I first heard about Natasha Boyarsky in 1989, when Yuri Bashmet’s Moscow Soloists, abandoning the USSR, landed in Montpellier to become the town’s chamber orchestra. Natasha Boyarsky and her husband, both professors at the Moscow Conservatoire, were not part of Bashmet’s orchestra, but thanks to their friendship with Vitali Sitkovetsky (head of the orchestra) they managed to catch the same plane. After a short stay in France they made their way to London, where Yehudi Menuhin had invited Natasha to teach in his music school.
Soon after, Sitkovetsky asked me to make a violin for his grandson, Alexander, who happened to be one of the first pupils of Natasha at the Menuhin School. I delivered the violin the following year and was highly impressed by this woman with the generous smile, sharp eyes and unique tenderness. She welcomed me and inspected the violin immediately. At the time her English was scarce and both of us had to make efforts to understand each other.
The violin was sold and a long friendship started. I was asked to make a viola for her son, Konstantin, a cello for her husband, Sasha, and then in 2009 a violin for Natasha herself. She asked for a small Guarneri model with a thin neck, and she turned out to be so pleased with the result that it became her primary instrument and she eventually sold her Italian violin – the only valuable item she was able to take out of the USSR. Several years passed before she commissioned a second violin (pictured here), which I made in 2016.
This 2016 violin is a free interpretation of the middle period of Guarneri ‘del Gesù’. The outline, based on the ‘Haddock’ of 1734, has a broad center bout and full top curves. The f-holes and the head bear influence of the ‘Plowden’ 1735, which I particularly like. Low arching, light spruce and stiff maple enhance the quick and free sound response. The color of the homemade oil-based varnish is the result of cooking the colophony (rosin) for many hours.
Natasha generously lent the violin to several of her advanced students and it has been played in London’s Wigmore Hall and other important venues.
Natasha Boyarsky has taught at the Menuhin School and the Royal College of Music in London. Her pupils include Alexander Sitkovetsky, Chloë Hanslip, Corina Belcea, Alina Ibragimova, Nicola Benedetti and Valeri Sokolov.
A good contemporary French violin by Frédéric Chaudière, Montpellier, 2016, was sold by Tarisio in our London June auction.