Colleen and I learned quite a bit last night about violins. The knowledge comes courtesy of Ted Haddin, a violinist who plays Friday evenings at Nabeels, one of our favorite places to dine in Birmingham (outstanding Greek and Italian dishes, by the way).
I asked Ted what makes Stradivarius violins so coveted. Their origins go generations back in time to the forests of Italy, where wood was harvested and then aged, sometimes for so many years that a violin maker would use wood aged from generations before. Woods were treated with compounds made from various materials; the exact nature and mix of these compounds was often a closely guarded secret, making replication extremely difficult.
There is some debate about whether Stradivarius violins actually present superior sounds to all other violins; regardless, they are highly coveted and are believed to be only a few hundred in number. Depending on time and place of origin, a Stradivarius could fetch several million dollars today. Ted thinks he could tell a real Stradivarius from a fake.
I didn’t know this, but you can actually open a violin to fine tune some of the wood pieces inside, but it’s extremely delicate work and, done by the wrong hands, can ruin the instrument; only a few people in the country are considered experts at doing this.
Ted told us the story of a building superintendent entering the New York apartment of a man who had passed away, only to discover newspapers stacked to the ceiling. In one corner was a violin case, containing what turned out to be a Stradivarius.
Ted played a beautiful piece for us last night he wrote himself, called ‘Winds over Patras,’ named for the Greek community where John Krontiras, the owner of Nabeels, grew up.
Ted has been playing the violin since his childhood years. As a teenager living on a chicken farm near Tampa, Florida, Ted played classical pieces for his grandfather who was also a violinist and who owned a Stradivarius that Ted got to play. We can only imagine how proud grandpa must have been to hear those sounds drift across the field amid the feathers and eggs!
After his grandfather died, the coveted instrument disappeared, and Ted never saw it again. Life isn’t always fair, but given Ted’s love of the instrument and his ability to create such wonderful music with it, Colleen and I know who should have gotten it.
Stop by Nabeels on a Friday evening and ask Ted to play something for you. You’ll both enjoy it…