The Strad’s editor Emma Baker introduces the February 2024 issue

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The British viola tradition is synonymous with Lionel Tertis, the virtuoso who revolutionised not just the repertoire but the size and shape of the instruments that many modern violists favour. The latest in the line of British violists to take on his mantle is Timothy Ridout, who, at not yet 30, is already one of the most promising soloists of his generation, a musician with a distinctive sound and remarkable expressive strength. On page 26 he speaks to fellow violist Toby Deller about his personal quest to expand the viola’s repertoire, as well as his unusual instrument, a 16th-century Peregrino di Zanetto, and his latest recording, which celebrates the legacy of Tertis himself.

Back in 2018, The Strad reported on violinist Philippe Graffin’s discovery of a previously unknown sonata by Eugène Ysaÿe, which had been buried in the archives of the Brussels Conservatoire. Now Graffin has done it again, in collaboration with French musicologist Xavier Falques, unearthing an unpublished Ysaÿe work for violin and orchestra, the Poème concertant. The Belgian virtuoso wrote the piece (the closest thing to a violin concerto by Ysaÿe that we are every likely to hear) as a love letter to the much younger violinist Irma Sèthe, for whom he’d developed a hopeless passion. On page 34 Graffin speaks to Jessica Duchen about the origins of the work, the creation of a modern performing score, and the world premiere recording which is released, appropriately enough, in time for Valentine’s Day.

For more than 300 years, Schönbach, a small town in what was once Bohemia, has been a hub of violin making. Much of this tradition can be traced back to one man, Elias Placht, who arrivedin Schönbach in 1721 and began a family business that sparked a lutherie dynasty that spread all over the region. On page 56 Christian Hoyer explores the Placht family legacy, and opens a seam of research that still raises plenty of questions.

Emma Baker editor

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