by Anri Stenden
Prof Piet Koornhof has to be one of the luckiest violinists alive. It’s not often that you get to meet a real member of the Stradivari family on a visit to Cremona, and by chance too! During his trip to Italy in June 2013, he visited his close friend, Boris Sverdlik, a talented violin-maker who created and serviced Prof Piet’s own impressive violin.
On an afternoon stroll through the picturesque Italian streets, Prof Piet noticed a peculiar plaque on one of the doors he passed — it was inscribed with the name ‘Antonia Stradivari’. He at once stopped in his tracks and asked his friend if she was perhaps related to the violin maker, the famed Antonio Stradivari himself (who skilfully crafted the priceless 16th century violins still in existence today). And yes, Boris exclaimed, she was! Antonia was the great-great-great granddaughter of the renowned Antonio.
As Prof Piet and Boris continued their excited conversation, Ms Stradivari herself came walking along! Being good friends with Boris, she was kind enough to invite them in for a glass of wine. “She was really friendly,” Prof Piet explained. As they continued to talk during the week, once at an Italian restaurant (with its characteristically cute sidewalk setting), Prof Piet learnt that her daughter played the violin (one made by Boris himself) and that her son was passionate about following a career in film music. “Do you have any great film composers in South Africa you could introduce him to?” Ms Stradivari even asked.
For Prof Piet, bumping into Antonia was truly unforgettable. As he spoke of her, and of his time in Italy, it was apparent that the moment will forever be etched into his memory.
In the photo below, Prof Piet is posing next to an actual Stradivarius violin at the Municipal Stradivari Museum. Taking a ‘Stradivari-selfie’ in the museum is not really allowed, but luckily for us, the photographer of this particular image was sneaky enough! But if you ever find yourself in Italy, do yourself a favour and visit the museum. There you will not only be able to gawk at real Stradivarius instruments, but also see the original crafting tools Antonio Stradivari used to make some of the greatest violins in the world.