Classical Music World: Return Of The Violin

The Return of the Violin poster. Courtesy image
By ANN MCLAUGHLIN, Artistic Director
Los Alamos Concert Association

Since the announcement that violin super-star Joshua Bell will be performing here Feb. 3, I have been asked many times how we managed to entice him to come to Los Alamos. This is an artist who definitely does not need to land a gig in the Duane Smith Auditorium to make ends meet. He can play anywhere in the world he wants and does.

The idea to bring Bell here was planted about 3 years ago when I was bowled over by an Israeli documentary about his violin. I decided that if the Los Alamos Concert Association, through some miracle, was able to afford Bell’s fee, we would try to bring him, his violin, and this remarkable film to Los Alamos. Thanks to the generosity of LACA’s special friend, Art Freed, that miracle happened.

Bronisław Huberman. Courtesy photo

Joshua Bell plays a legendary Stradivarius called the Gibson x Huberman. Strads are often named after their early or most famous owners. I’m not sure who Gibson was, but Bronisław Huberman was a giant.  Born in the Polish city of Częstochowa in 1882, he was a prodigious talent. A local Count, astonished by how this youngster could play, gave him the Stradivarius, for 200 years a prized possession of his aristocratic family.

Huberman went on to a distinguished international career. During a 1936 performance in Carnegie Hall, the Stradivarius was stolen from his dressing room. He died in 1947 never having seen his violin again.  Then, in 1986, the instrument resurfaced after a man in a Connecticut prison made a deathbed confession. 

Lest you think that I have given away the best part of this violin’s story, fear not! The documentary is called The Return of the Violin, but not because it was stolen and then recovered. There lies behind that title something much more complex and profound. The key players in the story are Huberman,  Johannes Brahms, the Israel Philharmonic, a wealthy New York businessman who survived the Holocaust in Częstochowa and, of course, Joshua Bell.

I believe that Joshua Bell was willing to appear in Los Alamos because we wanted to bring this story to our audience. Learning the remarkable history of Huberman and his Stradivarius will make your experience at Bell’s performance Feb. 3 very special indeed. This violin has been around!

The documentary is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22 in the Smith Auditorium and runs about 60 minutes. Bell’s Feb. 3 performance is sold out. I would love to tell Mr. Bell that the screening of the documentary sold out as well. This is clearly a story that means a great deal to him and one that will move you whether you attend his performance or not.

And, parents, we do suggest that this documentary might be too adult for early elementary kids. 

Documentary tickets at $10 are available at CB FOX, Smith’s Marketplace, Smith’s in White Rock, electronically through our website and at the door.