I’ve had more than a few conversations and emails on this topic since the first chapter two weeks ago, so I thought I would post a quick update.
First off, last Tuesday Philippe Quint played a concert at the Newark Airport for the local cabbie populace. Cynics might call this a PR stunt, but I thought it was a nice gesture, given my own experiences taking a cab into NYC. Plus he got a free ride back into the city and this time they didn’t drive off with his violin.
Having borrowed a fair number of instruments from various sources over the years (including the Strad Society connected with Mr. Quint- I had the “Dushkin” Strad for many years), I noticed the passage in the link above that referred to the violin being “inspected” after its “journey”. Sure enough, it looks like it’s been yanked from Mr. Quint, at least for the time being.
Yesterday, another piece in the NYT brought up a few more issues aside from the separation (hopefully temporary) between Mr. Quint and this instrument. The Bein and Fushi idea was intriguing to me (full disclosure again- I had this same idea of tracking instruments a few years ago but after some intensive private research found it impractical for a variety of reasons). For one thing, in order to be reasonably accurate, a GPS device needs to have a clear view of the sky, so it might not work so well if the instrument is in (for example) a car, or is parked in a garage with a roof. Also someone clever could take it and put it in a different case. But I suppose in the short term it’s better than nothing.
I was also struck by the comments in the article by Karen Arrison, the owner (along with her husband Clement) of the violin left in the cab by Mr. Quint:
“We really don’t like the idea of people knowing where the violin is,” she said.
Aside from the irony of her statement in the context of recent events, it’s worth noting that even today Mr. Quint’s website continues to state that he plays the “Kiesewetter” Strad, as does his manager’s website along with Mr. Quint’s myspace page (early on in the approximately 10,000 word biography). So is the cat out of the bag now? Did the Arrisons not realize that people assume he’s playing the violin indicated in his bio and websites, wherever he is? Years ago everyone knew that Maxim Vengerov had it as well, wherever he happened to be playing.
Further, in the article she refers to his violating a condition of the loan that it stay in physical contact with him at all times while he is traveling, Ms. Arrison said. The agreement has plenty of strictures, like others to requiring the case to stay closed while the violin is in it, and forbidding others to play the violin.
What about the TSA guys at the airport? And is it safer for the violin to be in a hotel room or out walking around on the street (or in a taxi?) If Pinchas Zukerman asks to try it, you’re not going to let him?
It seems to me there is a balance of common sense and reality that cannot be completely regulated. Try as you might, one cannot possibly eliminate all risk from any situation, even with an abundance of caution.
Should the violin be permanently taken away from him? In a certain way I would totally understand that reaction. But there’s also the argument that these days Mr. Quint may be the safest person on earth to loan an instrument to. Or maybe not.