Upcoming Concert: Vanessa-Mae @ Ondrej Nepela Arena

Vanessa-Mae will perform at the Ondrej Nepela Arena in Bratislava, Slovakia on May 11, 2017.  Furthermore, the Czech Bohemian Symphony Orchestra Prague (BSOP) will accompany her.

About the Ondrej Nepela Arena ..

At capacity, this arena can hold over 10,000 people.  It’s one of the most cutting-edge facilities after undergoing renovation back in 2011. Now, it has noteworthy features such as LED scoreboards and the like.  The makeover was done at the request of the President of Slovakia.  The cost of the project is around 87 million euros.  Check out the pictures below as it’s quite a sight to behold.

In case you’re wondering, Ondreg Nepela is the name of a 1972 Czechoslovakian Winter Olympics skating champion.

Ondrej_Nepela_Arena
The outside of the Ondrej Nepela Arena
May 11, 2017 cannot get here fast enough. Vanessa-Mae's appearance here at Ondreg Nepela Arena will be memorable for sure!
The inside of The Ondrej Nepela Arena. What a beautiful and fitting place for a Vanessa-Mae Concert.

 

Details are here.

Let me give a BIG thanks to Display for finding this information!

Lastly, If you are planning to attend this concert, please reach out to me. 

Vanessa-Mae calls her Guadagnini violin “Gizmo”. Why is that?

Gizmo? You mean that cute thing from the movie ‘Gremlins’?

While I could see Vanessa-Mae owning such a cute animal, the answer is ‘no’.  “Gizmo” is the affectionate name she has given her violin, which was made by GIOVANNI BATTISTA GUADAGNINI in 1761.  Why?  Before we proceed, we should explore the wondrous instrument known as the violin.

“You have not changed a bit!”

There are three things that fascinate me about the violin.  First, close your eyes for a moment and use your imagination.  The violin is some 300 years old, and yet the basic design remains the same.  Can you think of any man-made invention that is so old but yet the design has not changed?  I cannot!

Secondly, for an object that is less than 15″ long and 6″ wide, it can fill an entire concert hall with no acoustical assistance.  Thirdly, you can have a violinmaker (also referred to as ‘luthier’) make two violins from the same piece of wood at the same time.  The two violins will NOT sound identical.  The sound of a violin is as unique as the human fingerprint.  This partially explains why certain antique violins made by famous luthiers (like Antonio Stradivari) are so highly prized and valued.  They are simply irreplaceable!

Vanessa-Mae and her Guadagnini violin
Vanessa-Mae and her violin made by G.B. Guadagnini nicknamed “Gizmo”

“That costs more than my house!”

Some antique violins cost more than a mansion.  Did you know that the most expensive violin in the world is NOT a Stradivarius (or Guadagnini)?  Stradivari might be the most famous, but there are professional violinists who would argue that violins made by Giuseppe Guerneri Del Gesu easily matches the craftsmanship and the sound of Stradivari and Guaduagnini instruments.  In fact, some might argue that his instruments are superior!

Anne Akiko Meyers plays on one (“Ex-Vieuxtemps”), and was appraised for $16,000,000 as of 2013.  That is not a misprint.  The reason for the astronomical value for this particular instrument is its condition.  Her violin was made in 1741.  Any instrument that old usually have some body damage from accidents and wear.  This meant cracks that requires sealant or replacement of the scroll/neck.  Mrs. Meyers’ violin has no damage to it at all.  The body of the violin is 100% original and without defect.  Given the reputation of its maker, this violin is already an extremely rare find.  Having it completely free of damage is almost unheard of!

In case you’re wondering, the primary consensus is that the top 3 violinmakers from that era are Stradivari, Del Gesu, and Guadagnini.

“Can I get a Guadagnini violin?”

The short answer is “unlikely”.  Even if you had the money, most of the prized instruments made by Stradivari, Del Gesu, and Guadagnini are in the hands of famous violinists.  They either buy them for personal use or borrow them on loan for their lifetime use; others are in museums for display only.  But fear not!  The longstanding theory is that such instruments have a sound that is impossible to duplicate.  In a sense, this is undoubtedly true.  As discussed earlier, each violin has its own voice.  From the cheapest violin that might cost you $90 on ebay, to a real Stradivarius violin; EVERY violin is unique.

Surely, the prized violins that cost millions must have a sound that easily separates itself from modern violins.  Would it surprise you to learn that the answer is ‘No’?  A few years ago, there was a double blind test in France where the most respected violinists and violinmakers were invited to participate.  All given instruments to play.  The instruments included a mixture of real Strads, Del Gesu’s, and some modern instruments.  The results were shocking!  None of the violinists or violinmakers were consistently able to distinguish new from old.  What’s also amazing is that some of the violinists own Strads themselves!  Yet they were not able to consistently identify other Strads from modern violins made by today’s luthiers.  You can watch the entire test on Youtube.

“Where do I go?”

With that in mind, why pay for a Stradivarius in the first place?  Despite the findings, it’s still an incredibly rare find and holds a lot of sentimental value.  Besides, just like with most expensive man-made things, you pay for the name above all else.  This also means that you can find something comparable that doesn’t involve you winning the lottery.  The key is knowing where to look.  Most people interested in purchasing a violin do not have the ability to simply drive down to their local violin shop.  Such a shop may not exist or there may be time constraints.

Fortunately, reputable violin shops do exist online.  Such shops usually allow you to try out their instruments with no obligation to buy.  As I said in my bio, I wholeheartedly recommend Fiddlershop.  Pierre Holstein owns the website linked, and you can check out his Youtube channel here.  His family has a violin shop (along with guitars and mandolins) that operates out of Florida.  In my opinion, they sell some of the best instruments you can buy under $5K.  Pierre exhaustively tries out instruments from different workshops, and he will tell you that most do not simply cut it.  He never badmouths the individual or company that makes them.  He simply won’t carry their instruments.  He has instruments for every level–from beginner to professional.  Please, PLEASE never buy an instrument off of ebay!

“What happens if I buy the wrong violin?”

If you’re thinking of starting to learn the violin, there’s no worse way to impede your development by buying a cheaply made violin.  Why?  Cheaply made violins are very hard to play; way harder than it should be otherwise.  It takes too much work to get a acceptable tone out of it.  Because of this, beginners lose interest and stop playing.  If you are serious about learning the violin, then expect to pay a few hundred bucks.  Buying a $100 violin makes no more sense than buying a $100 car.

In Summary …

Vanessa-Mae’s Guadagnini means so much to her for two main reasons: Every violin has its own sound and personality.  If it is destroyed, it is almost as priceless as a human life as it can never be replaced.  In several interviews, Vanessa describes why she stuck with the violin though she played the piano first.  She describes that as a little girl, the violin appealed so much more to her because of its small stature and the shape loosely resembling the human body.  She looked at it similar to how she’d look at a doll.  And to think, she’s been playing on that violin since she was 10 years old.  She is now 37.  “Gizmo” is truly her lifetime partner, and perhaps explains why she is not married.  Well .. maybe. 🙂

Cheers!

~Ben

Crocus City Hall in Moscow welcomes Vanessa-Mae

Watch Vanessa-Mae perform at Crocus City Hall in Moscow from December 2015.  A BIG Thanks to avid Vanessa-Mae fan CrazyCat!

Vanessa-Mae at Crocus City Hall
Vanessa-Mae at Crocus City Hall

The concert that almost never was

This December concert’s length is about one hour and thirty minutes, and it is my favorite out of all the concerts thus (make sure you check CrazyCat’s channel for the previous years’ concerts).  Here, you will see Vanessa-Mae perform a wide assortment of music.  Some of which dates back to her very first pop album: The Violin Player.  This concert also has the distinction of being the only where Vanessa-Mae did not use her Guadaganini violin.  She explains that there was an accident, and the violin’s scroll was broken.  However, she is happy to report that due to some quick thinking by the organizers, they were able to procure her another violin.

She starts out with a very old favorite of mine – Red Hot.  Then she continues with Havanna Slide and Morrocan Roll.  On top of the fantastic track listing, she also had a full orchestra and conductor, which is rare.  Normally, Vanessa utilizes just her band and a string section.  She also divided the concert into two parts, ending the first half with ‘Storm’ from her pop album by the same name.  Upon reappearing for the second half, she says she’s starting to get more comfortable with the violin.  She reiterates that this is the first time she’s played on another violin since she was 10 years old!  She then plays one of the most beautiful pieces from her album Choreography ‘Roxane’s Veil’.  I particular loved the piano accompaniment that’s absent from the album version.

A rare slip-up …

A reminder that she’s still getting accustomed to her new partner, she hits a bum note during the solo introduction to Happy Valley.  She curses a bit and smiles and completely starts over.  However, this is the only time there was any clear indication she was playing an instrument that’s not her own.  She comes out for an encore, but I’ll let you see for yourself what she plays.  It’s something she has not performed in a very long while! 🙂

The visual and audio quality is quite good for an amateur video, and I’m sure you’ll love it as I do.  Enjoy!!

Personal favorite performance of Toccata & Fugue by Vanessa-Mae …

Will this performance become your personal favorite?

If you were to ask me my personal favorite Vanessa-Mae song, I’d have to say Red Hot.  However, she’s best known for Mike Batt’s arrangement for Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D Minor.  After all, this song was released as her very first single, and the title track on her first pop album.  In fact, it reached #24 on the Billboard charts.  To my knowledge, no other violinist has ever reached that high where the solo instrument is the violin.

My Personal Favorite Performance of Toccata & Fugue
Vanessa-Mae performs Toccata & Fugue in front a huge crowd in Germany. (Picture taken in 1996)

She still performs it to this day!  However, this particular video performance of this classic tune is especially .. well .. special.  The reason?  She performs in front of a huge crowd who gives her HUGE cheers at the end.  Secondly, she looks absolutely beautiful and her technique was on point as usual.  Lastly, she performs this piece on her acoustic violin where she normally uses her electric violin.  This makes a huge difference and sounds so much better in my opinion

Enjoy!!!

P.S. Believe it or not, this was recorded over 20 years ago!

Interview with Vanessa-Mae reveals a painful rift she bears..

An interview that shows a glimpse of pain

Vanessa-Mae, arguably the world’s most popular violinist, seems to have it all.  In 2006, The Guardian names her as one of the wealthiest entertainers under 30 years old.  Furthermore, she was selected by People’s Magazine as one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world!  However, an interview that probes into Vanessa-Mae’s private life talks about something else.  The one thing that money can’t buy: a great relationship.

Vanessa-Mae’s mother, Pamela Tan, has been Vanessa’s full-time manager since the beginning.  There is little doubt that she has played a critical role in developing Vanessa-Mae into the world violin phenomenon she is known for.  Vanessa even credits her mother for this in numerous interviews.  Unfortunately, this has come with a price.

Here is a link to an interview she did in February 2014 regarding her relationship with her mother.  It is a very good read, and hardly surprising.  Many celebrities who have parents as their full-time managers seem to have problems.  Those problems arise for a variety of reasons.  In Vanessa’s case, she contends that her mother is too controlling.

She says in the interview that she could not date.  The only thing that should matter is her career according to her mother.  That’s not all.  She says she was also forbidden to play sports as it may pose a risk of injury to her prized fingers.  Reaching a breaking point, Vanessa-Mae feels she must free herself. She fires her mother as her manager on the eve of her 21st birthday.  Since then, she says that her mother has cut off all communication.  Vanessa-Mae accepts her decision and moves on with her career.  She laments that her relationship with her mother goes from one extreme to the other.  I believe Vanessa-Mae hopes to mend their relationship some day.

My Take?

I hope every parent reads the above article and take notes.  No amount of fame is worth sacrificing a good relationship with your children.  Never think that it is acceptable to put the secular success of your children’s career above all else.  Furthermore, never judge your children by their success in the commercial world.  Commercial success has less to do with talent than it does luck.  Not to mention that sometimes children are asked to sacrifice too much for that lifestyle.

Shekvetili welcomes Vanessa-Mae LIVE at Black Sea Arena!

A new venue is born in Shekvetili, Georgia…

Vanessa-Mae performs in Shekvetili, Georgia in a brand new arena.  I’ll get into details about that arena in a bit.  The crowd is very enthusiastic and cheers often during the concert.  Moreover, Vanessa-Mae feeds off the energy by cheering them on.  She even walks through the crowd during her encore performances.  I’m sure it was a huge headache for security, but it seems to work well for the crowd’s enthusiasm!

The Black Sea Arena is newly built.  Vanessa-Mae was one of the few artists who were fortunate to be the first performers at this venue.  In addition,  Christina Aguilera and The Scorpions perform there as well.  A very big thanks to Sopho Kokobinadze for providing the video footage!! Enjoy!!!! 🙂 ~Ben

Vanessa-Mae LIVE at Shekvetili, Georgia
Vanessa-Mae performs at the new Black Sea Arena in Georgia