Sweet Symphony

How two rare Stradivarius violins at the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra brought Michael Shih and Swang Lin, who both grew up in Taiwan, together.
Sweet Symphony
Photo by Richard W. Rodriguez

Bach’s “Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins” filled the conference room in the administrative corridor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra office building. The interpretation was a mix of power, eloquence, and swiftness. Applause emanated from behind the closed doors to the room after Michael Shih, the concertmaster, and Swang Lin, the senior principal associate concertmaster—without any other members of the orchestra—stroked their bows across the strings of their violins on the final note.

The extemporaneous recital was a preview of Thursday’s performance in the new sanctuary at the Arborlawn United Methodist Church in Fort Worth, where Shih and Lin will make their public debut as featured soloists playing two extremely rare and incredibly expensive Stradivarius violins.

The Fort Worth symphony is thought to be one of only a few American orchestras with more than one Stradivarius violin, a fact made more remarkable by the story of the men who are playing them. Shih, 41, and Lin, 50, went to the same elementary school in Taipei, Taiwan—Guangren Catholic—and shared one of the same music teachers growing up, yet they did not become friends until they arrived in

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