Airport security confiscate violinist’s €2 million Guadagnini, government forced to apologise

1 November 2021, 11:20 | Updated: 1 November 2021, 13:05

International prize-winning soloist, Alexandra Conunova
International prize-winning soloist, Alexandra Conunova. Picture: Getty/Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

A top international violinist had her instrument seized at a Moldovan airport as she was travelling to Russia, on suspicion of smuggling.

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Moldova’s culture minister has apologised after a star violinist had her instrument confiscated at the airport.

Alexandra Conunova was travelling from her native country of Moldova to a concert in Moscow, when her violin was seized by customs officers at Chisinau Airport.

The €2 million Guadagnini violin is on loan to the prize-winning violinist from the Swiss violin master Cedric Berger. The violin was made in around 1785 by the Italian luthier Giovanni Battista Guadagnini, who is considered to be one of the finest craftsmen of string instruments in history.

Conunova had a criminal case filed against her for not having declared the instrument’s value to airport customs. The Moldovan culture minister, Sergiu Prodan, has since apologised, but the violin remains in the hands of the authorities.

Prodan told local television channel, TVR Moldova, that while authorities “have no reason to doubt that Alexandra does not own this violin absolutely legally, this must be proven by the appropriate documents.”

Read more: Music teacher’s rare $100k instruments stolen while she was sleeping

The investigation into whether Conunova’s violin documents are legal continues almost two weeks later, and Interpol is reported to be working with Moldovan authorities.

“It is an unfortunate confusion and an excess of zeal.” said Prodan, “the Culture Ministry is in contact with Alexandra and is making every effort to clarify the situation”.

The violin, which is named ‘Ida Levin’, remains locked in a safe deposit at the Moldovan Customs Services.

Conunova is an international prize-winning soloist, currently residing in Switzerland. In 2012 she won joint first prize at the Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition, and she has won other international awards at music festivals in Moscow, Bucharest, London, and Singapore.

She released an album of music by Italian Baroque composer Vivaldi last year, which is available across all streaming sites.