The “explosively charismatic” (The New York Times) Avi Avital is a GRAMMY® nominated mandolin player, and he shares a multifaceted, multicultural program spotlighting the instrument’s sparkling, strumming charm, including bright and invigorating Baroque gems of Bach and Vivaldi and lively miniatures in the Georgian folk music tradition.
About 30 years ago [early ‘90s] Israeli luthier Arik Kerman established a fund to encourage outstanding mandolin players who passed an entrance test to play classical music, by giving them the loan of an instrument for two years or more. Among these were Jacob Reuven, Alon Sariel, and Avi Avital. Reuven’s website has an interview (excerpted below) with the normally reclusive Kerman:
Your mandolins have a great sound. Is it because the mandolin is bigger? Because of the double board? Or because of the type of wood? Do you know in advance what sound a mandolin will have? Do you control the sound?
It is not the size that gives a big sound, and not the double board either; acoustics is a complicated and wild thing. The type of wood is a primary parameter that affects the color of the sound. Everything else—the sound strength, its length, etc.—is in the hands of the builder. I can say that in my mandolin I can slightly change the sound while testing the instrument after it is finished—very small changes, which affect the feel of the player.
What led you into the world of mandolin building?
I started building musical instruments after I met a violinist master who agreed to take me to his studio as a student. But the violin has not changed much since Stradivari and I was not satisfied with that, I wanted to give in to the imagination, to create, to develop. Already in the construction of the first mandolins I changed, changed and changed it again. The experiment itself fascinated me. Violinists who visited the studio called me Arik the ripper. On the second try I had a breakthrough—a mandolin with a “big sound”—a beautiful and strong sound.
Do musicians have the ability to influence the construction of instruments?
Musicians love to explore a new mandolin and it is important for me to examine the mandolin before lacquering, so that I can make changes if necessary, even to open the instrument. There is a difference in sound between a pre-lacquered mandolin and a finished mandolin. When testing a new mandolin, the sound changes and develops within half an hour of playing, provided the player is able to play it to its full potential on all the strings.
From Stage to Page is a TSO.CA series featuring exclusive content that takes you inside the hall and provides a behind-the-scenes look at the artists, music, and stories that bring our TSO performances to life, straight from the pages of our house programs. Explore From Stage to Page articles on TSO.CA.