Plinio Michetti Violin of Savona to take center stage at Rice concert

Musical selections from Bach, Paganini, Sarasate and Beethoven will be showcased at an upcoming Rice University Shepherd School of Music concert — with a little help from a 95-year-old violin obtained through the newly announced Shepherd School Instrument Acquisition Initiative.

Siyu Zhang and the Plinio Michetti Violin of Savona.

Siyu Zhang and the Plinio Michetti Violin of Savona.

The centerpiece instrument, an Italian violin made by Plinio Michetti, was created in 1924 and gifted to the Shepherd School by the family of Ronald Booth III as part of the Instrument Acquisition Initiative, which enables students to practice and perform on professional-level instruments while at Rice.

The concert will take place Jan. 25 at 8 p.m. in Duncan Recital Hall inside Alice Pratt Brown Hall, and will feature Shepherd School violin student Siyu Zhang. She will perform Bach’s “Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003”; Paganini’s “Capriccio No. 17 in E-flat Major”; Sarasate’s “Zigeunerweisen, Op. 20”; and Beethoven’s “Violin Sonata No. 8 in G Major, Op. 30 No. 3.” Charlie Tauber, the Shepherd School’s artistic collaborator, will accompany Zhang on the piano. The performance is free and open to the public; tickets are not required.

“Building a collection of quality instruments that can be made available to our students for competitions and professional auditions is a key priority,” said Shepherd School Dean Robert Yekovich. “Many students, especially string players, arrive at school with instruments that are not at a professional level. The difference between a student-grade violin and a professional-grade violin can determine the outcome of an audition, and we strive to give our students every opportunity to succeed in their career.”

“It’s an honor for me to play on such a wonderful violin,” said Zhang, a graduate student studying with Kathleen Winkler, the Dorothy Richard Starling Chair in Classical Violin and Co-Chair of Strings. “It’s very easy to play and the sound of the instrument is very rich and powerful. I’m able to experiment with different tone colors. It also helps me play with more confidence.”

Michetti was born in Calizzano, Italy in 1891 and moved to Turin, Italy in the early 1920s, where he opened a workshop. His work shows an influence of many styles of classic Italian violin-making, likely due to collaboration with — or at least influence by — Annibale Fagnola and Carlo Giuseppe Oddone, who were known for their very high quality wood and varnish.

Throughout his long career, Michetti was recognized at a number of violin-making exhibitions and competitions in Italy, most notably receiving a silver medal in Turin in 1928 and a bronze medal in Cremona in 1949. The violin donated to the Shepherd School is from his early days in Turin, regarded as his best working period.

James Warren of Kenneth Warren & Son, LTD., a violin shop in Chicago, said the instrument is a very good example of Michetti’s work and is in “an excellent state of preservation.”

For information about supporting the Shepherd School and the Instrument Acquisition Fund, contact Rosemary Price, development director, at 713-348-4992.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.