The Stradivarius Red Violin Plays in San Miguel

By Michael Pearl

Pro Musica presents a return visit of the stunning American violinist, Elizabeth Pitcairn, playing the famous Stradivarius Red Violin and accompanied by Beverly Min on piano, on Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1, at St. Paul’s Church, calle Cardo 6, both at 5pm.

Pro Musica Concert Series
Elizabeth Pitcairn, violin
Fri, Feb 28 & Sat, Mar 1, 5pm
Iglesia de San Pablo
Calle Cardo 6
100/200/300 pesos


Elizabeth stunned two capacity audiences last year for us with her virtuoso playing, the intimacy with which she connected to her audience and her winning personality and charm. Elizabeth plays the Red Mendelssohn violin, built by Antonio Stradivari in 1720, in Cremona, Italy. The story of this famous instrument, owned by Elizabeth since she was a child Prodigy, was famously told in the Academy Award winning film The Red Violin, inspired by the 1990 Christie’s auction of the instrument, when it was bought for Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is one of few soloists who perform the Red Violin Chaconne, for which composer John Corigliano won his Oscar for the movie. She appears on the 10th anniversary edition of The Red Violin—Meridian Collection DVD in a feature documentary interview. We will be showing the movie itself, and the interview, at Teatro Santa Ana, at La Biblioteca, on Wednesday, February 26, at 3pm, and Thursday, February 27, at 4pm. Tickets are available only at the Biblioteca at 70 pesos each.

I attended Elizabeth’s recital in London a few years ago, which was the first time the Red Violin had played there since the Christie’s sale. At the time it fetched a record price for a Strad, sold at auction at 1.7 million dollars. Elizabeth says of it that it has an extraordinary “clarity of sound, ease of execution and great power; the violin has become my most inspiring mentor and companion over the years.”

Elizabeth’s two concerts for us this season will both feature the same major works, which I talk about below, together with many additional solo pieces from her virtuoso repertoire, which she will announce from the stage each day. The concerts open with Fritz Kreisler’s Praeludium and Allegro, which was originally attributed to the 18th-century composer, Pugnani; and young Kreisler did not take credit for it, because attribution to the famous composer assured publication! It is a wonderfully romantic-style Baroque piece that is highly respected by composers and virtuoso violinists alike.

Beethoven’s bold Sonata No. 7 in C Minor follows. Its four contrasting movements offer a massive combination of the gentle and the brutal, the playful and the serious, the nimble and the heavy. The entire work seems to cover every gamut of emotion, from the sweetness and defiance of youth to the sadness of aging. The adagio is sure to bring tears to your eyes.

Another moving piece on the program is “River of Light.” Composed by Richard Danielpour, it was commissioned for the violinist Sarah Chang. The work is of great beauty and conviction as it explores the theme of losing a loved one and preparing for imminent loss, where the river is a symbol for crossing over into death’s mysterious chasm. The piece is a tribute to the great violinist, Isaac Stern, who inspired Mr. Danielpour with his kindness and musical brilliance.

Stirringly magnificent is one of the world’s favorite violin pieces, “Meditation” by Massenet for his opera Thaïs. Elizabeth played this at our artist’s supper last year and everyone was in tears at its haunting beauty and build-up of passion that leaves the listener in a state of grace.

In complete contrast, Elizabeth will perform Hora Staccat, composed in 1906 by Romanian composer Grigoras Dinicu and arranged by the brilliant violinist Jascha Heifetz. The piece embodies the hora—a circle dance from the Balkans that dazzles in tempo. The bowing wizardry needed to create fiery rhythms is staggering to watch and hear.

Colorful flare continues with Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen—a gypsy flavored, show-stopping number based on the czardas—a traditional Hungarian folk dance. Once again, virtuoso bowing is needed to achieve the astonishing musical virtuosity to bring off this staggeringly difficult piece.

These concerts will be unique occasions to hear world-class violin music played on the timeless combination of the Pro Musica Steinway and the most famous of all violins.

Tickets for the concerts, Friday and Saturday, February 28 and March 1, 5pm, at 100, 200 and 300 pesos donation each, are available at St. Paul’s Church, calle Cardo 6, Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, as well as at La Tienda in La Biblioteca, Insurgentes 25; Solutions, Mesones 57; La Conexión, Aldama 3; daily until 2pm on Saturday and at the door half an hour before the concert begins.

The quality of the music and opera Pro Musica brings to San Miguel, our unique Rhythm, Rhyme & Reason program, teaching music in underprivileged schools in the campo and our work in the city’s orphanages costs increasing amounts of money to provide. The best way to help us fund our activities is to become a Patron Member. Patron membership costs as little as US$100 per year and is US tax deductible and includes many benefits, such as complimentary concert tickets and Meet the Artists suppers and cocktail parties. For information on all of Pro Musica’s concerts for the 2013-2014 season and Patron Membership, please visit our website: or e-mail


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