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The Golden Fiddle

(Left) Yuriy Bekker, artistic advisor and concertmaster of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra (CSO), poses with the 326-year-old Stradivarius violin (on right) that he will play during Saturday's CSO concert; (right) members of the CSO's strings section. Photographs (2) courtesy of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra

February 8, 2012

The Golden Fiddle
The Charleston Symphony Orchestra introduces a love song to South Carolina with a little help from an old Italian friend

WriTten by Stratton Lawrence

Even for a renowned concertmaster like the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s Yuriy Bekker, opportunities to play a violin built by Antonio Stradivari don’t come along often. The Italian luthier’s Stradivarius instruments, crafted between the 1680s and 1725, are synonymous with gold standard quality, fetching millions of dollars at auctions.

It’s also not every day that a prominent composer writes a concerto specifically for you to perform. With Bekker in mind at every measure, College of Charleston music professor Dr. Edward Hart wrote Under an Indigo Sky as a love letter to his home state of South Carolina.

“Yuriy plays the violin the way I would want to if I could play. In short, he makes all the right musical choices,” says Hart, who split the piece into three movements, inspired by the Midlands (“Fast-Flowing Rivers”), the coast (“Warm Salt Air”), and the Upstate (“Misty Blue Horizon”). (To read Stanfield Gray’s February 2012 article on Hart’s composition, click here.

Honored by Hart’s tribute, Bekker reached out to CSO supporter John Constable, a Philadelphia native eager to contribute in a unique way. Lending his “Ex Nachez Stradivarius”, built in 1686 (Bach and Handel were then one year olds), for Bekker to play while performing Under an Indigo Sky this Saturday, February 11, proved to be the perfect gift.

Hand-delivered to Charleston for the musical event, the Stradivarius will be a focal point of the CSO’s Masterworks Series concert, featuring guest conductor Darko Butorac, a Belgrade, Serbia native who serves as music director of the Missoula Symphony Orchestra in Montana. The evening begins with Kodály's 1933 piece Dances of Galánta, before Bekker joins the orchestra for Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7 and Under an Indigo Sky.

“Every note is significant to me, to make sure I can play the musical idea the way Edward had in mind,” says Bekker, who has practiced the concerto almost daily since last summer. “It’s a soaring and beautiful piece, with sections that are very fast and exciting. Having the Stradivarius makes it unbelievably exciting. I’ve never performed with one in public, so February 11 will be a very special day for me.”

For more information on the February 11 concert at the Gaillard Auditorium, which begins with a free 6:30 p.m. “Meet the Composer” event, click here.

For more events coming up this weekend, click here.

Wed, 02/08/2012