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Heifetz' Violin


marufi
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Hi,.....

I recently made a trip to see the David del Gesu which Heifetz left to the San Francisco Legion of Honnor museum to find that the violin is on loan to the concertmaster of the S.F. Symphony.

I had read somewhere on the Web that Heifetz left the violin to the museum in his Will and that it was to be played "on special occasions" by deserving players. (I don't remember the exact words, but that's the gist of it). It turns out that the museum made some kind of deal with the Symphony that the concertmaster would get the violin for his own use and that in return, the orchestra would play some events and such at the museum. That is also something from an online article. (I assume everyone interested in this will do their own online search and will find the story I'm mentioning).

I'm curious as to what everyone thinks of this. Of course I was disappointed not to see the violin, but I wonder also if the deal made between the museum and the orchestra is what Heifetz had in mind. Also, to me it seems that if the violin were to be given to a violinist for his own use, then perhaps it should be given to a soloist.

Would the capabilities of that violin be explored and presented to listeners through the performance by a violinist in a large string section?

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I couldn't give a rat's butt if it's what Heifetz wanted. For these old violins that are considered important instruments, anyone should really be considered the temporary steward of the instrument, not the owner. When the owner passes on someone else will take stewardship. I'd rather see the violin be played actively than sit in a museum. Perhaps rather than ask ourselves whether this counts as what Heifetz would have wanted, why don't we ask ourselves what Guarneri would have wanted?

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I personally feel that it should be played by a capable musician - and right now, it is. The eventual breakdown of these great instruments is inevitable, and there's no reason why we shouldn't enjoy playing or hearing them while we can.

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I couldn't give a rat's butt if it's what Heifetz wanted. For these old violins that are considered important instruments, anyone should really be considered the temporary steward of the instrument, not the owner. When the owner passes on someone else will take stewardship. I'd rather see the violin be played actively than sit in a museum. Perhaps rather than ask ourselves whether this counts as what Heifetz would have wanted, why don't we ask ourselves what Guarneri would have wanted?


I agree with the "temporary Steward" idea, but no more than when it is applied to the owner of a historically significant building. They are still the owner, and as such can sell or bequeath the owned property as they see fit. No one has a right to confiscate such property, or when it is given with stipulations, to use it in opposition to those stipulations. These instruments will not last forever, and I feel the goal should be to ensure they are cared for in order to maximize their playing life, while allowing their periodic playing by qualified violinists so they may be enjoyed by many, hopefully for another few centuries. I think Heifitz fulfilled his stewardship obligations by placing the instrument in the care of the museum, and with his further instructions regarding it's use. I think Guarneri would be in total agreement with him.

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Do you think that the Cannone should be allowed out of its museum to be played by the concertmaster of the orchestra (on a more or less permanent basis) of the city of Genoa?

No, I do not think it is right, and I do not think it was the intent of Mr. Heifetz. Furthermore, I do not think that the orchestra is going to sound all that much better for the use of this violin. Do you think that the audience can tell the difference? Is this concertmaster such a master that only the Heifetz Guarneri can express his playing?

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Of our major orchestras here in Sydney, the CMs of the SSO have a Strad and a Del Gesu respectively, and the CM of the ACO has a Guad. Whether they do or don't own them privately I'm not sure (I'd expect the SSO CM's might). The Guad is owned by a bank.

It wreaks of marketing to me, and on the whole a bit unfair. Not only do these guys (deservedly) get a much larger salary, but they also get exclusive use of some wonderful instruments, probably worth more than their 2nd desk player' houses. In the context of an orchestra I think it's a little offensive... a soloist would be a different story.

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Hi Everyone,

Here is the article which raises a few red flags. It's

actually from the SF symphony and it deletes a few words from what Heifetz said apparently in his will which is reflected in the second link below. It's interesting to note the effect of the deletion and the spin the article puts on the violin loan.

I'm so curious to know about the legality of the deal they made. I also agree that if the violin is to be played it should be by a soloist or preferably lent to various 'deserving' soloists for special occasions, which seems to be the real spirit of the Heifetz will.

http://www.sfsymphony.org/templates/pressR...p?releaseid=101

http://stringsmagazine.com/issues/strings105/encore.html

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What's there to know about the legality? It's legal until the executor of the Heifetz estate challenges it and a court rules in their favor.

It's a three year deal. I agree it's probably for marketing purposes. It will benefit the SFO as well as the museums.

That said, I would like to see the students get a crack at it again sometime.

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It's a very interesting case and I agree with Llama - there is a very strong smell of marketing in there.

I have been involved with a few museums and in my experience they take the conditions of a bequest VERY seriously - even more so when it is a highly significant and valuable object. And I have also found that curators and conservators invariably err on the side of caution, so I suspect this "arrangement" comes from a higher level and I wouldn't be surprised to find a few noses out of joint.

Having said that, I also assume that the terms of the will were not well enough defined, which allowed a certain amount of "interpretation" in their approach - who's to say who is worthy or unworthy?

And Seth: Whatever you think of the "instruments in museums" debate you would have to agree that the stewardship of the instrument HAS been passed - from Heifetz to the museum - and now their objective should primarily be to ensure it's preservation. It would be rather embarrassing if, as a result of this arrangement, the instrument were to be lost/stolen/damaged/destroyed.

Also don't forget that Marufi went to the museum specifically to see this object. Imagine if we went to Paris to see the Mona Lisa only to find a sign which said "The Mona Lisa has been loaned to Rupert Murdoch to hang in his Board Room for two years in exchange for some money to build a new wing on the art gallery". That is, in effect, what they have done. I can't see that someone using it in an orchestra will present it to the public in any meaningful way. Personally, I would rather have the opportunity to examine it in a glass case.

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One of the conditions of the loan is that Alexander Barantschik (concertmaster in San Fran) will present recitals and chamber music concerts at the Legion of Honor's Florence Gould Theater. If the public wants an opportunity to see and hear the violin in an intimate setting, this would be the place. The violin will also be on display at the museum for a couple of months each summer.

Solo appearances go hand-in-hand with a concertmaster position. Concertmasters have a good deal of flexibility in their contracts because it is anticipated that they will be performing elsewhere... serving as musical ambassadors for the orchestra, so to speak. If you are under the impression that Mr. Barantschik is not a soloist caliber player, or that he does not also have solo and concerto engagements each year, you misunderstand what it entails to be concertmaster with a major orchestra.

Personally, I'd love to hear the fiddle in the concertmaster solos as well... Scheherezade, Ein Heldenleben, Job, pick your favorite.

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Yes, but most of the time the violin will sit in a case on a table in this concertmaster's house or office, and not in the museum. The violin is to be played "on special occasions" and routine usage and semi-permanent possession by even a good player is something the executor of the estate should look into.

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What's there to know about the legality? It's legal until the executor of the Heifetz estate challenges it and a court rules in their favor...


If this is true, then theft, rape, and murder are illegal only if someone presses charges.

Rat

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This might help -- it's the minutes from the museum board meeting. Scroll down to "IV. Director's Report."

http://www.ci.sf.ca.us/site/famsf_page.asp?id=12118

I'll go ahead and repost the relevant excerpt here.

__________________

IV. Director’s Report - Harry S. Parker III

   

 

A. Consideration and Possible Action to Approve the Following Loan Request

1. Consideration and Possible Action to Adopt a Resolution Approving a Three Year Loan of the Guarnerius del Gesù Violin to the San Francisco Symphony

At the last meeting on April 11, 2002, the possibility of a loan of the Guarnerius violin to the San Francisco Symphony to be played only by Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik was discussed, and a productive dialogue ensued, concerning the conditions under which a loan might be considered.

Mr. Parker noted that the Guarnerius violin was bequeathed to the Fine Arts Museums by Jascha Heifetz "to be used by playing it on Special Occasions by Worthy Performers." The Museums have been committed to preserving the integrity of the violin, which has been played approximately eighteen times in the twelve years since it was received in 1989. In the opinions of some conservators of such instruments, the instrument improves with more frequent use, which has been a matter of concern for the Music Advisory Task Force. The Task Force, which oversees the Museums’ music program and the use of the Guarnerius violin, has also been interested for some time in developing a strong chamber music program at the Florence Gould Theater in the Legion of Honor. When the San Francisco Symphony approached the Museums regarding the possibility of a loan of the Guarnerius to the Symphony, the Symphony offered, in return, to organize a chamber music series of four to six performances a year in the Florence Gould Theater.

The loan is proposed for a trial period of three years with the violin returning to the Museums for exhibition no fewer than eight consecutive weeks each summer. Since the last meeting, it has been determined that the violin, if loaned to the Symphony for a period of three years, would not travel on tour with the Symphony but would remain in the

San Francisco Bay Area to be played by Concertmaster Barantschik in Symphony performances at Davies Symphony Hall and the Flint Center in Cupertino. The Symphony will insure the Guarnerius at its full market value, and every thirty days, the violin would be inspected by Conservator Roland Feller. When the violin is not in use, the Symphony will store the violin in locked, climate controlled, secured locations approved by the Museums.

In consultation with legal counsel, it was determined that a court order should be obtained to confirm that the loan would be in keeping with the terms of the bequest and to assist the Museums in reaching a final decision to loan the Guarnerius to the Symphony.

Mr. Parker reported that at the June 12, 2002 hearing Judge John Dearman, Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, heard the Museums’ petition and ruled to allow the loan of the Guarnerius to the Symphony to occur. Court documents state that the proposed agreement appears to be prudent providing protection for the violin while allowing it to be enjoyed by the public in accordance with Mr. Heifetz’s wishes.

Mr. Parker presented the following resolution:

WHEREAS, In 1989, the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco received a bequest from the Estate of Jascha Heifetz of an 18th Century violin made by Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù; and

WHEREAS, Under the terms of Mr. Heifetz’s will, the violin was bequeathed to the Museums "to be used by playing it on Special Occasions by Worthy Performers;" and

WHEREAS, After receiving the violin in 1989, the Museums placed the instrument on exhibit in a specially constructed display case in the entrance to the Florence Gould Theater at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor; and

WHEREAS, The violin was played approximately eighteen times in the following twelve years; and

WHEREAS, The Museums are committed to preserving the integrity of the violin, which in the opinions of some conservators of such instruments, improves with more frequent use; and

WHEREAS, The Museums’ Music Advisory Task Force advises on the use of the violin and has been interested for some time in developing a strong chamber music series at the Legion of Honor; and

WHEREAS, The San Francisco Symphony approached the Museums regarding the possibility of a loan of the violin to the Symphony to be played by Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik, and in return the Symphony would organize a chamber music series of at least four performances a year in the Gould Theater at the Legion of Honor; and

WHEREAS, The Museums petitioned the Superior Court of California, County of San Francisco, to confirm that the loan is in keeping with the terms of the bequest and a hearing date of June 12, 2002 has been set; and

WHEREAS, It has been determined that the violin, if loaned to the Symphony for a period of three years, would not travel but remain in the San Francisco Bay Area to be played by Concertmaster Barantschik in Symphony performances at Davies Symphony Hall and the Flint Center in Cupertino; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees of the Fine Arts Museums of

San Francisco does hereby approve a three year loan of the violin to the Symphony to be played by Concertmaster Barantschik at performances in the San Francisco Bay Area contingent upon the ruling of Superior Court Judge John Dearman at or following the June 12, 2002 hearing; and, be it

FURTHER RESOLVED, That the Board of Trustees authorizes the Director of Museums to execute a loan agreement with the Symphony.

A motion was made and seconded to adopt the resolution approving the three-year loan of the Guarnerius violin to the San Francisco Symphony to be played only by Concertmaster Barantschik. There was no discussion among Trustees or members of the public. The Board of Trustees voted unanimously to adopt the above resolution as Board Resolution 1415.

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Just as I suspected - a push from the top! I love the line:

"In the opinions of some conservators of such instruments, the instrument improves with more frequent use" - deliciously vague.

Does anyone know whether Roland Feller is a qualified conservator? I know he is a very respected violin maker and restorer but his web site makes no mention of conservation training:

Graduate, State Violinmaking School, Mittenwald, Germany.

Over 30 years experience in violin-making/restoring gained in Germany, Switzerland, New York (under Simmone Fernando Sacconi in the shop of Rembert Wurlitzer), and San Francisco.

Member of The American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers, Inc.

Member, Entente Internationale des Maitres Luthiers et Archetiers d'Art.

Serving the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond since 1977.

Member, Better Business Bureau.

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I've only ever heard good things about Roland as well and I am not trying to suggest anything negative about him at all - one of my best customers here is a great friend of his. I just find it odd that in an attempt to justify their position they have misrepresented someone as a conservator - why?

And it begs the question (or two questions actually): Was Roland the "conservator" who was mentioned here: "in the opinions of some conservators of such instruments, the instrument improves with more frequent use". And perhaps more importantly: What do the real conservators who are actually employed by the museum for this exact job think of the "deal".

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Quote:

I couldn't give a rat's butt if it's what Heifetz wanted. For these old violins that are considered important instruments, anyone should really be considered the temporary steward of the instrument, not the owner. When the owner passes on someone else will take stewardship. I'd rather see the violin be played actively than sit in a museum. Perhaps rather than ask ourselves whether this counts as what Heifetz would have wanted, why don't we ask ourselves what Guarneri would have wanted?


I do feel that Heifetz and an average joe like myself and million others give a "rat" about this violin being hijack by this concert master. We'd like to have a chance to view this violin, like the originator of this post. If Heifetz wanted it to be played, he would have donated it to the orchestra, not the museum. I hope we should all realized that since Heifetz paid for this instrument, may be...he still has some saying! If you are truely value this instrument, shouldn't you want to preserve it? If this concert master is so good, why does he have to play this violin...Screw him!!let him play those chinese violins...I would have respected him more...I bet you if Heifetz is still alive today, he can sound good with any violins, including "those chinese" violins i had mentioned. Heifetz earned his violin fair and square--not hijacking it from a dead man.

If we truely value this violin, we'd want this violin to last as long as possible. Perhaps, hundred or even thousand years from now, we hope that the people then, would still get a chance to see the real piece of art (not just a musical instrument)...may be that was what Heifetz had in mind?

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may be that was what Heifetz had in mind?


If preserving the violin under glass was what Heifetz had in mind, he wouldn't have flown around the world playing it for 65 years. No one seems to mind the wear and tear Heifetz added to the instrument.

I don't know, I think looking at a great violin is a bit like hearing the Mona Lisa.

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I think I can agree with (NOT DOING) well-intentioned "waxing" or whatever it is that conserators do (which you don't like) . I am more concerned with outright theft and the actual loss from the museum. Also they put the stress in the wrong place as far as I can see it. They say that it is a "Guarneri donated by the violinist Jascha Heifetz." To me it is THE Heifetz Guarneri. Even if this new user only had it set up differently, wouldn't that be an historical loss ?

The museum's escuse seems a bit hollow. I doubt that it would hurt this violin to lie fallow for a decade or two.

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"The Museums are committed to preserving the integrity of the violin."

Thanks for posting the Museum Board's discussion of the loan. The lack of discussion is not surprising and I think this loan is not the only poor decision they have made. The violin was never displayed well. It was in a dim nook off a basement corridor. You couldn't see the back at all. Easily the worst display of a fine violin I've ever seen.

Also, I believe this was the same violin that was hacked up to meet Itzhak Perlman's standards for a single peformance-- as I recall, they had the neck lengthened, which entailed regrafting the scroll. As a result, Heifetz wouldn't even recognize it. When the San Francisco Orchesta is done, they'll think up something else to do with it, I'm sure.

Regardless, they're not as bad as the Smithsonian in Washington. Their collection has totally disappeared from the public's view with no plans for a return.

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