University of Wisconsin-Madison (opens in new window)

The Green Room

Instruments as old as Time

Posted: 09/21/23

Instruments as old as Time

By Amanda Stezenski

The 2023-2024 Classical Series features today’s best young talent, including Sheku Kanneh-Mason, age 24, and Isidore String Quartet, ages 22-24, along with virtuosi with decades of performance experience. Regardless of their range in ages, our classical artists share the privilege of performing with historical instrumentation that outdates all of them by centuries as they breathe new life into one of the world’s oldest genres.

The golden era of Western string instrument creation dates back to 17th- and 18th-century Italy. Today, these treasured instruments are typically owned and maintained by foundations, who loan them to exceptional artists. As such, Sheku Kanneh-Mason plays a cello that is more than 200 years old and was crafted in 18th-century Venice. The cello is owned by Florian Leonhard Fine Violins and is on loan to Kanneh-Mason indefinitely.

Check out this video to learn more about the pristine cello: 

Sheku Kanneh-Mason and the c.1700 'Ex-Goritzki' Matteo Goffriller cello:

Similarly, Phoenix Avalon from the Isidore String Quartet plays a G.B. Guadagini Violin made in 1753 in Milan, on loan from Rare Violins In Consortium, Artists and Benefactors Collaborative. The string quartet’s cellist, Joshua McClendon, performs on a Giovanni Grancino from 1700 made possible by Carriage House Violins. 

For the Schumann Quartet, every musical vessel is more than 200 years old. According to the Quartet’s website,

  • “Erik Schumann plays on a violin by Joseph Guarneri Filius Andrea from 1690, made available to him by the Guadagnini Foundation Stuttgart.
  • Ken Schumann plays an old Italian violin from the mid-18th century, made available to him through a private donor.
  • Veit Hertenstein plays a viola by Pietro Giovanni Mantegazza from 1767, a generous loan from a private source.
  • Mark Schumann plays a cello by Giovanni & Francesco Grancino from 1680, generously loaned to him by MERITO Sit Vienna.”

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein may not be able to bring her own instrument on tour, but the Wisconsin Union Theater’s D Series Steinway & Sons piano offers its own grand 9-foot frame and rich history. Since its purchase in 1992, the dazzling keys have been played by world-renowned pianists, such as Emmanuel Ax, Lise de la Salle and soon, Dinnerstein, herself. It is a tradition at the Wisconsin Union Theater for each pianist to sign the cast iron piano plate, which is now filled with signatures from pianists from all over the world, making the piano an archival treasure.

Want to hear the artists who make these instruments shine? Check out our subscription options to save on tickets to the 23-24 Classical Series here. Classical Series subscriptions available only through Sept. 28.

Go to top of page