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Jennifer Simonson | MPR News

Violin bow worth tens of thousands of dollars snaps midperformance

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A violinist's bow snapped midperformance at the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.



Concert violinist Stefan Jackiw performed last Thursday with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra in England. It was the U.K. premiere of Gliere's Violin Concerto.


But all did not go according to plan.

STEFAN JACKIW: I, you know, walk out on stage in the evening with my violin and my bow. And I've been playing on this bow for about 20 years. I got it in my late teens, and I've played, you know, well over a thousand concerts on it over the course of 20 years and countless hours of daily practice and never really had any problems with it. So I just went on stage, started playing. And about, I would say maybe, like, a quarter or a third of the way into the piece, I just heard this loud snap.


JACKIW: And the bow basically disintegrated in my hand, snapped in two.

SHAPIRO: Jackiw quickly swapped a bow with the concertmaster, the leading violinist of the orchestra.

JACKIW: And probably the music stopped for about three seconds, and I grabbed the new bow and just picked up right where I left off.


JACKIW: But it wasn't exactly smooth sailing from that point on because this new bow that I borrowed from the concertmaster felt totally different from my bow. You know, the weight is different. The balance is different. How it feels in the hand is different. The - kind of the nature of the grip is different. So that was very sort of disconcerting.

CHANG: Not to mention the price of the bow.

JACKIW: This bow, if it were in perfect condition and if I wanted to buy it today, would probably be between 30- and $35,000 U.S.

SHAPIRO: A lot of money, Jackiw admits. But the history...

JACKIW: This bow is a bow made in the 1800s by a very well-known bow-maker at the time named Francois Nicolas Voirin. Kind of the greatest violins are made in Italy in the 1700s, like Stradivarius, and the greatest bows were made in France in the 1800s.

CHANG: But don't worry - the bow has been repaired, and Jackiw will use it tomorrow in a performance in New York.

JACKIW: I'm told that it's a - you know, the repair is secure. And, you know, on stage I can't think about being sort of ginger with it. I have to just do my thing. And so I'm hoping it'll hold up. We'll see. This will be sort of its first - my first performance with it post-repair, and hopefully things will go without a hitch, fingers crossed.

SHAPIRO: We'll keep our fingers crossed for you, too, Stefan.


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