Royal Academy violin professor is criticised in court defeat

Royal Academy violin professor is criticised in court defeat


norman lebrecht

February 04, 2021

The former Royal Academy of Music professor Mateja Marinkovic has been ordered to pay one of his past students the full value of a Landofi instrument that he acquired from her when she urgently needed the money.

Marinkovic, who conducted his own defence, did not attend the judgment hearing, having been diagnosed with Covid-19.

At Central London County Court, Judge Ian Avent ruled that he had underpaid Ruzica West for her precious violin and took a harsh view of the professor’s account of events.

The judge said: ‘I find his statement of that value was not true. Prof Marinkovic obviously did not believe that the French violin ‘had an obtainable value of £12,000′. My finding is clearly supported by the evidence of Mr Horner whose expert evidence categorically disposes of any valuation in the region of £12,000. Accordingly, I find that despite his protestations to the contrary, Prof Marinkovic cannot have had a genuine belief that this was the value of the French violin and therefore knowingly made a false representation or was otherwise reckless as to the truth of that statement.’

Court report here.

Marinkovic left the RAM three years ago to teach in China.


  • Algotritm says:

    If that was a real Landolfi (with an l and Italian) it is worth at least 10 times what he paid. The auction record for a Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi at Tarisio’s comes to $ 318’000…

    • Simon Scott says:

      Landolfi was a very good maker. Very popular.

    • Bill says:

      Well, given that he already paid 26,000 pounds, no, it is not necessarily worth 10 times that. Even for completely authentic examples, value will vary greatly depending on condition, model, provenance, etc. Sometimes even the sound (though that is usually not high as high on the list as one might expect)! There may be some genuine Landolfi violins that might fetch 260,000 pounds at retail sale with a patient seller and besotted buyer (retail sales generally but not always realize higher prices than auctions) but they certainly won’t all fetch that. I speak from experience…

      Also note that the Tarisio auction record is for a cello, not a violin.

    • Friend RAM says:

      Prices for Carlo Ferdinando Landolfi violins sold recently at auction info from internet

      Auction House Bromptons Milan March 14, 2016 Price £180, 000
      Auction House Skinner Milan May 14, 2017 Price £128,041
      Auction House Tariso Milan June 14, 2019 Price £94, 450

  • John Marks says:

    Around 30 years ago, a Landolfi sold for $160,000… .

    • John Marks says:

      That sale was for a violin. The player in question moved up to a 1780 JB Guadagnini. The one that had been played by the concertmaster on “Charlie Parker with Strings.”

  • Nijinsky says:

    EXCUSE ME and What the flip1? And he gets away with “performing” any old student composers works, getting credit for being open minded, helping out, etc. And the composer gets nothing!? FINE! Bunch of ACES!

  • Bill says:

    Doesn’t look like he was ordered to pay the full value of the violin, merely the shortfall in value in what he had offered to pay. Part of his offer was a French violin he claimed to be worth 12,000 pounds, which apparently was only worth about 1/10 of that. He was ordered to make up the difference in cash, plus some interest. The total price he paid of 40,000 pounds was still far below the claimed 80,000 originally bandied about, but it was the price agreed upon.

  • exRAM says:

    Ms West is far from the only student to have had unfortunate dealings with Marinkovic. Glad this has come out in the open. How he was allowed to stay on the faculty at RAM for so long is a mystery.

    • Karol Jozef Lipinski says:

      All seems very shady to me.
      Expensive violins can be very dangerous….

    • Bill says:

      Let’s be clear: student needs money, proposes to sell violin to professor to get that money. Professor proposes to pay part cash, part with violin that isn’t worth what he claimed it was, though we don’t know whether he knew that at the time or not. Why is this grounds for making professor leave the faculty where he teaches violin, not business? Professor was under no obligation to do anything to bail student out of financial jam not of his creation. Now, it is possible the professor is guilty of something many music professors are — not telling students just how unlikely it is they will have a successful career.

      If you have some concrete reason why he should have been forced to leave, let’s hear it.

      I’ve never met any of the parties involved, and have no dog in this fight.

      • Christopher Clift says:

        I imagine it will be difficult to enforce the court ruling since this ‘person’ now seems to live and work in China?

      • christopher storey says:

        Bill : I think you need to look at your comment very carefully, because it says far more about you than about the student . Just what is it about the utterly dishonest conduct which was found by the Judge that you don’t understand ?

        • Bill says:

          According to the article linked, the judge issued an opinion that he thought the professor knew the violin wasn’t worth 12k, based on the fact that an expert said it wasn’t. In my experience, there are plenty of musicians who have misguided notions of what instruments are worth, so many that it is safest to assume it is always so. There is also a common (misguided) belief that the sound is a big factor in the value, and that someone who has a teaching or playing position is naturally well-informed about valuing instruments. I see no evidence that shows the professor sought to defraud — that the instrument wasn’t worth what he said is evidence of nothing more than being wrong about its value unless there is other evidence to show he knew it was worth much less. There may be, but it isn’t present in the poorly written article.

          Is it possible he was trying to defraud? Yes.

          Is it possible he was simply wrong about its value? Yes.

          Was it a good idea to take a violin as part of payment with only the instructor’s opinion of its value? Certainly not, if the monetary value of the violin was important.

          I notice my point questioning the assertion that he should have been removed from the RAM faculty went unanswered. Surely if his behavior was so egregious, examples should be easily supplied.

      • Friend RAM says:

        He was not forced to leave RAM. He left for China of his own choice I believe in June 2017.

      • David K. Nelson says:

        While “Economics 101” says the value of any item is the price agreed to by a willing buyer and a willing seller, the entire teacher/student dynamic is fraught with issues of power and control and a host of other imponderables. The willing seller is in a position to order the buyer to be willing; not to equate violin sales with the sexual scandals that have been much discussed on this blog, but in both the student/teacher power imbalance throws off all normal notions of “consent” or free will or fairness. The bargaining power is so unequal that in general the notion of a truly fair price being arrived at is unlikely, and as I recall the alleged facts of this case, they were also so bizarre as to make plain that the student was not in a position of bargaining whatever, quite apart from the fact that the student was as a result of the transaction, moving down so many many notches in quality of instrument.

  • Ex student says:

    Mateja was a fantastic and supportive teacher and left RAM happily of his own accord.

  • Another ex student says:

    Marinkovic did not leave the RAM for any reason apart from a substantial pay rise in China. He is a brilliant teacher.

    The Landolfi violin was damaged, hence it had a reduced value compared to a perfect one that would sell for 6 figures.

    Begging for money does not achieve the best price in any transaction.

    As per usual people are commenting without knowing the facts…