Just in: Customs officials confiscate a soloist’s Guadagnini

Just in: Customs officials confiscate a soloist’s Guadagnini


norman lebrecht

October 28, 2021

Moldova is supposed to be Europe’s poorest nation so the sight of a $2 million Guadagnini walking into the country must have got Customs officials salivating.

The 1785 ‘ex-Ida Levin’ Guadagnini arrived a week ago in the hands of the international Moldovan soloist Alexandra Conunova.

Officials at Chisinau Airport seized the violin and filed criminal charges against Alexandra.

She explained that she does not own it; she plays the violin on loan from a Swiss sponsor.

Now the Moldovan minister of culture has apologised. But the violin is still being held at the airport.

Alexandra has received thousands of messages of support. She tells is this morning:

Dear friends and colleagues ,
I do read all your posts , thank you for your kindness , for all your messages ,calls and your attention.
I’m deeply moved by your words and happy to have you and my loved ones always by my side .
I’ll keep you posted




  • Mike Aldren says:

    So was it a Strad ( as per attached article) or a Guadagnini as above?

  • Insider says:

    „ The Stradivarius, made by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini“ LOL

  • Steven Holloway says:

    The writer of the linked article seems to think the violin is a Strad, not a Guad. Who has screwed up this time, I ask myself.
    However, in the context, the maker is not of prime importance. Moldova must have unusual customs officers if they can spot either. In the U.S., of course, it would have blown to smithereens — more of that suspicious glue that so frightens them.

  • Chilynne says:

    Someone didn’t get a bribe…

  • Gerry Feinsteen says:

    Let’s not kid ourselves: This is how EU socialism works. Tax left and right, up and down; they punish you for your successes and gifts.
    Well, that’s how they pay their orchestras, for one.

    “You’re from Moldova? Have nice violin? We’ll take that or just give you a massive headache.”

    • Eric says:

      Try entering the US, especially as an “alien”, with a valuable instrument or art work without extensive documentation and see what happens.

    • MWnyc says:

      Moldova (where the violin was confiscated) is not a member of the EU.

      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        Where is it written that Moldova is part of the EU? What a silly comment…these things do happen in the EU and elsewhere

        • Bill says:

          Someone posting under your name wrote “This is how EU socialism works.” Whatever you think of EU socialism, it wasn’t involved here. Yes, your comment was silly, given that.

    • Tamino says:

      Clueless comment. US customs is even worse. Google Krystian Zimerman and Steinway.

      Entering a country with a priced old instrument but without a carnet can get you in trouble anywhere, in the US you can go to jail for that.

      Also, Moldavia is not in the EU. Are you from that majority of Americans who never left their country but think they know the world?

      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        Whether or not Moldova is a member of the EU is irrelevant; it is part of Europe (read the first sentence). My statement holds water whether or not Moldova is part of the EU: I do not state anywhere that Moldova is a member of the EU.
        Such actions occur in the EU and the EU loves its taxes.

        Regarding the Zimerman debacle:
        There’s a difference between a modern Steinway and an antique, centuries old instrument. Any antique over 100 years old will not incur any duty entering the US.

        • Tamino says:

          You are talking nonsense. The reality is what I said. Without a carnet, traveling in or out of the US with a Strad or comparable instrument means risking confiscation, and a heavy fine or even jail. Get a clue. Also your tantrum about taxes in Europe is strange. The taxation in the US is comparable. Only do we in Europe get better infrastructure and health services for it, while in the US much of it is given to the sharks of MIC and big pharma.

          • Gerry Feinsteen says:

            You are terribly mistaken, on many fronts.
            The worst is that not a single point I made managed to make it into your head (along with a few others on this thread) because the slight mention of EU and taxes, mixed with a subtle tone of yuck, brought out all of your defense mechanisms.
            Moldova isn’t a part of the EU (bravo, thanks, Google).
            Try to read a little more carefully—I didn’t write about +Moldova+ taxing instruments left and right. EU socialism works both ways—take and distribute. Unfortunately the situation in Moldova (which seems to have been diverted) happens regularly within the confines of the EU; yet, it is partly these taxations that allow for funding of orchestras, etc.
            —so I guess it depends on who’s losing and who’s receiving; it works both ways.

            Please, give it a rest. You are arguing with yourself about “Moldova isn’t part of the EU” nonsense. Of course it is not.

            You may get better infrastructure in parts of Europe, but Europe’s future will alway be the past because the European mindset on innovation passed on about a hundred years ago and what’s left is some great art and a few nice castles for tourists, and every once in a while a nice car.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      Thanks for the big laugh. This was the most asinine and uninformed comment I’ve read in quite a while.

      Ah, the powers of EU socialism! Working its magic in a country that isn’t even a member. Partly bc of its rampant corruption.

      And thanks for the remark about orchestras in the EU. Oh, yes, in Germany there is scarcely a place where a professional musician can make a living. They *all* emigrate to – well, where? The US? The UK? North Korea? Inquiring minds want to know…

      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        (never was it written by me that Moldova is part of the EU)

        If you wish to think, the point is that these instrument snatches do happen at EU borders, and at the same time it is in fact the high rates of taxes that allow countries like Germany to fund its orchestras.

        Of course you just saw code words and had to have a tantrum; the laugh is all ours.

  • Brahms rules says:

    That report was quite painful to read, and not because of the story itself.

  • Piano Lover says:

    Never mind -whatever the genuine made of this violin.Studies have shown that it is a lot of do about nothing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed. I don’t think any objective study has ever demonstrated the superiority of these instruments to highly trained listeners. That doesn’t make this violinist’s experience any less outrageous.

      • Gerry Feinsteen says:

        I suspect the listener has very little room to distinguish the subtle differences, but for the player the response and singular tone can be a sort of inspiration that has no substitute.
        Certainly a fine violinist can make any violin sound its best, but the finest violins, like great cars, can enhance the flexibility and ease of a player….?


    If it wasn’t for the fact that Moldova is landlocked I’d have said “Send in a gunboat!!”

    Seriously though, the last line of the article intrigued me: “The Stradivarius, made by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini and named “Ida Levin”, is being kept for now in a safe deposit at the Moldovan Customs Services.” Does this mean it’ll never be seen again?

  • Nick says:

    Airport customs……stupid does as stupid says! Not only in Moldova!

  • True North says:

    This is the sort of publicity that Moldova can ill afford. It certainly won’t help their all-but-nonexistent tourism industry. Though I do hear the wine is cheap and plentiful.

    As they say in the southern states, “Thank god for Mississippi…”

    • esfir ross says:

      Moldova’s beautiful, agriculture rich country. Has the best climate in the former USSR territory. Excellent violinists trained in Moldova: Lidya Mordkovich, Dora Shwarzberg, Patricia Kopachinskaya, Aleksandre Treiger. Famous singers, pianists. Moldova’s rich with talents. I’m a proud Moldovian.

  • BRUCEB says:

    I have seen — among the less fancily educated — the tendency to call all fancy old Italian violins “Strads,” and then differentiate by actual maker, hence a Stradivarius made by Guadagnini… as opposed to one made by Testore. (Sort of like some in the US refer to all fizzy soft drinks as “Coke” and then categorize root beer, ginger ale, orange soda, etc. under that heading.) Maybe that’s the thinking here?

  • esfir ross says:

    Last week on street of Dublin, Ireland I saw a lady with a shopping bag “Stradivarius”. I ask if she’s a violinist. She had no clue-in Dublin’s a name of cloth store.

  • Neil Yates says:

    Presumably Moldovan customs just has to get a letter of confirmation from the sponsor that the violin is on loan to her and she should soon have it back in her hands. Still, what a worrisome and aggravating experience for all concerned!