Theft alert: Professor has 1747 violin snatched at Geneva station

Theft alert: Professor has 1747 violin snatched at Geneva station


norman lebrecht

December 11, 2016

We have received the following request from the violinist Svetlana Makarova:

The Gianbatista Guadagnini of my husband, Pavel Vernikov, was stolen almost from his hands on Thursday at 17.30 in a train in Geneva. If you could help spreading this information we would be very appreciated.

The violin, a 1747 Giovanni Battista Guadagnini made at Piacenza, was stolen in the railway station of Geneva.

Vernikov is Professor at Vienna University and HEMu de Lausanne, Artistic Director of Sion Music Festival.

Please contact Svetlana or Pavel via Facebook if you have information.

UPDATE: New details are emerging of the incident. Pavel Vernikov was preparing to change trains at Geneva. The train was crowded, with many passengers entering and leaving. As Pavel got up to retrieve his violin case, he was blocked by a very large man. While he tried to reach around him, a wallet and documents were stolen from his pocket. By the time the man moved, the violin was gone.

In addition to the precious Guadagnini, Pavel lost four bows.


  • Janice from accounting says:

    Was it stolen “almost from his hands” in the train, or at the train station? Two different things, and what’s “almost from his hands”, was he sleeping and the case slipped from his fingers? Lousy report.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      What on earth is the matter with you? The people who have reported the theft do no speak English as a first language. It is clear from what they say that the violin was taken by force from its lawful owner. Further details will emerge in due course. We do not employ a correspondent on the platform of Geneva station. Now get back to your accounts, Janice.

      • Walter Delahunt says:

        Well said, Mr. Lebrecht.

        • Nicolette van Wyk says:

          Thank You, Mr Lebrecht. Ms. Accountant clearly has never experienced the devastating loss of an instrument or the loss of precious bows.

      • Dick Ewe says:

        I am going with Janice here.
        In your own words, you literally typed “do no speak English?”
        Apparently you don’t speak it either. Come on, Norman: you need an editor before you post: either that, or you need to learn the rules of simple syntax. You make a lot of typos in your little articles.
        But quite frankly, I’m sick of your stories of idiots in Europe who leave their valuable violins on a rack when they’re taking a train, or leave their violins in a cab. And then after that, it turns out that some of them have just forgotten their violin instead of it having been stolen. You have made mistakes with posting such stories as well.
        In my opinion, I think you toot your own horn far too much: you aren’t half as great as you think you are.
        Now go back to your fiddling-diddling.

        My fiddle rides on my lap, or it stays in between my legs and on my feet to keep it from touching the floor. I also take the strap and put it around something like my arm or my shoulder. Lucky for myself as well, I’m a big guy, so people don’t tend to mess with me.
        But I’m serious: these “I’m a stupid, unattentive violinist” stories have got to stop.
        I don’t feel pity for them when they state in their reports that the instrument was left unattended.
        Honest to God, would you leave a Guadagnini sitting away from you anywhere? A Guadagnini ? A GUADAGNINI ????
        Mine stays locked up in the safe.
        Janice might be an accountant, but at least she’s accountable.
        Shove it, Norman. Shove it.

  • V.Lind says:

    Compared to the death after home invasion of a young violist/teacher reported elsewhere on the site, this rates as a lesser tragedy. But my revulsion at the violist’s story is reinforced by reading this, which looks like the work of an opportunistic professional. What on earth impels people to be so savage to their fellow human beings? One life taken, another seriously damaged by this assault on his property — is makes one despair.

  • Violdick says:

    I have a very valuable Italian instrument. I never let it out of my sight. I even take it to the bathroom in public. There’s numerous stories about these incidents because people are careless.

    • John says:

      I daresay anyone would take it to the bathroom in public. But really, ‘stuff happens’ even with rare and valuable instruments. Cut him some slack.

    • Holly Golightly says:

      That’s called Victim Blaming. There are now millions more desperate people in Europe, thanks to Merkel. That’s more likely to be the cause. Try and be more sympathetic to the violin’s owner who only wanted to catch a train.

  • NYMike says:

    The “very large man” sounds like part of a team of at least two people. I’ve personally had experience in Europe with these teams – one to distract and the other to pilfer.

  • dario says:

    Very sad indeed by all means my unrelated regards to the violin owner about the distressing lost, my feeling is about a possibile robbery on commission by someone knowing the Guadagnini value… 3 men professional thieves.. but do not know if it is better to investigate this way or think at local pickpockets for a chance of possible finding

  • Irene Benito says:

    So many super careful violinists around, and nobody can just admit terrible well organised thefts HAPPEN. I live not far from Geneva and personally know at least two violinist colleagues in the city who were blocked by a crowd in a station and had the straps of their cases cut with a laser in such a way they could not even notice, and when they felt the lack of weigh in their shoulders they could not anymore see the violin case. One can be super careful, but when someone wants to steal a Guadagnini, like a painting from a museum, he knows how to do it. It is not only a matter of carelessness. I do not know exactly what happened in Vernikov’s case, but do not be so naïve to think you are able to protect your valuable instrument no matter what, just by not letting it alone and traveling 1st class.

  • Maestro Davis says:

    That’s why we have insurance, it can be a great shame to lose an instrument that one has played on and built a ‘relationship’ with for many years, extremely valuable or not, but life goes on and with that insurance money comes a new fiddle and four new bows, funny how it’s always 4 bows in a case when one gets nicked but most cases only have two in them at any one time, unless the are wealthy amateurs! 😉
    I sincerely hope this Guad comes home, I’ve had the pleasure of two in my Orchestral career but neither has suited the day to day job.
    I borrowed one from Peter Biddulph once to go Xmas busking with our quartet, Stringz Unlimited, back in the late 80s, it filled Royal Arcade with Haydn Sunrise luvliness but couldn’t handle the jazzier numbers, still, got it back in one piece…..
    I’ll keep my eye out…

  • Carlos violin says:

    Sorry but when you have such a masterpiece e and such amazing bows YOU MUST be with the case ON you so sorry NO excuses is careless and very sad for the violinist and family BUT sorry truth is isn’t even violence. Sorry but with all due respect to take a Guadagnini from me have to be WITH force stop playing the fool.

  • Sebastian says:

    This is really unfortunate and I feel sorry for the player of this instrument. As a musician myself I think that this is one of the worst nightmares.
    I often think however that it would be good for us musicians not to state in our biographies that we play such and such great old Italian/French instrument. Of course our colleagues might still find out but at least the information is not so readily available. I am not saying that it could have prevented this robbery but there is not much benefit in letting everybody know you carry a violin worth 1.5 millions with you all the time.

  • Gregg Alf says:

    I’d drink my hide glue it if all great musicians could state in their bio that they were playing a fine NEW violin 😉 !! er … on second thought…

    That said, my heart goes out to Pavel and Svetlana. For a string player, this has to be the most stunning kind of violation. I don’t understand the harshness of some of the comments. This is organized crime, armed robbery. You are assaulted when putting on your coat. A very large guy is his own weapon as he forces his way between you and your belongings, disorienting and distracting while others, sometimes kids, pick your pockets. Even if you clutch your case, the razor blade that cuts the strap can slash you too in a fraction of a second. Many of us know how fast these things happen and can rehearse counter-measures a thousand times in our mind. I have been there. But when it happens, for 5 seconds your life is in the hands of an ensemble that as rehearsed this all there lives. And then its over. Anyone who says you could change it by fighting back, has never been there. Pavel, I am really very sorry that this as happened. You are a victim of organized crime; you did nothing wrong. Rest assured that we violin makers are quietly doing what we do to help you recover your violin.

  • Mayumi says:

    I cannot fathom the judgmental comments people make in this very sad situation. This can happen to anyone. Violin on top, between legs, on top of legs, next to you, attached by a strap, in a car, in a store, anywhere. Please share the story instead with people you may know in Europe who may be able to help retrieve his violin:.
    Much more productive than judging Pavel’s actions.

  • Rama dev says:

    I am rather far removed from owning such an instrument, I don’t even play any, however, anything with such high value does in no way belongs in the public sphere i.e. a train, unless with at least one professional guard on duty nearby. This my friends is not victim blaming, it is just common sense to treat valuables of this and any sort in this way. If it’s worth that much and especially if it is one of just a few on the planet, it is your responsibility to protect it. If you cannot do it yourself, I mean physically, then you must take it to the next level and hire a person, or persons who can. To leave any object, from the smallest most insignificant, to larger ones, that have clear value, even in the tens and hundreds of euros, within reach of completely unscrupulous individuals and teams of thieves (or even just a padding opportunist of the same sort), is just foolishness as is it disregards the basic laws governing are human spere. This has nothing to do with the world going down the drain, which mind you it very well is, but is just a law of the universe. And it’s not even about flaunting it, it’s just a valuable object, or seems like a valuable object to someone, and is therefore prone to leaving your loving hands. Of course it doesn’t help if you’re distracted, weak, or somehow undefended in anyway. Here’s to hoping returns to him.

  • John Thornton says:

    More than a few fine, rare, and valuable Italian violins have been stolen from their lawful owners. Perhaps if Mr. Lebrecht would be willing to post the following web page; it might allow victims an opportunity to seek from a connoisseur who has devoted his entire life to the cause: