Truls Mørk, Norway’s famed cellist who has made a triumphant return to the stage after a long illness, recently received what he described as an “incredible” telephone call from Norwegian investor and philanthropist Christen Sveaas. It resulted in Mørk being able to use a Stradivarius cello from 1707, courtesy of Sveaas’ keen eye for opportunity.
“It’s a dream for a musician to get hold of something like this in his own hands,” Mørk told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) earlier this month. “He (Sveaas) said I could play on it if I liked it.” He clearly does.
“It’s like a sportscar, incredibly fast to react,” Mørk told DN, calling his new, 304-year-old instrument “elegant and light and just perfect for a new repertoire.”
He thinks the precious Stradivarius will lead to new possibilities for him as a cellist. “It will take a year or two before I can fully exploit the possibilities the cello can offer. I feel very inspired, not least to explore and play some repertoire I haven’t played much.”
Mørk opted for his old Montagnana cello when he performed another highly acclaimed concert this week at the annual cultural festival, Festspillene, now going on in Bergen. He wasn’t ready to debut with the Stradivarius yet, but Sveaas seems confident his investment and offering will further raise Mørk’s level of playing.
“First and foremost, it was nice to acquire such an instrument for Truls Mørk,” Sveaas told DN. “I promised him at first that he could borrow another cello but then he got sick. He gave up his right to the instrument, which was lent out to another musician.
“But then Truls fortunately recovered and then I thought it would be nice to see if it was possible to find an instrument for him that was at least as good.,” Sveaas continued. “This Stradivarius popped up on the market suddenly and I bought it at once.”
Mørk was plagued by a central nervous system infection that left him lame in his left shoulder. He was afraid he’d never play the cello again, but he worked hard to overcome the side-effects of the infection and made a celebrated comeback last year. A concert he held with the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra in January also won rave reviews.
Both Mørk and Sveaas noted that it’s extremely seldom that a Stradivarius goes on the market. A violin sold for NOK 20 million last year (nearly USD 4 million). Mørk says he doesn’t know what Sveaas paid for the cello but doubts it was less than NOK 30 million.
Sveaas won’t say, claiming only that “I hope I can soon see and hear him play it.”
Sveaas, a keen art collector who has largely financed the conversion of his family’s historic Kistefos cellulose plant into an art and industrial museum and sculpture part, has a wide variety of interests and investments and also owns the Oslo restaurant Bagatelle. It just closed over a liquor license conflict, but Sveaas’ staff indicated the closure will be only temporary.
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