The University of Saskatchewan is hosting a four-part concert series showcasing a collection of historic string instruments.
It’s called Discovering the Amatis – a quartet made up of two violins, a viola and a cello.
“They are made by this family of makers –Amati,” Veronique Mathieu, associate professor of violin at the University of Saskatchewan explained.
“It’s the last name of the makers and it’s a craft that was passed on from father to son,” she added.
The instruments were handcrafted in the 1600s.
According to the university, the instruments are now part of the fabric of Saskatchewan.
“There was this man, Stephen Kolbinson, who was a grain farmer from Kindersley, Sask. And in the ’50s, he developed this curiosity for old Italian instruments and he started traveling around the world looking for instruments to acquire for his collection,” Mathieu started.
“When Kolbinson had the collection assembled here in Saskatchewan, since he was not a musician himself, he started looking for a purpose for these instruments. So at the time, he had a close friend, Murray Adaskin, who is quite a well-known figure in the Canadian music landscape.”
According to Mathieu, the university purchased the instruments from Kolbinson and Adaskin in the late 1950s and they’ve been at the school ever since.
The associate professor said hosting the concert series is important in order to show the general public the beauty of the instruments.
“It really gives a chance for the audience to discover these instruments, to hear their individual personalities, and to get to know them,” she said.
And it was just as important for Mathieu to incorporate prominent guest artists to showcase the music.
Robert Uchida and Rafael Hoekman, musicians with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, played the instruments in the series’ first concert last month. They both said it was a privilege.
“The violin that I played is a Nicolo Amati,” Uchida said. “And the violin, even at one time, gave the post-World War One performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in the United Kingdom. So it’s unbelievable to kind of put your hands on this on this piece of history and get to, for a moment, be a part of the instrument’s story.”
“It just had an incredible range of colors and sound and qualities that are, you know, obviously in the making from a master craftsman who created it. But also in the several hundred years in the making. And that’s an incredible experience to be a part of,” Hoekman added.
Mathieu said she was honored to be the appointed person to oversee the historic instruments.
“I think that this has been very important for the community to have these instruments, especially for the music community, and also as just a provincial treasure, if I can say that.”
The next concert takes place on Oct. 23 at Convocation Hall at the university. Tickets can be purchased on their website.