400-year-old viola to be played to crowds in Nelson

06 February 2019 / News

It could have caught the ears of Mozart or Bach, but now a 400 year old viola's being played to crowds in Nelson. It's among a number of instruments dating back to the 17th century at the Adam Chamber Music Festival.

1 News snapshot

Viola, 400 years old being played to crowds in Nelson

It's among a number of century old instruments at the city's chamber music festival. Violist and festival artistic co-director Gillian Ansell plays the Nicolo Amati, made in 1619. It's a milestone that likely makes it the oldest string instrument in the country.

"They are rare beasts and a lot of damage can happen to such a fragile instrument so I'm sure there have been a lot that have been destroyed along the way," says Ms Ansell.

400 year old viola. Source: 1 NEWS

The viola was crafted in Italy for one of the most famous renaissance families. "It's got on the back of its scroll the Medici Medallion carved in". Now owned by the Adam Foundation, Ms Ansell's got the instrument on loan while she plays for the New Zealand String Quartet. She says she often ponders whether the viola would have been played in an orchestra "that Mozart might have heard or composed for."

"Or Bach? Or anyone after that? You just don't know".

This month, the viola will be heard alongside the internationally acclaimed Jerusalem Quartet. Between the two quartets, the musicians will play instruments that date back from the 17th century, 18th century, right through until the 21st.

 The original news feature can be found here.

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