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Million dollar violin -

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Million dollar violin

Broadcast: 02/06/2011

Reporter: Rebecca Baillie

The Australian Chamber Orchestra has had the privilege of playing one of the world's most valuable
musical instruments.

Transcript

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: Stradivarius is a name synonymous with exceptional musical instruments and
every virtuoso violinist dreams of one day playing one.

Not many ever get the honour although the Australian Chamber Orchestra just got lucky.

Rebecca Baillie reports.

REBECCA BAILLIE, REPORTER: Assistant leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Satu Vanska, isn't
just one of this country's best musicians, she's also one of the luckiest.

SATU VANSKA, ASST LEAD VIOLIN, ACO: If somebody had told me 10 years ago that I'd be playing on a
Stradivarius, I think I would've laughed at them. You know, it's such a pie in the sky.

When you play on a normal violin, it really feels like you are playing the violin, but when you
have something like a beautiful Stradivarius, you really feel that the violin is more telling you
how to play it.

REBECCA BAILLIE: Worth nearly $2 million, the violin is a composite of two instruments made by
Italian master-maker Antonio Stradivari in 1728 and '29. There are only about 650 Stradivarius
instruments left worldwide and this is believed to be the only one in Australia.

SATU VANSKA: It's got a brilliant sound, quite bright and brilliant sound that is very focused. And
especially it comes out in a concert hall.

REBECCA BAILLIE: The Stradivarius is the first purchase by the Australian Chamber Orchestra
Instrument Fund. A novel investment scheme set up to ensure the country's finest musicians perform
on the world's finest instruments.

SATU VANSKA: It's so crucial because we instrumentalists, especially violinists, we, you know,
practise all our lives to master the instrument and we can't afford to buy one for ourselves.

RICHARD TOGNETTI, LEAD VIOLIN, ACO: You can hear a pianist bitching about a clapped-out piano and
there's just - it takes to you a certain level and no matter who you are, you just can't get above
a certain level. And these instruments bring you these dimensions.

REBECCA BAILLIE: There's no doubt these fine-stringed instruments are a great investment. Four
years ago, an anonymous benefactor lent the ACO's lead violinist Richard Tognetti their Del Gesu
violin, bought in 2006 for US$6.5 million. It's now valued at US$10.5 million.

RICHARD TOGNETTI: This great, old piece of wood is a bargain at the price. Ever-decreasing supply
and ever-increasing demand creates a line that looks like that. (Indicates upwardly-inclined
diagonal line with left hand).

REBECCA BAILLIE: With a combined worth of $12 million at his fingertips, Richard Tognetti says the
two violins are like chalk and cheese, but the orchestra is now much richer for having both a Del
Gesu and a Stradivarius.

RICHARD TOGNETTI: You can really hear them under the ear, the cutting diamond-edged power of the
Stradivarius' against the dark hues of the Del Gesu. And I do believe that the two blend
fantastically well.

SATU VANSKA: There isn't any instrument envy at all. Especially the Del Gesu violin really suits
Richard's way of playing so well that you - they're very personal things, these instruments.

REBECCA BAILLIE: While the owner of Richard Tognetti's violin remains a mystery, one other
benefactor, who has lent this $1 million cello to the ACO, has decided he can no longer keep his
own identity secret.

PETER WEISS, PHILANTHROPIST: It's a lovely thing to do. I'd like to get up on a platform somewhere
and really try to encourage a heap of people who over the years give to hospitals or give to
paintings and towards art and visual art and what have you: "Hey, here's an instrument fund; come
join us."

REBECCA BAILLIE: Fashion designer and businessman Peter Weiss says it's an investment in
Australia's cultural future.

Why wouldn't you just keep it under lock and key?

PETER WEISS: Well then it's not valuable anymore because then I might as well buy gold bullion. I
want it exposed, I want it played, I want the richness of tone to be shared by everyone.

REBECCA BAILLIE: For Satu Vanska, having the carriage of the precious Stradivarius is daunting, but
as she says, she just has to be careful.

SATU VANSKA: It definitely is the first thing in your mind when you get up from the bed and check
that it's there and it's the last thing on your mind too before you go to bed at night and check
that it's there in the room, so you never leave it out of your sight, really.