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Classical Notes

BBC Proms: Viktoria Mullova

Posted at 11:23 AM on September 8, 2006 by Brian Newhouse (1 Comments)
Filed under: Concerts

Have a world-class Stradivarius you'd like to lend for a few days?

Violinist Viktoria Mullova actually already has one and it's worth a fortune. But with the new airport security measures she's not able to carry it onboard when she flies. She has to check it with luggage. Pause here to reflect: you own a priceless Strad and you're sitting on the tarmac watching the luggage guys sling it under the plane along with the boulder-size bags of your fellow travelers.

When I talked with her yesterday (interview for our Last Night of the Proms broadcast) she really sounded worried about her Minnesota Orchestra appearance next week. Her plan is to drive with a friend from her London home to Heathrow, do her best to convince security to let her carry the Strad onboard in its case. If they refuse, she's going to hand the instrument to her friend who'll deliver it back home. When she lands in Minneapolis she'll start scrambling for the best instrument she can find.


Mullova defected from the Soviet Union 23 years ago. (Here's a nice synopsis of a hair-raising story.) She was on tour in Helsinki and left her state-owned Strad lying on the hotel room bed and fled into Sweden.

Two weeks ago she essentially reversed that scenario when she went to play in Helsinki with the Minnesota Orchestra. This time, she had to 'smuggle' her new Strad into Finland onboard the plane. Refusing to check it with her luggage, she wrapped the instrument in a towel and hid it in a shopping bag.

Comments (1)

In at least two respects, the security measures mentioned here make no sense: first, the British Airports Authority has halved the permissible size of hand luggage -- to what end? What is there to be scanned, and identified, in a mini-bag which can't equally well be scrutinized in normal hand luggage? Second, any musical instrument likely to be taken on to an aircraft can easily be examined by security personnel, given a flashlight and the owner's co-operation. What can possibly be concealed inside Viktoria Mullova's Strad (or James Galway's golden flute or Steven Isserlis's 'cello), anyway? This reflects laziness or lack of competence on the part of the security personnel, or otherwise a refusal to provide enough trained security staff to do the job properly.

Posted by harrison ryker | September 11, 2006 3:24 PM