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Maxim Vengerov, stopped at the border, plays his way through

While traveling from France into Monacolast week, Maxim Vengerov was stopped by the border police asking if he had anything to declare. They saw his violin case and asked him if he had the papers to confirm his ownership. “No,” Maxim replied. “But I can prove it to you.”

This would not work at Frankfurt airport.


maxim vengerov

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  1. My God! I was stopped at the Frankfurt airport in May of this year — headed home from a year teaching at a private school in Thüringen — and asked to play my 2012 American-made violin. I assumed it was a security check.

    As it happens, I played the fugue from the first Bach sonana and was cleared to go. Maybe I need a Strad to get into real trouble?

  2. Robert Secret says:

    It is getting plain daft. I had to fly to Germany to play in a concert and thought I would check. I phoned the people at Düsseldorf airport and was told that there was no need to carry papers about ownership but it might be wise to in case I had an awkward official at the airport. In other words, they do not know the rules themselves and the people at the airport did not know what the people at the airport might do…….Perhaps they are fans of Monty Python – it is that silly. As it happened, no one took any notice.

  3. Rgiarola says:

    I think that these cops already knew the identity of the guy in the BMW, before they asked about the violin case. I would do the same in order to get such free recital on my work place!

  4. Krystian Zimerman wasn’t so lucky when his piano was destroyed by suspicious customs agents at Kennedy Airport some years ago. Perhaps he would have had a happier outcome if he’d been given the opportunity to play some Chopin for the government functionaries?

    • The Krystian Zimerman story was a bit different, in that the U.S. authorities told him that they suspected that a smell which they detected, which was nothing more than glue to put the felt on the hammers, was an explosive chemical and that the piano posed an imminent danger, as a potential terrorist device, and had to be completely destroyed immediately! Nobody there in Kennedy Airport thought to first check who the owner was, no, it was all handled in the usual U.S. way of act now, as violently and as brutally as possible, and ask questions afterwards, if at all. They indeed did destroy a magnificent Steinway that Zimerman himself had looked after and cared for during many years. No apologies, no excuses, NOTHING, just the usual way things are done in the U.S., whereby law enforcement can and does act with impunity and the citizen has little or no recourse. That is their version of freedom over there.

      • I can’t believe there’s not some customs clearance process (and set of paperwork and inspections) to address this very kind of situation. Or maybe there is and they still acted stupidly and callously.

      • Well, the Zimerman episode or its like could have happened anywhere in the world where there are ignorant and arrogant government functionaries with powers vastly outstripping their intelligence. Infuriating though it is, it hardly merits a wholesale indictment of US freedoms or law enforcement.

  5. Neil van der Linden says:

    On a different note: once I had accompanied a Dutch Oriental jazz ensemble, Tarhana (now renamed Arifa), on a tour through the Middle-East and on the way back, with Jordanian Airlines from Amman to Amsterdam, we experienced some problems with luggage excess weight, because of all the instruments. We tried to avoid the penalty by charming the check-in staff, who indeed were sympathetic to the fact that we had performed in several places in Jordan, in Palestinian refugee camps, but also in the ancient (still Greek Orthodox) Byzantine village of Madaba, where the guy at the check-in desk actually was from. So we were asked to give a small performance, and we got through. Bribery, yes, but the right way.

  6. I wish there was a video of this.

  7. Must have been new reg. due to seriously treating comic depiction of gangster killers using violin case to carry their guns.

  8. I was stopped taking my violin dated from french revolution coming off from the plane in Bahrain for Young Musician of the Gulf – had to play the first part of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto D Minor to persuade customs that I was the actual owner.

    A pain the arse?
    Not at all. Just another opportunity to show off :P

  9. Heidi Karod says:

    The USA now issues visas for instruments. Sad but true!

  10. i was also stopped this month.

  11. Fabio Fabrici says:

    I don’t understand what difference it makes if you are a violinist or not when carrying a violin over a customs border? Technically a violinist can smuggle a violin as easily as anybody else and a non-violinist can still be the owner of a precious instrument.

    Could I also drive a fancy car over the border, and when I can’t show proper documentation, then I take the officers for a spin and show my race car driver skills, and when we are back at the checkpoint the officer gets out and says, “sure, that shows us this car is legally yours.”? I don’t get it.

    Don’t get me wrong, I wish nobody would be bothered by customs when traveling with his instrument. But this just doesn’t make sense.

  12. Sounds like they are bored and want a free concert, and it is good publicity for the artist, it seems.

  13. But just imagine, playing without any warm-up, perhaps totally exhausted, playing badly and imagine the customs agent saying, there is no way that is your instrument!

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