Marie-Suzanne Weick-Voelckel’s Gand Frères violin tells the story of a musician’s life. That of her father, and takes us on a journey into history. This instrument was made in 1859 for the leader of the Paris Opera orchestra, a brilliant beginning! It was acquired for the promising young Alsatian violinist Jean Voelckel (1908-1973). Shortly afterwards, the violin disappeared. The young man was lucky enough to find it very quickly at an antique dealer’s and was astonished to find that the thief had written the words “meine Liebe” (my love in German) on the back of the instrument.
Jean Voelckel studied at the Strasbourg Conservatory with Maurice Soudan, lead violinist of the Strasbourg orchestra, who introduced him to his friends Jacques Thibaud and Eugène Ysaÿe. His other teacher in Strasbourg was Charles Munch. Despite the reluctance of his father, who wanted him to become a pharmacist, Jean obtained his first violin prize in 1932 and went to Basel to study with the Busch Quartet, where he also played with Rudolf Serkin. He then went on to perfect his skills at the École Normale de Musique de Paris with Marcel Dupré, Reynaldo Hahn, Pablo Casals, Jacques Thibaud, Marguerite Long, Stan Golestan and others. These years were as rich as they were influential.
In 1938, as the danger mounted, Charles Munch urged him to go into exile like him in the United States, but Jean refused to leave Alsace and his family: he was expelled when the war broke out, like many Alsatians, but not without taking the time to hide his violin in the homes of people he trusted. He became lead violin in the Nice orchestra. On his return to Alsace at the Liberation, he wanted to relaunch his career but paid dearly for his absence. He devoted himself to private teaching and gave up giving concerts, except for charity ones.
His consolation: he found his beloved violin, which would accompany him for the rest of his life. Marie-Suzanne will play it in turn, forming an amateur quartet with her sons on violin and viola, and her daughter on cello. While waiting for one of her grandchildren to turn out to be a violinist, Marie-Suzanne Weick-Voelckel decided that her dear father’s violin should continue to live under the fingers of young musicians in training. The generosity of this gesture can be seen in her deep attachment to the instrument.