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Up for Auction: The Violin that Helped Define the Sound of Romance in the Movies

Violinist Toscha Seidel
Library of Congress
Violinist Toscha Seidel

Also in this roundup, the irresistible Ukrainian Eurovision Song Contest winner, music for children in Wales, and the Muppets get destructive with Beethoven.

1. The Eurovision Song Contest has been described as the Olympics meets American Idol. Created in 1956 to bring Europeans together after the war, it’s become a whimsical annual battle for the best 3-minute song, broadcast to some 200 million viewers.

This year’s winning band has become a world sensation: the Kalush Orchestra of Ukraine. Their song “Stefania” is irresistible – a lullaby with deep Ukrainian roots, rapped with an indescribable lyricism against the backdrop of a brutal war. Check out the official video of their song below (which they did again on their return home in Kyiv, unplanned, at the border crossing for members of the Border Guard Service).

2. This uplifting tweet came recently from Wales:

3. For a smile, here’s a video with a weirdly Zoom-like, pandemic-performance vibe, but I promise you it’s from 2008! A Muppets masterpiece in honor of Beethoven (be sure to watch to the end!):

Ode To Joy

4. Next month, a lucky bidder will get their hands on a rare and storied Stradivarius violin built in 1714. Known as the “da Vinci” Strad, it was finished during the violin maker’s “golden period,” and if you’re interested, it looks like you’ll need to raise about 20 million dollars by auction time on June 9th!

The violin was owned for forty years by the virtuoso Toscha Seidel, known for his rich, expressive sound. He recorded several Hollywood films with it, including Intermezzo (1939), starring Ingrid Bergman as a beautiful pianist who utterly melts the heart of a violinist played by Leslie Howard. And because Seidel signed a contract with MGM that year, it’s likely that he played on the soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz.

Check out this fantastic clip from Intermezzo, with Toscha Seidel playing the “da Vinci” Stradivarius and Norma Drury doing the actual piano playing. Along with that yummy violin sound, you gotta love the masterful faking that Bergman and Howard do in their passionate take on the Grieg piano concerto: