I don’t suppose you have a pair of four-hundred-year-old pliers in your kitchen tool drawer, or a screwdriver made in the 1700s? No, probably not. Tools don’t tend to last that long. The tools of string players, though, are an entirely different story.
I’ve played many concerts with a violinist whose violin was made in about 1600 and whose bow probably dates from the late 1700s, and just recently I played with a cellist whose three-hundred-and-forty-five-year-old cello is one of the most remarkable instruments I’ve ever heard. My own viola isn’t terribly old – it was made in the mid-twentieth century -- but my bow was made in about 1860 and has been in continuous use ever since. Sometimes in rehearsals I look around at my colleagues’ instruments and bows and think about how far these old tools have traveled, in whose hands, and how much great music they’ve played… and I just can’t help smiling.
This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.