Saskatoon Has 4 Of The World’s Rarest Musical Instruments And You Can Hear Them

The University of Saskatchewan (U of S) is planning a concert series featuring instruments hundreds of years old and the only collection in Canada.

“There is only one collection of Amati instruments as a quartet in the whole country. And he lives here in Saskatchewan,” said associate violin teacher Véronique Mathieu.

“The oldest is from 1606. And the newest is from 1690. So they’re from the 17th century, they’re really, really special.”

How the U of S came to own them is a story unique to Saskatchewan.

“There was this grain farmer, Mr. Stephen Kolbinson, who lived in Kindersley, Saskatchewan. And in the 1950s he started collecting instruments. He was not a performer himself, but he had this curiosity for the refinement of Italian instruments,” she said.

Mathieu said Kolbinson traveled all over Europe looking for instruments to add to his collection.

In 1959, he and a friend who was in the U of S music department talked about having the instruments acquired at the school.

“So since then we have them here,” Mathieu said.

Caring for the instruments has been a challenge, she says.

“Saskatchewan’s climate is quite complicated for these instruments. We are therefore very careful to keep them in a humidity and temperature controlled environment to avoid any fluctuation with the sides to be glued around the violins.

There will be four performances for the Discovering the Amatis series at the university over the next few months.

“It’s really a chance to bring them back to the public in Saskatchewan. And for this very first concert, we will hear the violin Nicolo Amati, and the cello Amati playing together and solo so that the public will have the chance to hear each of them separately and then together,” said Mathieu.

“For the second concert in October, we will hear String Quartet all instruments will play together. And in the spring, in February, there will be a trio. And for the last concert of the season in April, we will hear a quintet with piano. So there will be very different opportunities to hear them in different types of repertoire.

Mathieu said it will also be a treat for artists.

“When you think of an instrument that was built in the 17th century, that’s around the time Bach was writing, that’s before Mozart. So you can imagine that all of these really famous composers may have heard these instruments or may have had pieces played or created on these instruments. So that historical aspect is really, really exciting for a performer and I think also for the audience, in terms of quality,” she said.

“They have a very unique sound, they tend to be very colorful, have a lot of richness and offer a wide variety of sounds and colors.”

The first performance is scheduled for Sunday, September 11.


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