Distinguished violinist Mitch Newman, a member of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has acquired a fine violin crafted by Los Angeles violinmaker Eric Benning.
“I’m so incredibly pleased that this particular violin went to Mitch Newman,” stated Benning. “He has been a good friend of our family’s since his mother would bring him in as a young boy. We’ve enjoyed a close relationship with him as our client, a dear friend and as a generous professional who has been very involved with the Benning Academy and our work in Mexico.”
The Guarneri-model violin was crafted from a mold taken by the late violinmaker Carl Becker of Chicago. Benning studied violinmaking with Becker, a renowned luthier who was also Benning’s Great Uncle.
"I walked into the Benning shop as strings were being put on the instrument for the first time," said Newman, a member of first violin section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. "When I played it it was immediately colorful, responsive and easy to play. And it keeps getting better, a little miracle! I'm proud to own this violin. Eric is a master."
The completion of this 2016 violin marks the first Guarneri-style violin Benning has made since 2006, after a successful decade focusing on Stradivari, Bergonzi and Balestrieri model violins.
“Copying the work of Guarneri takes a particular mindset and I ached to make this model again. It’s been a good long while since my last and I’d been thinking of my great uncle Carl. In a sense, this violin is dedicated to him.”
The violin, which took about seven months to complete, is antiqued and made with a two-piece Bosnian maple back and a one-piece Italian spruce top.
“This particular wood that I used for this violin is old; from the 1920’s or 30’s,” said Benning. “This is some of the oldest wood we use for making our instruments. The wood is gorgeous and produces stunning sound.”
Newman is a native of Los Angeles and joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1987. Newman teaches privately. He travels to Ensenada, Mexico, to work with the students of the Benning Academy, a program that provides instruments and lessons to children of all economic backgrounds. Newman is on the Board of the the nonprofit Street Symphony and is in charge of programming concerts at apartment buildings managed by PATH (People Assisting the Homeless).
"I love playing this violin," Newman said. "I don't have to hold back or force. It is as satisfying to play solo Bach as it is to play a Mahler symphony."
Benning is currently in the process of crafting another Guarneri copy, a Pressenda-model violin, a Balestrieri-model violin, an Amati-model viola and a copy of the LA Philharmonic’s Peregrino di Zanetto viola for violist, Mick Wetzel.