violin built in Italy in 1681, known for its rich red color, to a present-day auction in Canada where its secret is revealed). It has been said of Bell, "He plays like a god." I could write more about Bell. He is 40'ish and boyishly handsome but…

Sergiu Luca, Professor of Violin at Shepherd, is a phenomenal, riveting master of his instrument. A native of Rumania, Mr. Luca made his debut at age nine with Israel's Haifa Symphony. In 1965, he made his U.S. debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra and was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to play with the New York Philharmonic for a special tribute to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

Another breathtaking aspect of the evening was the instruments played. The Mozart Sonatas were played on a Sanctus Seraphin violin, made in Venice in 1733, believed to be the only example from the great Italian violin-making era to have survived in an original, unaltered state. The 1810 piano was made in Vienna by Michael Rosenberger of The Netherlands, and is an early six-octave piano, belonging to the first group of pianos fitted with pedals (six) instead of the knee levers previously used. It was an exquisite burled walnut and had three delicate legs.

The French repertoire by Ravel, Debussy and Saint-Saens was played on a 1829 violin made in Vienna by Nicolaus Sawicki and is believed to have been made for and owned by Paganini, who'd entrusted his 1741 Del Gesu (known as "the Canon) to the great virtuoso for repair and restoration. The 1829 violin is identical to, and probably the first copy of the Del Gesu.

Some enchanted evening…I don't think I breathed for 2 hours and that hasn't happened since I say Phantom of the Opera. I wish you could have been there.

8 comments

  1. Mona Risk // February 29, 2008 at 12:03 PM  

    What an interesting post. I'm not a musician but I was greatly interested in reading about the violins origins. I bet Joanne would love this post. :ast night I was listening to Pavarotti on TV.

  2. Beth Trissel // February 29, 2008 at 2:06 PM  

    Very interesting and the concert sounds rapturous. I can hear the glorious swells now.

  3. Nightingale // February 29, 2008 at 2:07 PM  

    Thanks, Mona. I'm not a musician either but find music and it's "makers" fascinating. This was a VERY special concert. Hopefully, Joanne will take a glance at the article.

  4. Helen Scott Taylor // February 29, 2008 at 5:01 PM  

    Wow, Linda. Sounds like a fabulous evening. Bell sounds like a candidate for hero in a story.

    I don't know much about musical instruments, but I found what you wrote fascinating. I love getting a peak into a different world.

  5. Pamela Roller // March 1, 2008 at 10:08 AM  

    Thanks for a great post, Mona

  6. Nightingale // March 1, 2008 at 12:05 PM  

    Helen, I'll do a post on Joshua Bell sometime (with picture!) I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the movie the Red Violin. I thought about it for days afterwards.

    It's about the violin but more so about the people whose lives are touched.

  7. Joanne // March 1, 2008 at 5:54 PM  

    What a wonderful post. As I have taught piano lessons for many years, piano music is a part of my life (and my family's life) each and every day. The Red Violin is one of my all time favorite movies. And, Joshua Bell is so gifted. I believe he was the musician who played in a busy subway terminal in Washington, D.C., and hardly anyone took notice except small children.

  8. Nightingale // March 2, 2008 at 12:28 PM  

    Joshua Bell's impromptu performance in a NY subway -- hat out for tips -- is available on You Tube. It's really funny.