In advance of violinist Joshua Bell’s appearance in Nashville on May 9 at Schermerhorn Symphony Center, the Nashville Jewish Film Festival hosts a screening of the film that tells the remarkable story of his treasured violin.
The subject is a 1713 Stradivarius, given to a young Polish Jewish prodigy, Bronisław Huberman, who later became the founder of what is now the Israeli Philharmonic. Huberman’s efforts to save Jewish musicians during the Holocaust formed the basis for the orchestra, as he worked to secure safe passage to Palestine for musicians who were being forced out of their jobs and their homes in Europe.
This violin was stolen twice during Huberman’s ownership. Fifty years later, it resurfaced when the thief, Julian Altman, made a deathbed confession. It was finally acquired by Joshua Bell for a jaw-dropping $4 million.
The Return of the Violin is told through the eyes of Holocaust survivor Sigmund Rolat, who dreamed of seeing the instrument return to his hometown, Czestochowa, Poland. Bell’s performance of Brahms’ Fourth Symphony is played throughout the film as he prepares for a concert with the Czestochowa Orchestra in 2009 in conjunction with efforts to open the Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw.
“This violin is special in so many ways,” Bell says. “It is overwhelming to think of how many amazing people have held it and heard it. When I perform in Israel with the Israel Philharmonic, I am always touched to think how many of the orchestra and audience members are direct descendants of the musicians Huberman saved from the Holocaust — with funds raised by concerts performed on the very same instrument I play every day. Who knows what other adventures will come to my precious violin in the years to come? While it certainly will be enjoyed and admired long after I am not around anymore, for the time-being I count myself incredibly lucky to be its caretaker.”
This screening will take place in the First Floor Conference Room of the Main Public Library, 615 Church St.