The Times (UK) Reports Some Rare Violins Are Fake. But You Already Knew That…

The 12/28/2015 edition of The Times (UK) published an article by Hugo Rifkind that reports a third of rare violins within the $20,000 to $100,000 selling price range are fake. At least, that’s according to violin dealer, Florian Leonhard; but for long time Adaptistration readers, that news is more than a decade old.

Adaptistration People 120For those unaware, and this is an absolutely fascinating part of orchestra field history, back in 2004, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO) purchased a collection of rare string instruments from Herbert Axelrod. Long story short, many of the instruments were determined to be forgeries or misrepresentations and the entire collection became tainted by the debacle. Axelrod and his instrument dealer, Dietmar Machold, who was later arrested and found guilty of embezzlement and fraud related to a number of instruments in his care, pulled a good old fashioned con and the NJO paid the price for being an ideal patsy thanks to get rich quick approach to making a stronger artistic name for itself.

The NJSO’s entire ordeal has been covered in dozens of articles here but we’ve also examined the darker corners that occupy the world of rare instrument dealers. One of the initial, and most popular, articles on that topic is Violin Turf Wars, from 8/27/2004 and I was a guest on WNYC’s Soundcheck with Jon Schaefer on 3/28/2005 to discuss the topic for nearly a full hour. A copy of that program, Power And Corruption In The String World, is still available.

In order to read the article in The Times, you’ll need a subscription but if that isn’t something you want to follow through with right now, here are some articles from the archives on that same subject, listed in chronological order:

If that’s not enough, you can find even more articles via a search for “Axelrod” or “Machold.”

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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4 thoughts on “The Times (UK) Reports Some Rare Violins Are Fake. But You Already Knew That…

    • I recall wanting to blog about that article too, but at the time I had a tangential conflict of interest in that a client of mine was working with that group but it has since passed so perhaps it is time to reconsider.

    • Yes and no, it isn’t unusual to see those studies being set up in just as biased a way of what it is they are attempting to prove otherwise. There are so many variables involved that doing a Pepsi Challenge style comparison only adds that much more flotsam and jetsam into an already stuffed jetstream of resource material.

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