Katia’s Wild Violin

“It was like wrestling a wild animal,” says Bulgarian-born Katia Popov, of the first time she attempted to play her historic violin. “It took months – in the end, I did not master the instrument. Instead, it taught me to play better.”

Audiences can hear the collaborative result of Katia Popov and her wild violin when the California String Quartet plays a free concert of works by Haydn and Dohnanyi on April 27 at 3 pm at the First Christian Church, at 4390 Colfax Avenue, corner of Moorpark, in Studio City.

The ensemble, founded and led by Popov, performs chamber music throughout the Southland. A meet-the-artists reception follows.

Having left Bulgaria to study music at the Paris Conservatory, Popov became concertmaster of the European Symphonic Orchestra in Paris, where a mysterious benefactor appeared, offering her the use of the instrument she loves to tussle with. “He admired my work,” she says, “and told me this violin must be played. It is on loan to me for life.”

Along with the violin, Popov is in possession of a faded, yellowed document attesting to the violin’s authenticity and describing its unusual ‘voice,’ hand-written in 1901 by a London firm, famous for certifying the authenticity of Stradivari and Guarnari instruments.

The instrument had belonged to one Wilhelmij, a celebrated German violinist of the 19th century. A major soloist, his close friendship with the mystically inclined Wagner led to Wilhelmij’s playing this particular violin as concertmaster for the premieres of every opera in the Wagner Ring Cycle.

On Saturday, June 14 at 8 pm, Popov again unleashes the beast when she plays Michael Doherty’s violin concerto, “Fire and Blood,” with the Long Beach Symphony at the Terrace Theatre in downtown Long Beach. Information is available at www.lbso.org.

Active in the Hollywood studios, Katia has worked on more than 400 movie soundtracks and countless recordings. She maintains a packed concert schedule, performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Long Beach Symphony. She plays at music festivals around the world from Malibu to Salzburg. In addition to the California String Quartet, she is the founder of the Lyric Arts Chamber Players, with whom she plays an annual season.

“Performing is an addiction for me,” she says. “The feeling is extraordinary. I am possessed.”

— Penny Orloff

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