The Orpheon Foundation
Venerable Ambassadors from a Distant Past
Orpheon wishes to open your eyes and ears to the marvelous world of string instruments of the Renaissance, the Baroque and the Classical Periods. The collection now contains over 200 instruments (viola da gamba, viola d’amore, violin, viola, violoncello, violone, baryton) and historical bows dating mostly from 1560 to 1780, all restored to their original playing conditions and placed at the disposal of members of the Orpheon Orchestra, Orpheon Consort, and professional musicians and university students from all over Europe for concerts, recordings, contests and study purposes. Its owner, Prof. José Vázquez of the University for Music and the Performing Arts Vienna holds that it is the living acoustical heritage – the sounds that these instruments produce for those living today – that interests us, and not their mere decorative flair as objets trouvés from aristocratic residences of our distant past. We wish to hear what these instruments have to say and we wish to learn from them about the manner of performance of their musical heritage from the Renaissance, the Baroque and the Classical Periods.
Defining our mission
It is a singularly beautiful and unique – perhaps even miraculous – process, which Orpheon wishes to preserve for mankind, linking our past and our present with our future.
The violin maker of former times invested all of his knowledge and skill, but also all of his love to produce an object of consummate beauty whose sole purpose, however, is to produce an incomparably beautiful musical sound.
These master craftsmen were well aware of the fact that the quality of sound their creations produced would mellow and refine with the passing of time, but none could have ever imagined that the violin leaving his shop at this very moment was about to embark on a journey that would last several hundred years. Nor could he have ever dreamt that a violinist of the 21st Century would still delight in the marvelous virtues that he had so lovingly implanted – several centuries ago – into this so tiny and so fragile wooden body. Nor that human ears some twenty generations later would rejoice at the elegant and eloquent sounds that his creation was still capable of producing. Or is it that the violin has eschewed the ravages of time to achieve a near immortality?
The composer of his time was doubtless inspired precisely by the marvelous sounds issuing from these finely crafted instruments to create musical masterpieces of profound emotional expression. But he, too, could not have imagined that the fruits of his compositional endeavours would be treasured by listeners hundreds of years in the future, that the most intimate thoughts and sentiments he skillfully clothed in musical phrases would reach out to touch the hearts and souls of so many future generations.
The professional musician and the student of today, if given the opportunity to work with such a fine instrument, acquire a knowledge about the aesthetics of the period in light of which the poetic masterpieces of those composers should be interpreted. This musician, now acquainted with the instrument and its music, is thus in a position to present to the public of our day those exquisite compositions, performed on the very same instrument that a fine craftman had created on his workbench three, even four hundred years ago! The instrument maker, the composer have long perished, but their legacy lives on, enriching our lives today as they enriched the lives of many along the way and will continue to enrich the lives of many in generations yet to come. Absolutely astounding!
Our Mission for the Future
Upholding this tradition, unbroken since the violin left the atelier of its birth, is the mission which Orpheon has chosen to assume. The reception and the impact that both the exhibitions and the concerts with the historical instruments of the collection have enjoyed in the past proves that not just the musicians, but also the general public fully understand and appreciate the significance and the long-term implications of this quest.
We hope that you, too, will welcome these venerable ambassadors from a distant past into your heart. Lend them your ears, for they will move your soul and change your life!