October 7, 2016

Philadelphia Orchestra features Saint-Saëns concerto — on celebrated cello

Peter CrimminsNewsWorks

This weekend, the Philadelphia Orchestra will perform a cello concerto by Saint-Saens, featuring a young soloist from Montreal playing one of the world’s most valuable instruments.

The 300-year-old Stradivarius cello is named the Countess of Stainlein. In the 19th century, it was owned by Niccolo Paganini, in the 20th century by Bernard Greenhouse of the Beaux Arts Trio.

Four years ago, it was sold at auction for an undisclosed amount — likely around $6 million — and loaned to a Stéphane Tétreault, just 19 at the time.

“It’s definitely alive,” said Tétreault, now 23. “It has an incredible personality, a lot of character traits that you need to get to know, and huge history. For me, it’s a huge privilege and a great responsibility.”

He said the Saint-Saens concerto is well-suited to this Stradivarius. Sometimes the piece whispers, sometimes growls, requiring “lots of states of mind” in a relatively compact 18 minutes.

“Sometimes you can get away with saying, ‘Well, I’d like to do this on the cello, but it doesn’t work or doesn’t respond,'” he said. “I have zero excuses. Zero excuses. This has an immense possibility.”

You can hear what he’s talking about in this video.

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