In this extract from the July 2019 issue, the violist describes at first struggling to get on with this magnificent and unusual instrument

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Photo ©JulienMignot

When I started to play the ‘Mahler’ Stradivari, I almost despaired and even considered giving it back to the Habisreutinger Foundation. However, Tabea Zimmermann, Nobuko Imai, Yuri Bashmet, Jesse Levine and others encouraged me to persevere, be patient and keep working on it. ‘The instrument may be unpredictable,’ they said, ‘but it will give a great deal back to you.’

Everybody says that this is the greatest viola in existence – and now I agree with them! It still surprises me every time. I always feel that there are two of us on stage. It’s a symbiotic relationship, like that of a great couple – and it reminds me of my wife! I go the way the viola wants, then it goes the way I want, and that’s how inspiration happens. I believe that’s how it should be.

I usually refer to the ‘Mahler’ as ‘he’, because I think it’s a ‘he’, but with a lot of ‘she’ inside. Aren’t we all a bit of both? When I take a bow after a concert, I usually make a small gesture towards the viola, because it’s the one that really made the sounds – with a little help from me, of course!

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