Kavakos sues luthier for breaking his bow

January 8, 2015 at 02:07 AM · WQXR posted a report yesterday (January 6, 2015) that violinist Leonidas Kavakos is suing luthier Nazareth Gervorkian for snapping his 1850 Joseph Henry bow...! Apparently,when Kavakos brought the bow to him for repair, Gervorkian started applying pressure to the bow without heating it and the bow snapped into two pieces.

Replies (50)

January 8, 2015 at 02:17 AM · You mean he's suing the luthier's insurance company.

January 8, 2015 at 02:53 AM · Reading this really makes it look like it's the violinist suing the luthier.

January 8, 2015 at 04:05 AM · yes... and if he wins, we may all expect to be asked to sign a disclaimer, with small prints only a lawyer can interpret, every time we bring our bow for re-hair or our violin for repair.

January 8, 2015 at 07:34 AM · Wow. Snapping a bow stick takes some doing. I hope L.K. wins his case.

The correction of the line or camber of a fiddle-stick using heat is such a standard procedure that there would appear to be a prima facie case for negligence.

I have read that American courts are happy hunting grounds in which cash flows freely towards litigants; a "compensation culture". For example, I understand there was an American lady who bought an RV, then put it into "cruise control" on the freeway, having been seduced by the salesman's bluster into thinking the vehicle would drive itself. She then allegedly left the driver's seat and retired to the passenger area for a refreshing beverage. After the vehicle was "toadled" (as they seem to say on that side of the pond) wasn't she was awarded a VERY generous payout?

By contrast, the L.K. case seems cut-and-dried. Hope the plain'iff gets extra for "pain and suffering".

What a pity the limit for Judge Judy is $5k. I'd love to see her rip into that luthier !!

January 8, 2015 at 12:14 PM · One can surely feel if a bow is anywhere near snapping. That Luthier must have been under the influence of something. Or was it his drugs, ought he to think about retiring? It appears from the internet that ordinarily his work was of a very high standard indeed, as one would expect from an Armenian.

January 8, 2015 at 01:24 PM · I'm not a bow maker (or breaker), so would like to know if the word "snap" is important here? Snap would be a clean break into multiple pieces. Splinter, for example, would mean there's still one piece. Are there any pictures available, by any chance? Could there have been a flaw in the wood? Googling Joseph Henry bows seems to indicate that he didn't quite use the best wood, unlike his mentor.

There's so much information missing here, which I'm sure will be revealed as the structural engineers, wood product scientists, and attorneys get involved. At least I don't seem to have enough information to draw any conclusions or have an opinion.

January 8, 2015 at 02:28 PM · A quote from the 1964 book "BOWS and BOW MAKERS" by the eminent Hill bow maker William C. Retford :-

"Henry, Peccatte and Simon form a popular trio, Henry being the best of the three." (!!!)

It would seem from this tome that the most common deficiencies in bows of these three lay in the flimsy metal parts of the frogs and the use of iron screws into ebony, which rust and cause splitting. Retford made no mention of poor quality pernambuco.

It seem very unlikely that a stick that had lasted for at least 145 years already would easily split.

So, that luthier would seem to have at least an unfortunate accident, and since the bow was in his care he would seem to bear at least some responsibility.

It's so unlikely that a professional luthier would attempt straightening without heat that I suspect we have yet to hear the full story.

Expert testimony, month after month with lawyers shouting " 'jecshunyronner" .... rest assured that the legal profession will make megabucks out of this.

January 8, 2015 at 03:08 PM · There are probably experts who take differing views, and that's to be expected. Here's what Raffin [1, below] would say (paraphrased via Wikipedia):

"Joseph Henry (1823-1870) was a French bow maker for string instruments.

Henry studied with Dominique Peccatte and established his own shop in 1851. His bows are quite rare and sought after. They usually play well, but miss the highest quality of bows that were made by his teacher.[1]

Peccatte’s two most well known pupils were Joseph Henry and Pierre Simon. Henry produced a bow similar to a Peccatte but of a somewhat lower general quality. Henry bows sometimes play very well but with the occasional exception seem coarse and clunky by comparison with a fine Peccatte. Simon, on the other hand, was one of the most skilled makers ever.[1]"

I didn't read anywhere that the luthier was trying to straighten the bow; my reading was simply that he was bending it. Your references are clearly more detailed.

January 8, 2015 at 03:17 PM · $80,000 for a Joseph Henry must be an overestimate - Sartorys about a year ago sold for under $60,000, http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/top-lots-from-london-and-new-york-october-sales/ .

I expect the Insurance Company will step in to settle out of court and ensure that the lawyers don't make megabucks - kilobucks, perhaps.

January 8, 2015 at 03:42 PM · That estimate of $80k might be OK.

My friendly local fiddle-shop had a Peccatte recently for £57k

According to one of those on-line currency converters:-

"57,000.00 GBP = 85,996.15 USD"

January 8, 2015 at 04:51 PM · There's not enough information available yet to really know what's going on. Some insurance contracts have wording like, "will cover amounts that the insured is obligated to pay". The insurance company may define the luthier's "obligation to pay" as something to be decided by a court.

So it's possible that there isn't really any bad blood between the plaintiff and defendant. They may just be taking the steps they need to take in order to get a payout from the insurance company (if there was insurance).

Regarding the difficulty of breaking bows:

I've seen bows broken by a number of highly skilled bow specialists. A bow may have hidden flaws, preexisting damage, or well-hidden prior repairs. So there can be reasons other than gross negligence. But hopefully the bow specialist gives the bow a careful inspection before subjecting it to major stress.

January 8, 2015 at 05:04 PM · I live in Los Angeles, and Nazareth Gervorkian has a good reputation here. I would be interested to know what exactly happened. It's also not the first time I've heard of a bow breaking while in a shop -- I've heard of this happening at other shops as well. I'm doubting Kavakos would have been taking his fine bow to someone who did NOT have a fine reputation, so there must be more here than meets the eye.

January 8, 2015 at 05:18 PM · Copy of the court complaint (which still doesn't shed much light on things):


We don't know whether the bow was actually bent without heating in an attempt correct it, or if it was bent cold in an attempt to better define the specific areas where heating and correction would need to take place.

Details like these would tend to come out in the "discovery" part of the lawsuit, during depositions, responses to interrogatories, etc.

January 8, 2015 at 06:32 PM · I've heard of nice things about Nazareth Gervorkian too, as Laurie said there must be more there than it meets the eye and no one needs to hear about random accusations like if he was high on drugs...it'll be great if we all think before we press the the submit button.

January 8, 2015 at 09:32 PM · Greetings,

it goes without saying that both people concerned must be deeply upset. However, I cannot honestly jump in on Kavakos` side in this one. I just don`t think a fine craftsman would apply a dangerous amount of pressure to a cold bow to the extent that it would snap which to my mind means a problem within the stick.

My gut feeling is that this is more an issue of insurance companies tap dancing around so they don`t have to pay out. In such cases nasty litigation is necessary I suppose. IT is hard to say anything more simply because the reporting will inevitably be half arsed from much of the media. I mean it@s so dramatic and romantic that a `master violinist has his treasured antique casually snapped by careless bowmaker. `

I hope that in spite of a horrible tragedy both men retain mutual respect (friendship?) while Kavakos gets his justified compensation and the bowmaker keeps a well earned reputation,



January 8, 2015 at 11:14 PM · We don't have the version of the other side...

January 8, 2015 at 11:24 PM · I've always believed bows, especially old ones are quite fragile, and are prone to breakage even with the best of care. Wood dries out, becomes more brittle and the stress of being tensioned or repeatedly cambered will eventually result in breakage. Nothing lasts forever. At least the music is still around, even if the instruments bite the dust.

January 9, 2015 at 12:19 AM · $80,000 for a Joseph Henry must be an overestimate - Sartorys about a year ago sold for under $60,000, http://www.thestrad.com/cpt-latests/top-lots-from-london-and-new-york-october-sales/ .

I expect the Insurance Company will step in to settle out of court and ensure that the lawyers don't make megabucks - kilobucks, perhaps. [Flag?]

In the complaint, it states that the bow is Tortoise and gold...

I agree with David Burgess: not enough information available. We should be careful with what we say and suggest. You recamber bows, eventually you'll have something break. Notice that I said that you will have something break, not you will break something. You just hope that it's an Erich Steiner instead of an Henry!

January 9, 2015 at 01:02 AM · Dorian, I wasn't thinking in terms of Nazareth Gevorkian MISUSING drugs. I thought he might be terminally ill and struggling on in his shop to please his customers, and kept going by legitimately prescribed drugs, when really he should retire.

January 9, 2015 at 02:53 AM · Oh man, I feel very bad for Kavakos. I once had a small break in the ivory plate at the tip of my precious major bow. It was a horrible shock. But seeing someone break a so important part in your musicians life in front of your eyes, must be nerv taking. But I am sure, that both will find an agreement and possibly even continue to work together, maybe even laugh about it after some years. I hope for Kavakos, that it wasn't his major bow, because I think, he has played a lot, and what he choses to be his major bow, must be something wich is close to unique in the world.

But I am also sure he will have some more great names in his violin-case.

January 9, 2015 at 04:21 AM · Once Kavakos wins his 80,000 dollars he'll have a tough choice, whether to get another beautiful violin bow, or a set of "audiophile" speaker cables, you know they're pretty expensive too!! In fact the 80k might not cover it.

January 9, 2015 at 07:51 AM · Many posts but few correct spellings.

The fiddle firm is Gevorkian Nazareth Violins.

Not GeRvorkian.

And the bow was SILVER and tortoiseshell mounted I understand.

The court case might very well hinge on the wording of the request to "fix" the Henry bow.

Did L.K. say "straighten my bow and make it snappy" ?

If so the violinist's own insurers would be unable to claim against those of the luthier, and his premiums would rise.

January 9, 2015 at 08:34 AM · Greetings,

I suppose he might have been watching and suddenly said `I need a break.`?



January 9, 2015 at 09:19 AM · From watching "Judge Judy" I learned that there's a legal term :- CONDONATION.

It would appear that if L.K. has remained on friendly terms with the luthier after the incident then he is deemed to have condoned, i.e. forgiven, the deed, and has no case.

January 9, 2015 at 12:51 PM · Were there any witnesses?

January 9, 2015 at 01:27 PM · Poster child for carbon fiber! :)

January 9, 2015 at 01:36 PM · hi David, the cruise control lawsuit is an urban legend, check out the book "Too good to be true" by J.H. Brunvand.

January 9, 2015 at 04:25 PM · Hi, Jean, I think I can be forgiven because that RV story is attributed to the Houston Chronicle and other sources who reported this Stella Award winner :-

"This year's runaway First Place Stella Award winner was Mrs. Merv Grazinski, of Oklahoma City, who purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an OU football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.

"Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway, crashed and overturned. Also not surprisingly, Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set.

"The Oklahoma jury awarded her – are you sitting down? – $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home."

My big mistake was reporting a refreshing beverage instead of a sandwich. Some sources say it was really Mr Grazinski.

Henry bows are the stuff of legends too !

January 9, 2015 at 07:19 PM · David, I think we all copied and pasted the misspelling from OP's post. However, when talking about the PERSON, Nazareth is the Christian name and comes first. Probably he's often called Naz, for short. At least, that's what a General Practitioner, whose test requests I sometimes serviced, was called.

No, I don't know anyone of that name who's called Nazi for short.

January 9, 2015 at 07:38 PM · It does seem incredible to imagine someone to whom one would take an $80,000 bow simply "snapping" it out of sheer negligence. It's almost on par with a doctor breaking a patient's kneecap with the reflex hammer (or whatever the technical term is for it). I mean, I'm sure stranger things have happened, but I'll be interested to hear more about this story.

January 9, 2015 at 08:12 PM · This story just makes the point that overpriced wood bows are just that.

A good carbon fibre bow costing £700 ($1,000) would not break so easily, and would not need to be straightened, and would be easily replaceable, and would have saved approximately $79,000

No bow is worth that much. I would hesitate to pay that much for a violin.

January 9, 2015 at 08:42 PM · Peter, some people buy instruments and bows as both playing tools and investments.

If someone finds a bow which they love playing, pays 60 thousand dollars for it, and later sells it for 100 thousand, did they pay way too much when they purchased it? How much better would they have done, had they purchased the one-thousand dollar carbon fiber bow instead?

The antique violin and bow market isn't just about playing utility. It also has a solid foot in the "collectibles" market.

I've known some darned good players who were quite happy with the "cheap" instruments they were playing (meaning under about $50K), but they and/or their spouses had well-paying music gigs, so they thought it might make sense to invest in an area where they had some expertise.

January 9, 2015 at 08:46 PM · Very true. But if it was me I would rather buy a house. House prices in London increase by a much larger margin.

January 9, 2015 at 09:03 PM · Peter, I don't know anything about the housing market in London. What I believe is that if I had mortgaged my house in the US 40 years ago, to buy an 80K Strad (assuming that I didn't get screwed on the deal), I'd be a lot better off financially than I am now.

That's just based on past performance. None of us has a crystal ball to infallibly predict the future.

I'm a full-time professional in the fiddle business. There have been many times when I thought that the antique market had gotten artificially high, and we were headed toward a major adjustment, or "crash". I've been wrong so far.

In case anyone wonders, I don't deal at all in antique fiddles, so I'm not trying to pimp the stuff. Just calling it the way I see it.

January 9, 2015 at 10:28 PM · It's kind of like asking if original Picassos are "overpriced." For your average buyer, the prices seem insane, but the truth is that there is a market out there for them at those prices, so that's what they are worth.

January 10, 2015 at 06:16 AM · "David, I think we all copied and pasted the misspelling from OP's post. "

Agreed. Since this is about a lawsuit I might be forgiven for nit-picking. Justice for the defendant, too. And, yes, some cultures do sometimes like to put the family name before the "given" one.

BTW I'm still supporting Theo Kojak.

January 10, 2015 at 07:55 AM · Sarah, I do think that Picassos are overpriced. Why spend millions when you can get a much nicer-looking painting at Walmart on sale for less than $10? :-)

January 10, 2015 at 01:07 PM · David, some cultures do indeed like to put the surname before the family name - Chinese being a famous example, and I've seen it in a limited way amongst some Italians, too (The folk at Pastor Lino Mazzi's church were amused when I naively repeated the form in which his name had been presented to me: "No, not Mussolini!", said they)- but not, in my experience, the Armenian one; where did you last hear or read "Parikian Manoug"? I would think the reversed version of Nazareth Gevorkian's name is for commercial purposes only.

I never watched Kojak and have been unable to glean from Wikipedia why on earth you might be supporting him. Please explain.

Dimitri, what made you omit "or a much more attractive (and useful) violin case from myself"?

January 10, 2015 at 02:08 PM · Theo Kojak ? Sorry, I meant Leo Kavakos. Senior moment. Spelling errors seemed to be in fashion.

As regards "value for money", I'd prefer an $80,000 Henry bow to a £150,000 (=$227,400) unmade bed. Forget P. Casso.


John Rokos, does Dimitri Musafia really have a case to answer ?

And I posted "The fiddle firm is Gevorkian Nazareth Violins." Yes, names reversed for commercial purposes.

I own a violin labelled "Tonarelli Daniele".

January 10, 2015 at 03:40 PM · A bald statement!

According to Wikipedia, that bed eventually reached 2.5 million!

The one letter I got published in Metro (a newspaper distributed free on the London Underground - they call it the London Subway over the pond) suggested Saddam Hussein for the Turner Prize, because (I said) his unmade bed was every bit as good as Tracey Emin's.

And yes, I think any of Dimitri Musafia's cases will answer - and that's without even SEEING one of them!

January 10, 2015 at 05:32 PM · My bad. Yes, "My Bed" did reach £2.5 million.

Must keep up to date !

Could a broken Henry bow be sold for a huge price as a work of art ? "My Chopstick" maybe ?? Turner prize, here you come, Kojak.

BTW David Beckwards is to be my new business name.

January 10, 2015 at 11:33 PM · It does seem like we still need more information. I'm wondering how LK knew that the bowmaker did not apply heat, or otherwise worked on the bow improperly. Usually even a distinguished client will be told to come back for it or at least wait outside the work area. If LK was permitted to witness the work and knew about the heat process, why didn't he say "wait a minute, don't you have to apply heat?"

BTW, I'm glad to hear that Pecatte, Henry and Simon are considered to be in a triumverate. My bow collection includes a Simon. Unfortunately, it is not Pierre but FR Simon (according to Paul Childs, Michael Yates and Nick Carraccio), sans original brand, frog and screw-cap. Yet with all that, it still has good value - both commercially and playing-wise, with beautiful wood and a somewhat Peccatte-style head.

January 12, 2015 at 08:11 AM · Now, did anyone at the scene utter the immortal words "lets split" ??

January 12, 2015 at 08:40 AM · Greetings,

you mean like `show a clean pair of heels.` This is going to be the tip of the iceberg. My understanding of the legalities here is that the case comes under Torte law anyway.



January 12, 2015 at 09:20 AM · US law might be different, but in the UK :-

"A tort...... is a civil wrong that unfairly causes someone else to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the tortious act, called a tortfeasor. Although crimes may be torts, the cause of legal action is not necessarily a crime, as the harm may be due to negligence which does not amount to criminal negligence."

The proceedings promise to be TORTUOUS, indeed, but we must not confuse Tort with TORTE which, as in "Sacher Torte", is the kind of foodstuff we should be avoiding until New Years resolutions expire.

Incidentally, could it be that the breakage occurred before the necessary "meeting of minds" occurred so there was no contract yet in force? Perhaps the bow hadn't yet been officially "consigned" to the dealership for repair. Maybe just a preliminary discussion was happening during which N.G. flexed a stick that had gone wonky because of an unsuspected internal disintegration, when it snapped ? Such a situation might place the onus on the individual, not the dealership.

January 12, 2015 at 09:51 AM · think Tourte......

January 12, 2015 at 10:26 AM · well taught.

January 12, 2015 at 09:20 PM · Why am I suddenly hungry for Tourte-illias??? Maybe I should bow out now - but not before I report that in New York today we have had Tourential rain! Like it or not, it's no hair off my bow!

January 13, 2015 at 05:55 AM · To maximise "billable hours" those lawyers need court cases to crawl along slowly.

TORT is short for TORToise.

January 13, 2015 at 10:31 AM · That's hare splitting!

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