Japanese musician’s $ 1 million Guarneri violin seized in Germany

Japanese violinist Yuzuko Horigome’s routine journey from Tokyo to Europe has become as dramatic as a Mahler symphony.

Yuzuko Horigome poses with his Guarneri violin from 1741.

Artist management M. Hirasa Ltd.

His violin, a 1741 Guarneri valued at $ 1.2 million, was seized by German customs authorities, who are said to demand 190,000 euros ($ 238,400) in import duties and possible payment of a fine before give it back.

Authorities confiscated Ms Horigome’s violin as she left Frankfurt Airport last Thursday, citing a lack of proper ownership documents, according to the Tokyo-based 54-year-old musician’s management agency, Artists Management Mr. Hirasa Ltd.

A week later, the instrument is still in the hands of the German authorities.

“I am incredibly sad and I feel like part of my body and my soul has been torn off,” Ms. Horigome, who lives in Belgium, said in a statement on Wednesday.

The German customs authority did not return a request for comment.

Ms. Horigome’s violin, purchased in Japan in 1986, was made by 18th-century Italian master Josef Guarneri del Gesu, whose instruments are highly sought after for their sound quality and rarity.

The tokyoite’s career took off after winning the Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels in 1980. During her 32-year career as a concert violinist, she has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic under the direction of great chefs, including Claudio Abbado, André Prévin and Kurt Masur.

Ms Horigome said she used to carry the necessary documentation for her instrument when she traveled, but left it at home for last week’s fateful trip through Frankfurt.

She said she rushed home in Brussels the next day to get the document before submitting it to German customs, but her violin was not returned.

Officials believe the instrument should have been declared, Ms Horigome’s agency said.

Ms. Horigome has since sought a lawyer. She may not have to pay the additional tax and penalties if it can be established that the violin is an essential part of her livelihood.

“I would like to ask the German government to return my instrument as soon as possible and treat it in a way that would give musicians around the world the impression that they can travel without anxiety.”

Read this article in Japanese / 日本語 訳 は こ ち ら ≫

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