“This is the only example of a quartet of Amati instruments in the whole country … we’re very lucky to have them in playing condition.”
Nearly four years after they were last presented as the full quartet, the University of Saskatchewan’s Amati instruments will emerge for two public performances this weekend.
“This is the only example of a quartet of Amati instruments in the whole country … we’re very lucky to have them in playing condition,” said Veronique Mathieu, U of S associate professor of violin and the David L. Kaplan Chair in Music.
Hand-crafted in Italy in the 1600s, the university’s collection remains one of only a few complete Amati string quartets in the world. The set was sold to the university in 1959 by amateur collector Stephen Kolbinson, who wanted the instruments to be played in Saskatchewan.
“One of his wishes was that these instruments would be heard by people in Saskatchewan and would be made available to everyone, because they’re so special. He really wanted to make them part of the general culture,” Mathieu said.
In a collaboration with the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra, three members of the orchestra will join Mathieu on these historic instruments: associate concert master and violinist Jacqueline Nutting, principle violist Jim Legge and acting principle cellist Scott McKnight, who is also a cello instructor at the U of S.
The concert will feature works from Henry Purcell, Mozart, Haydn, Turina and Ukrainian composer Myroslav Skoryk.
“We really adapted the program to the instruments themselves,” Mathieu said.
The last time the full quartet was used in performance was in a memorial concert for former Amati Quartet violinist Marla Cole. Mathieu said that former quartet will be honoured this weekend.
“This work by Turina is really just to pay homage to the previous Amati Quartet, because it’s one of the last works they had performed and recorded,” she said.
The piece by Skoryk was also chosen to honour Ukrainian musicians and the people of Ukraine.
Mathieu said the decision to make the concerts small and intimate was primarily due to the pandemic, but she believes this type of concert showcases the instruments in the best way.
“These instruments were really meant to be heard in salon concerts and smaller venues. I think it’s a really special opportunity for the public to be really close to these instruments and see them well … These are really special artworks and they’re also quite special to hear.”
Mathieu said she hopes to see new faces at the concerts this weekend, to introduce these instruments to a new audience.
“We’re really hoping that some people that may not have heard them before will get a chance to hear them.”
Plans for future performances with the Amati instruments include events at Culture Days in the fall and a concert series next year that will feature guest performers.
“We’re really looking forward to playing them more regularly,” Mathieu said.
The Amati instruments will be played in an intimate performance Friday at 6 p.m. and a coffee concert Sunday at 10:30 a.m. at the Diefenbaker Canada Centre at the U of S. The Friday show is sold out, but tickets for the Sunday show are available at diefenbaker.usask.ca.
SSO’s spring concert offers shared emotional experience through music
Five concerts in and around Saskatoon this month
Final Amati concert launches Marla Cole fund
The news seems to be flying at us faster all the time. From COVID-19 updates to politics and crime and everything in between, it can be hard to keep up. With that in mind, the Saskatoon StarPhoenix has created an Afternoon Headlines newsletter that can be delivered daily to your inbox to help make sure you are up to date with the most vital news of the day. Click here to subscribe.