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Celebrated violin virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn performs with the legendary 1720 “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius

Program includes works by Schubert, Fauré, Liszt, and Beethoven and world premiere performance of Sara Carina Graef’s Blue Vishuddha

Eleanor Davis

Image Credit: Christian Steiner

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—Celebrated violin virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn performs with the legendary 1720 “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius, the Christie’s auction of which in 1990 is said to have inspired the 1999 Academy Award–winning film The Red Violin. Pianist Cynthia Elise Tobey will accompany Pitcairn. The program includes a world premiere performance of composer Sara Carina Graef’s new work, Blue Vishuddha (2014), as well Franz Schubert’s Rondo for violin and piano (“Rondeau Brillant”); Gabriel Fauré’s Sonata No. 1 for violin and piano; Franz Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3; and Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 for violin and piano. The recital will take place in the acoustically superb Sosnoff Theater on Saturday, November 15 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25–40 can be ordered online at or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900.

Blue Vishuddha was commissioned by Pitcairn in the summer of 2014. Vishuddha is the Sanskrit name for the fifth chakra,” says Graef, “also known as the ‘throat chakra.’ Vishuddha controls the principle of sound and the sense of hearing. It is thought to govern our speech and our creative expression, and its balance defines our honesty and how well we express ourselves.” The piece is dedicated to Pitcairn and to Vishuddha.

For more information go to, or call the box office at 845-758-7900.

About the Artists

Violin virtuoso Elizabeth Pitcairn has earned a reputation as one of America’s most beloved soloists. Pitcairn made her New York debut at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall in 2000 with the New York String Orchestra and appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music. She made her Walt Disney Concert Hall debut with the California Philharmonic and at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She returned to China to perform the Bruch Violin Concerto with the Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra. This season she gives recitals in New York and Pennsylvania with pianist Barbara Podgurski, in Hungary with Aniko Szokody, and in Mexico with Louise Thomas, and makes her Fisher Center recital debut with Cynthia Elise Tobey. She performs in Bulgaria with the Classic FM Orchestra, and will record the Bruch and Beethoven Violin Concerti conducted by Maxim Eshkenazy.

Pitcairn performs with one of the world’s most legendary instruments, the “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius of 1720, said to have inspired the Academy Award–winning film The Red Violin. The 10th Anniversary Meridian Collection DVD (2008) of The Red Violin features Pitcairn in a special feature called “The Auction Block.”

Born in 1973, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Pitcairn comes from a close-knit musical family (her mother is a Juilliard-trained cellist). Pitcairn began playing the violin at age three and made her debut with orchestra at 14. Her path led her to Los Angeles to study with preeminent violin professor Robert Lipsett at the University of Southern California. Pitcairn is a member of the faculty at the Colburn School in Los Angeles, California, an alumna of the Marlboro Music Festival and former faculty at USC. Pitcairn has performed with the Vaasa City Symphony in Finland, and the Helsingborg and Jönkopping Symphonies in Sweden under the baton of Hannu Koivula. She has also appeared in Italy, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Bulgaria, and Brazil, and has performed at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center with pianist André Michel Schub. Pitcairn is the CEO and artistic director of the Luzerne Music Center (LMC) Festival in upstate New York. LMC provides training for gifted music students ages nine to 18.

Pitcairn commissioned Sweden’s renowned composer Tommie Haglund’s Hymns to the Night, which she premiered in 2005 and later recorded with the Helsingborg Symphony for Phono Suecia, receiving a Swedish Grammi nomination. She also commissioned a sonata for violin and piano by Russian composer David Finko. Her latest commission, by Sara Carina Graef, will be premiered at Bard College’s Fisher Center. Her discography includes the Tchaikovsky and Mozart No. 5 Concerti with the Slovenia Radio Television Orchestra, and the Bruch Scottish Fantasy and Sarasate Carmen Fantasy with the Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra of Bulgaria. Pitcairn is represented in Italy, France, and Russia by the Premiere Artists Agency. Her gowns are provided courtesy of LaFemme Fashion. The “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius is fitted with Wittner Finetune-Pegs and travels in a titanium case provided by GEWA. She also performs on a replica of the “Red Mendelssohn,” made for her by luthier Christophe Landon. For Pitcairn’s tour schedule, interviews, and history of the “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius, please visit

Cynthia Elise Tobey was accepted at the age of 10 to The Juilliard School of Music, where she studied piano with Herbert Stessin for six years. She made her orchestral debut at 14 with the Hudson Valley Philharmonic. Tobey is a native of Rhinebeck, New York, where she grew up and attended Dutchess Day School (2000) in Millbrook and Rhinebeck High School. Her piano studies began locally with Margaret Shafer of Annandale-on-Hudson and Blanca Uribe of Vassar College. 

Tobey earned her B.M. from the Curtis Institute of Music (’07), studying with Seymour Lipkin, her M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University; and artist studies diploma from the Konservatorium Wien in Austria. A doctoral candidate at Columbia University, she currently studies with Evelyne Crochet, protégé and principal teaching assistant of Rudolf Serkin.

Tobey is an instructor of piano and chamber music at Columbia University. She is also on the piano faculty at The Bard College Conservatory of Music, Preparatory Division. A top prizewinner of numerous competitions including the New York Gifted Pianists Competition, Leschetizky Piano Competition, Jacob Flier International Piano Competition, and Frederic Chopin International Piano Competition, she is also an NFAA Scholar in the Arts and recipient of the U.S. Academy Achievement Award, Bard College Humanities Award, Michael and Cecilia Iacovella Capuzzi Fellowship, and Festorazzi piano prize.

A dedicated piano teacher and music educator, since 2008 Tobey has been on the piano faculty at the Luzerne Music Center, where she is the chair of piano studies, chamber ensemble instructor, and frequent performer on both the Faculty Concert Series and the Chamber Music Festival.

Sara Carina Graef’s works have been performed around the United States as well as in Canada, Turkey, and the Czech Republic. She won the inaugural Northridge Prize for Composition for her orchestral piece night shows to my eyes the stars, and the Premio Citta’ di Pescara Composition Competition in Italy for her piano solo Nottanosti. Graef recently served as composer-in-residence at the Luzerne Music Center in New York, and has been an artist-in-residence at the Wurlitzer, Ucross, and Ragdale Foundations, and at the Oregon Bach Festival, the Ernest Bloch Festival, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She received her bachelor of music in composition and flute performance from Southern Methodist University and her M.M. and D.M.A. degrees in composition from the University of Southern California. She is a professor of music at California State University, Los Angeles, where she teaches composition and theory and directs the Composer/Performer Collective.   

History of the “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius

The historic Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius violin was crafted by Antonio Stradivari, who lovingly made his instruments centuries ago in his small shop in Cremona, Italy, and remains the most famous violin maker of all time. Not long after its creation, the instrument vanished from the radar screen; no one knows where or to whom the violin belonged for more than 200 years, spawning any number of historians, writers, journalists, critics—as well as Canadian filmmaker Francois Girard—to speculate on the violin’s mysterious history. Girard’s imaginative speculations became the narrative for his beloved film, The Red Violin.

The 1720 “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius would eventually surface in 1930s Berlin, having been purchased by an heir to the great composer Felix Mendelssohn. In 1956, it was acquired by a New York industrialist, who kept the instrument in impeccable performance condition. Much of its original burnished red varnish remains on the violin today, and it is thought to be one of the best sounding and most beautiful of Stradivari’s remaining violins. On Thanksgiving Day in 1990, the industrialist opted to anonymously put the Red Violin on the auction block at Christie’s of London. While some of the world’s most powerful people sought to win the coveted instrument, it landed in the hands of then 16-year-old American solo violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn. Pitcairn would remain silent about owning the violin until her rapidly burgeoning career brought her into the public eye on international concert stages after nearly three decades of rigorous training by the world’s most esteemed violin teachers.

Pitcairn would come to view the violin as her life’s most inspiring mentor and friend. Many have said that the violin has finally found its true soul mate in the gifted hands of the young violinist. She is the first known solo artist to bring it to the great concert halls of the world and has made it her goal to share the violin’s magical beauty of sound with people of all ages, professions, and cultures. Today, Pitcairn and the “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius violin continue to foster one of classical music’s most compelling partnerships.

—Suzanne Marcus Fletcher

About The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College

The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, an environment for world-class artistic presentation in the Hudson Valley, was designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 2003. Risk-taking performances and provocative programs take place in the 800-seat Sosnoff Theater, a proscenium-arch space, and in the 220-seat LUMA Theater, which features a flexible seating configuration. The Center is home to Bard College’s Theater & Performance and Dance Programs, and host to two annual summer festivals: SummerScape, which offers opera, dance, theater, operetta, film, and cabaret; and the Bard Music Festival, which celebrated its 25th year in August with “Schubert and His World.”

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November 3, 2014



This event was last updated on 11-03-2014