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Violin News & Gossip, Op. 2, No. 59

September 3, 2006 at 5:39 PM

The “Instrument as luggage” saga continues…

Newspapers around the world this week contained three different perspectives on the continuing struggle musicians face when they attempt to board an airplane with their instruments these days.

9/3/06 – According to the Sunday Times – Scotland, Nicola Benedetti may be forced to scrap her tour of China because she has been banned from carrying her £500,000 violin as hand luggage under airline security measures. “The former BBC Young Musician of the Year is due to fly to China next week to play three concerts with the City of London Sinfonia in Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. However, severe restrictions on hand luggage introduced following the recent terror scare mean that Benedetti would be forced to put her Guarneri violin in the hold. The violinist fears that the irreplaceable 18th-century instrument, which was given to her by her father, could be damaged during the journey. …Steve Abbott, Benedetti’s manager, and Elaine Baines Robins, the general manager of the City of London Sinfonia, are now in urgent talks with officials at the German airline Lufthansa to save the tour.”

9/1/06 – Meanwhile, the unthinkable worry has come true for Paul Casey, a Canadian music student. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Casey, a 20-year-old University of Ottawa viola student Paul Casey "says he is contemplating legal action against Air Canada after his $13,800 viola was damaged beyond repair in the baggage compartment of a trans-atlantic flight this July ... [Casey] arrived in Belgium and found his viola with a snapped neck, a broken back and sporting about 12 cracks on its front." Mark Tetreault, symphonic director for the Canadian arm of the American Federation of Musicians, comments: "We've been lobbying ceaselessly for years ... All we want is a clear policy and not ad hoc decisions at the gate." The paper adds: "Air Canada's policy is that it assumes no liability for many items, including 'musical instruments,' and that it will only reimburse a maximum of $1,500 for damaged items 'unless a higher value is declared in advance.' Casey received a check for more than $1,600, but said that is not enough." Casey comments: "They should use this as an example and make a new policy. If they can't cover the cost, then don't make someone with a $14,000 instrument check it."

8/31/06 – Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber opined in the London Daily Telegraph on the Department of Transport's recent decision that "nothing larger than a laptop can be carried on a plane as hand luggage," writing: "Are we being told that the x-ray machines don't work? If not, why should a laptop be less dangerous than a 17th-century violin or cello, which is basically just a wooden box whose every nook and cranny is revealed by x-ray?" He notes that America's major airlines "banned all musical instruments from their cabins immediately following the recent scare. This, of course, was a complete non sequitur as the alleged plot was to create explosives from liquids, which would be impossible to conceal inside a violin or cello." He adds: "Surely, when both irreplaceable musical instruments and the livelihoods of their owners are at stake, we should be entitled to expect a modicum of common sense?"

Musician News

Violinist Samuel Thompson sent me another link to his recent NPR performance commemorating the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. NPR has showcased audio clips from 10 New Orleans-related musicians here:

The Curtis Institute of Music has announced the appointment of violist Misha Amory to the performance faculty. As a founding member of the Brentano String Quartet, Amory was honored with the first Cleveland Quartet Award, the 1991 Naumburg Viola Award and the 1995 Naumburg Chamber Music Award. He holds degrees from Yale University and The Juilliard School.

9/5/06 – Joshua Bell fans, the wait is over: his new recording, Voice of the Violin, will be released on this date. According to Sony Classical, “Following the success of his best-selling Romance of the Violin—which has been a fixture on the Billboard Classical charts for over two years—this all-new collection presents Bell and his Stradivarius giving fresh voice to works by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, Bizet, Dvořák, Donizetti, Massenet and more, accompanied by Orchestra of St. Luke's, conducted by Michael Stern.

9/5/06 – The Shanghai Quartet and guest artists violist Michael Tree and cellist Robert Martin will perform at Bard College. Shanghai first violinist Weigang Li and Guarneri violist Tree are faculty members of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. Cellist Martin is the director of the Bard College Conservatory of Music.

9/4/06 - Violinist Ning Kam will perform the Mozart Violin Concerto No. 4 with the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

9/1/06 - Violinist/conductor Leonidas Kavakos will become artistic director of the Camerata Salzburg for a five-year term beginning with the 2007-08 season, reports “Kavakos, who was first appointed the Camerata Salzburg's Principal Guest Artist in the 2001-02 season, is internationally renowned as a violin soloist and chamber musician who performs with orchestras and in recitals worldwide. He has won the International Sibelius Competition in Helsinki (1985, aged only 18), the Naumburg Competition in New York (1988) and the Paganini Violin Competition in Genoa (1988). He received a Gramophone Award in 1991 for his recording of the Sibelius Violin Concerto on the BIS label.” Kavakos will make various solo appearances on an American tour in November, including Chicago, Seattle, Philadelphia and New York.

8/31/06 - Los Angeles Philharmonic principal concertmaster Martin Chalifour performed the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the LA Phil at the Hollywood Bowl.

8/31/06 - The 24-year-old American cellist Alisa Weilerstein has been named the winner of this year's Leonard Bernstein Prize at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in northern Germany, reports “The Leonard Bernstein Prize — not to be confused with its namesake at the Tanglewood Music Festival — is given each year at the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival (SHMF) to a ‘gifted young artist’. The award was established and funded in 2002 by the Sparkassen-Finanzgruppe of the SGVSH, a group of banks in the north German state that hosts the SHMF; the jury includes Zarin Mehta of the New York Philharmonic, Ernest Fleischmann of the Ojai Music Festival and formerly of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein's daughter Jamie Bernstein Thomas, SHMF director Rolf Beck, and SGVSH president Olaf Cord Dielewicz. The Chinese pianist Lang Lang was the first Leonard Bernstein Prize winner; he was followed by violinists Lisa Batiashvili (2003) and Eric Schumann (2004) and pianist Jonathan Biss (2005). Weilerstein is the first cellist to win the award.”

8/30/06 - According to, the 25-year-old American violist David Kim has taken first prize at this year's Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition, which carries a cash award of £3,000 and a solo recital date in London. Kim also won the Peter Schidlof Prize, a discretionary jury award given to "the finalist with the most beautiful sound"; he will receive a bow valued at €3,000 made by Stéphane Muller of Toulouse. Kim is a recent graduate of the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Kim Kashkashian and Carol Rodland. He was recently selected to participate in CMS II, the young artists' program of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. The £2,000 second prize at the Tertis Viola Competition went to Peijun Xue; Ewa Grzwyna took the £1,500 third prize.

8/29/06 - Sphinx Competition winner Gareth Johnson played Dvorak's Romance in F Minor Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. The Cincinnati Enquirer praised his “lyrical gifts and his extraordinary sweetness of tone."

8/25/06 - Violinist Barnabás Kelemen will replace Igor Oistrakh as soloist in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra's opening night gala on September 10, reports the Indianapolis Star. “The ISO's opening night gala will feature the seven violinists remaining on the jury: Jaime Laredo, Pierre Amoyal, Rodney Friend, Cho-Liang Lin, Malcolm Lowe, Joel Smirnoff, Kyoko Takezawa, with Kelemen as the eighth soloist replacing Oistrakh. Kelemen will perform Vivaldi's Concerto in A Minor for Two Violins with Jaime Laredo, led by ISO Conductor Laureate Raymond Leppard. …Kelemen won the 2002 Indianapolis competition. He also won third prize at the 2001 Queen Elisabeth Competition, first prize at the 1999 Mozart Competition in Salzburg and second prize at the 1997 Szigeti Competition.”

8/23/06 – Oregon Symphony Concertmaster Amy Schwartz Moretti received a shout-out in a Wilamette News article about personnel changes at the Oregon Symphony: “[Music Director Carlos] Kalmar began his sound upgrade when he hired Amy Schwartz Moretti as the concertmaster two years ago. She's been the linchpin in an improved string section—the largest section of the orchestra—which has performed with a technical veracity and élan that is almost palpable.” The article noted that Kalmar is taking the bold step of hiring three major wind principals—flute, oboe and trumpet—in the same season.

Orchestra News

8/30/06 - The Montreal Symphony Orchestra has announced a new three-year partnership with the National Bank of Canada in which the Bank will donate $1 million Canadian over the next three seasons.

8/28/06 – The Miami Symphony Orchestra has named Venezuelan composer and conductor Eduardo Marturet as its new music director, reports The Miami Herald. “He replaces the orchestra's founder, Manuel Ochoa, who died last month at age 80…The Miami Symphony Orchestra, which appointed Marturet its Associate Principal Conductor last year, is largely supported by and programmed for the Spanish-speaking community in Miami-Dade County. (The now-defunct Florida Philharmonic was seen by many in the community as a primarily Anglophone institution.) The MSO performs about six concert programs per season.”

8/26/06 – The Minnesota Orchestra received a glowing review in the Glasgow Herald: "The transformation [Music Director Osmo Vänskä] has effected in his American orchestra since I first heard them, around three years ago, is staggering," the critic writes. "They characterized a mesmerizingly concentrated account of Samuel Barber's First Essay for Orchestra. The strings are warm, bass-rich and immaculately coordinated, with a wonderful depth that underlined the brooding elements in Barber's much-underrated composition. The woodwind section is meltingly creamy, and the brass burnished and not remotely overblown ... The dynamic risks taken throughout [Stravinsky's Petrushka] were pure Vanska, as, above all, was the layering of textures which resulted in a Petrushka of astounding detail."

8/25/06 - The Denver Musicians' Association and the Colorado Ballet have come to an agreement that will allow live orchestral accompaniment to be provided for the company's first three productions in the upcoming season, reports the Rocky Mountain News. The decision last season to eliminate live accompaniment for performances of Cinderella, according to the paper, led to an increased desire by both parties to ensure live music for future events. “Players will also see their rehearsal and performance fees increased 3 percent to approximately $97.”

From benny atkinson
Posted on September 3, 2006 at 7:22 PM
Here is some advice to all musicians travelling by plane.
I recently received this story from my friend Jane :

Did you not hear about Yuri Bashmet's saga??

I heard about this in Radio 3 after listening to the Schnittke viola concerto from the Proms. Apparently Yuri had a lot of problems getting his viola over on the plane. He was told he couldn't take the case on board as it was too big, so he checked in the case and bows and carefully wrapped his viola in his coat to take it on board with him. So far so good.

However as the plane was preparing for take off the steward insisted that all hand luggage (ie nude viola) should be placed in the overhead locker or under the seat in front. Yuri argued that he could not possibly do either of these, but the steward carried on insisting that it was hand luggage and must be stowed for take-off.

Eventually a fellow passenger came to his aid and explained to the steward that the viola was "like a baby, and had to be held carefully on the lap". Eventually he was allowed to nurse it. And then gave an impromptu pizzicato recital in flight!

From Preston Hawes
Posted on September 3, 2006 at 7:57 PM
Great news for Curtis and great news for Misha!!

Congrats Misha!


From Richard Hellinger
Posted on September 4, 2006 at 4:19 AM
Gosh, 12 cracks, a broken neck and back. How did they manage that? It seems to do that much damage it would have to be taken out of the case.
From Richard Conviser
Posted on September 4, 2006 at 7:47 PM
When I tried to take my new Howard Needham violin onboard a Delta flight (SLC-Dulles) on August 27th, a gate agent told me that I had to check it because it wouldn't fit in the metal frame Delta uses to size up carry-on luggage. I refused, saying that it was valuable and fragile. She then said I'd have to buy another seat for it because "it would take up another passenger's carry-on space." Again I refused, saying that I'd carried violins on many flights. She said I couldn't board the plane with it. So I asked for her supervisor. He immediately apologized and accompanied me onto the plane, telling the flight attendants that it was okay for me to put the violin (in its case) in the overhead compartment. He said that the gate attendants were inflexible in enforcing the regulations. Because of recent restrictions on carrying fluids onboard, there was plenty of space in the overhead compartment. So, stand up for your rights!

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