A viola with a colorful history is coming to Buffalo, thanks to a Buffalo Chamber Music Society concert. In a way, it's a homecoming for the instrument, which is owned by Buffalo's own Baird family. It is on loan from the Library of Congress, where it is housed.
The viola is called the "Tuscan-Medici," because it was part of an ensemble made in 1690 for the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando de Medici. The duke's court was just the start of what was to be an epic journey. In 1803, the viola was sold to an Englishman in Florence. The next century saw it go to France, return to England, and eventually make its way to New York City through the Rembert Wurlitzer Company, a New York firm specializing in fine instruments. It was sold in 1925 to Herbert N. Straus, whose family had founded the Macy's department store empire. Straus was the son of Ida and Isador Straus, who had died on the Titanic. He was also the originator of the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade.
Cameron Baird, the founder and first chairman of UB's music department, purchased the viola in 1957. It is still in the family's hands. The viola comes to Buffalo with violist Roberto Diaz, who is bound to make the instrument sing. He will be visiting with the Diaz Trio, which also includes violinist Andrés Cárdenes and cellist Andrés Diaz.
The concert offers a chance to hear the fabled "Tuscan-Medici" viola in the loveliest setting imaginable. The evening begins with Beethoven's String Trio in E Flat, Op. 3. Following that is Mozart's Divertimento in E flat, K. 563. It dates to late in Mozart's life, when his music took on a particularly haunting beauty.
Arrive early and hear Peter Hall, of Classical 94.5 WNED, interview the performers.
The Diaz Trio: 8 p.m. Nov. 14 in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall. Admission is $25; students free. Visit bflochambermusic.org or call 462-4939.