Posts Tagged ‘virtuoso’


Ben Hoyle of the UK-based Times writes that Christine Walevska went to Facebook to post a painting of herself at aged eight with her child-size cello.

Here’s a story about a virtuoso’s stolen cello that has a happy ending. I initially learned about it from the Los Angeles Times, where reporter Stacy Perman starts out with a bang: “It was Sept. 14, 2013, when a mysterious email bearing the subject line ‘Is this your first cello?’ landed in Christine Walevska’s inbox.

“The renowned cello virtuoso, however, checked her emails infrequently. … And so six months passed before she clicked on the missive sent by strangers living in Chico, Calif.

“ ‘Maybe you will recognize this cello,’ the note read, describing the instrument made by the 19th century French luthier Auguste Sébastien-Philippe Bernardel. Three photographs were attached.

“Walevska scanned the first two, showing the front and back of the instrument. When she pulled up the third, her heart nearly leaped from her chest. ‘I was so shaken up,’ she recalled.

“The image revealed the luthier’s label, visible through one of the curlicued f-holes. Across it was a note inscribed in the feathery pen of the master himself: Pour la petite Comtesse Marie 1834. ‘For the little Countess Marie.’

“ ‘I could hardly believe it,’ she recalled. The cello had been given to her as a child by her father; nearly 40 years earlier, it had been stolen. …

“Walevska responded to the email with alacrity: ‘Please phone me as soon as you can! Anxiously awaiting your phone contact.’ …

“Her father, Hermann Walecki, an internationally respected dealer of fine and rare classical instruments in Los Angeles, [had] presented the little cello to her in 1953. She was 8½. …

“[Even as she outgrew it,] she remained stubbornly attached to the Bernardel, said her brother Fred, recalling how hard-pressed she was to move up to a larger instrument. Hermann mounted the little cello on a wall in his store, telling her, ‘You will hand this down to your daughter, and her child after that.’

“When Hermann died in 1967, Fred took over the music shop and transformed it into a rock ‘n’ roll mecca — the place where everyone from the Beach Boys to the Rolling Stones went to buy guitars and have them repaired.

“Then one day in 1976, two men in their 30s walked into the store. ‘Wow, what a far-out store,’ Fred remembered one of them saying. ‘You must have a lot of expensive things. What are the most valuable?’

“Without thinking, Fred immediately pointed to his sister’s cello on the wall, as well as a custom-made guitar with mother-of-pearl inlay. That night, after closing, the store’s windows were smashed, setting off the alarm. By the time the police arrived, the cello and the guitar were gone.”


Years later, when the Breshears family decided to rent a child-size cello from a reputable dealer for their daughter Starla, Julie Breshears “found the label intriguing,” the Los Angeles Times continues. ” ‘I thought it was crazy that this belonged to a countess and nobody knows about it.’

“So she searched the internet looking for clues. When she typed in ‘Bernardel’ and ‘Pour la petite Comtesse Marie 1834’ she came across an interview that Christine Walevska had done with the Internet Cello Society. The Breshearses decided to reach out to her. They typed up an email, attached three photos and waited.

“It was shortly after Walevska’s birthday, March 8, 2014, when she spoke to the Breshearses.

“The conversation started on a note of wariness but quickly turned to amazement. The Breshearses described how Starla had been winning contests and was about to solo with an orchestra. Walevska recounted the instrument’s theft. ‘Now you know the true story of that instrument,’ she told them. The Breshearses were dumbstruck.

“Before they ended the phone call, Dustin told her, ‘You should have your cello back.’

“ ‘We’ve got to figure out how to handle this properly,’ she replied.

“The Breshearses sent Walevska videos of Starla playing the cello, and as she watched Starla perform, Walevska saw herself. ‘I knew immediately, she was a big talent,’ she said. ‘This little girl’s name, Starla, is well chosen.’

Click here to read how a lovely relationship developed between the former child prodigy and the little girl she met because once upon a time a beloved cello was stolen.

The London Times has additional information here.

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Photo: World Music
Harold López-Nussa, pianist and leader of the Harold López-Nussa Cuban jazz trio, which astonished the crowd at the Berklee Performance Center last night.

We have now seen the amazing Cuban jazz trio headed by Harold López-Nussa twice, and we still can hardly believe the pyrotechnics and joyfulness that explode from this young crew.

A documentary maker who is a part-time resident of New Shoreham had been to Cuba and, having gotten to know Harold, was determined to bring the trio to Rhode Island. It took a few years. We got to hear them last summer in the St Andrews parish hall.

Last night they played for an astonished crowd at Boston’s Berklee Performance Center as part of the World Music/Crash Arts series.

Here’s what the World Music website says: “Havana-based composer and pianist Harold López-Nussa travels smoothly through his classical, Cuban, and jazz inspirations to create an exceptional style of global jazz. His trio includes his younger brother, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa, a renowned musician in his own right, on percussion and Gaston Joya on bass.”

What is not conveyed by that description is the extraordinary virtuosity of each of the performers. Harold, yes, but also his younger brother the drummer, and his “brother of another mother,” the bass player.

The trio is like a fireworks display that you grin all the way through. In any one piece, they seem to be ending and you start cheering, when all of a sudden there is an explosive burst more astonishing even than the one you just heard — and you’re off to the races again.

Harold is the only one who speaks enough English to introduce the numbers, which he or his bass player or various Cuban greats composed. He likes to tell you about composing one long piece in his rattle-trap Polish car (in video below), which he says is so slow he has loads of time to think. A gentle, nostalgic piece was written for his late mother.

From Harold’s website: “López-Nussa was born into a musical family in Havana on July 13, 1983. Not only are his father and uncle – Ernán, a pianist – working musicians, but his late mother, Mayra Torres, was a highly regarded piano teacher.

“At the age of eight, López-Nussa began studying at the Manuel Saumell Elementary School of Music, then the Amadeo Roldán Conservatory and finally graduating with a degree in classical piano from the Instituto Superior de Artes (ISA). ‘I studied classical music and that’s all I did until I was 18,’ he says. Then came jazz.

“ ‘Jazz was scary. Improvisation was scary. That idea of not knowing what you are going to play…’ he says, his voice trailing off. “At school I learned the works of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven and then it was all very clear. That permanent risk in which jazz musicians find themselves in all the time was terrifying-of course, now I find myself in that risk all the time.’ ”

Last night, as Harold thanked all the people who helped the trio get to Boston, he said, “You wouldn’t believe what it takes to get out of Cuba to come here.” Here’s hoping it gets easier so they can reach all the audiences who will love them.

Check out the trio’s website here and this, the blurb for the World Music concert at Berklee.

Although the video doesn’t show the fireworks of the current trio, it nicely documents how Harold worked with an earlier group of collaborators. And it features the Polish car.

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