Maxim Vengerov: Me and my Strads

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In conversation with Sota Nakazawa, Russian virtuoso Maxim Vengerov explains his love for Stradivari instruments, and his long relationship with them

I was just ten when I was loaned my first Stradivari. Holding the beautiful, shiny instrument in my hands, I thought all my dreams had come true and that all I would have to do to reveal the violin’s magic would be to put the bow on the string and play. I remember clearly how shocked I was when the instrument squeaked, the first time I played it – I had thought that such a special violin would help me to produce a beautiful sound, but it didn’t.

After about five minutes I went back to my previous instrument – a new, modest violin made in Siberia – so I could compare the two and, obviously, the sound of the modern instrument was better. I almost started crying; I didn’t know what to do! ‘What’s wrong with this violin?’ I asked my father. He told me that there was nothing wrong with the instrument, but with the way I was playing it.

Later on, I came to understand that a Stradivari violin is the equivalent of a Formula One car: it’s all about the driver and whether or not he or she has developed the necessary skills. Little by little I began searching for a new technique that would allow me to get the sound I wanted…

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