|photo from newimagecostumes.ca|
This morning I glanced at Norman Lebrecht's breaking news on Slipped Disc and almost fell off my chair: Swiss police arrest major violin dealer. You can read all about it in The Strad publication.
Ilkka and I had some interesting experiences with violin dealer Dietmar Machold beginning in 2000. He ventured to Seattle from Vienna with a few instruments including a couple of Strads. As Ilkka and I were both concertmasters of the local orchestras, Machold suggested that we perform at various events using one of his Stradivarius violins. He was wooing a group of local investors into jointly purchasing the instrument which was price-tagged in the millions. And with Machold's soft-spoken, European charm, most found him to be irresistable.
We were allowed to borrow the violin on one condition. We'd be "on call" to play the Strad and talk up the instrument's rare qualities at unique functions arranged by Machold Rare Instruments and his Seattle lackey, a colossal egotist. This way we'd be free to play the violin whenever we desired. Ilkka, with his dog's sense, smelled a rat immediately. In terms of sound the Strad was way past its prime, crafted prior to the luthier's Golden Age; certainly not worth the hefty price tag. It was obvious that the instrument had been thinned (which shortens the life span) and revarnished to the point that it gleamed. I have an unpleasant memory of playing the Strad at a private luncheon for local bigwigs. A drunken philanthropist reached up after my performance of unaccompanied Bach and thrust two hundred dollar bills down my bra. Someone had to pry him away, possibly his wife. As it turned out, there were no buyers here in Seattle, and for a short duration Machold, his lackey, and the over-priced violins were out of our midst.
Then a funny thing happened on the way to Carnegie Hall. My husband was ordered by the Semi-conductor to play on one of Machold's other violins—a Guadagnini? Gagliano?—(can't seem to recall) for purposes of generating interest with local investors for the orchestra. The instrument was initially spotted in the hands of the conductor's protégé during 2003 season, but even she rejected the violin, sensing that it was seriously flawed. Since my husband was told that he had to perform with this particular instrument on tour, he looked for an obvious way to boost its tired croaking sound. Ilkka finally settled on a shoulder cradle which, by its design, actually amplifies the tone. But, wouldn't you know, he was ordered by the conductor to "play softer"and thus, placed in a disadvantageous situation in performance against the entire orchestra.
A few years later, Machold's reputation was tainted when New Jersey Symphony led an inquiry into the collection of "rare" instruments sold to them by Herbert Axelrod. The inquiry was focused on whether Axelrod had knowingly inflated the value of instruments as a means of padding his tax deductions. The appraisals were performed by none other than Dietmar Machold of Machold Rare Instruments. Some of the appraisals were indeed found false.
In 2005, Herbert Axelrod was sentenced by U.S. Court to eighteen months in prison for tax fraud.