Acclaimed Virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn Unites and Performs with Two Of The World's Rarest Stradivari Violins in Historic East Coast Concert

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Legendary Stradivari Violins return to Bucks County for final "one night" pairing at Pitcairn Ancestral Home.

Acclaimed virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn will make a historic appearance on May 4 at Cairnwood, former home of famed PPG Industrialist, John Pitcairn, in a benefit recital for the Bryn Athyn Orchestra wherein she will perform with two of the world’s most cherished violins: The 1720 Red “Mendelssohn” Stradivarius which inspired the Academy Award film “The Red Violin,” and the 1707 “Hammer” Stradivarius, once owned by her great uncle and renowned collector, Raymond Pitcairn. The “Hammer” is headed for the auction block at Christie’s of New York shortly after the concert, making the evening a one-night-only event. The May 4, invitation only, Cairnwood fundraiser is co-sponsored by the Pitcairn Financial Group.

Pitcairn will next appear on Sunday, May 7th, 4:00 p.m. at the Mitchell Performing Arts Center in the highly anticipated Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with her concert partner, the 1720 “Red Violin,” under the Baton of Maestro Daniel Kujala and the Bryn Athyn Orchestra.

With approximately 650 Stradivari violins remaining worldwide, public fascination with these beautifully crafted instruments has reached an all time high. “I often wonder where each has been during their nearly 300 years; who (has) played on them and what they’ve seen,” said Pitcairn from her home in California. “Every violin is unique and different with its own personality. The tonal qualities are the most striking differences, as well as, visually, they look different. Antonio Stradivari was much older when he made the “Mendelssohn” and it’s interesting to see the changes in his work.”

The “Hammer” is currently in possession of Christie’s New York who is scheduled to auction the coveted instrument on May 16, and who will deliver it to Cairnwood under tight security for Pitcairn’s single performance. “It’s a rare opportunity to see one (instrument), let alone both,” said Pitcairn. “I’ve never had both in the same room at the same time.. They’re going to meet each other.”

Both violins were crafted during Stradivari’s "Golden Period" (1700-1720). “The Hammer” derives its name from the 19th century Swedish collector Christian Hammer, jeweler to the Swedish Royal Court. Through the years it has been held by many owners while its current owner has not been disclosed. When the current owner elected to sell the violin through Christie’s, the auction house invited Pitcairn to demonstrate its qualities at their Press Call in NYC on May 11.

The journey of the “Mendelssohn” Strad continues to ignite keen public fascination. With its distinctive burnished red varnish and mysterious past, it served as the inspiration for Francois Girard’s ambitious 1999 film. For some 200 years, the whereabouts of the violin were unknown. The violin surfaced in 1930’s Berlin when it was purchased by an heir of the great composer, Felix Mendelssohn. By virtue of a gift from Theodore Pitcairn, Pitcairn’s Grandfather and noted arts philanthropist, she was able to acquire the “Mendelssohn” at an auction at Christie’s of London in 1990.

A native of Bucks County who now resides in Southern California, Pitcairn has emerged one of America’s top violin soloists. Her interest in the violin began at age three; by age 14, she had performed her first concerto with orchestra. Pitcairn champions John Corigliano’s “Chaconne” from “The Red Violin” and was among the first soloists to perform the dramatic piece on a national level. In Sept. 2005, she made her European debut with conductor Mats Rondin and the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of “Hymns to the Night” by Sweden’s leading composer, Tommie Haglund. The concerto was broadcast nationally on Swedish radio and will be recorded. Pitcairn is scheduled to appear on the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert series with pianist Marcantonio Barone at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in October 2006. For more information, please contact Media Specialist, Suzanne Marcus-Fletcher.

Ticket prices for the Bryn Athyn Orchestra’s Spring Concert are: Adults: $10, Senior Discount: $8 Students with I.D. $5 and free for children under 12 (but must have tickets). For more information call: 267-502-2793 or visit

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Suzanne Marcus-Fletcher
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