"For musicians, instruments are like parts of your bodies. I feel sad because I feel as if I had part of my body and soul wrenched off."
- Yuzuko Horigome
German customs officials at Frankfurt Airport have seized a violin from Japanese professional musician Yuzuko Horigome and are demanding she pay nearly $500,000 in order to get it back. To take a musician’s instrument away is cruel. And as the violin is vital to Ms. Horigome’s work and she has owned it since 1986, the violin should not be taxed as an import. We call on the German government for a speedy return of the violin -- without duties or penalties -- to Ms. Horigome so she can continue to play for audiences around the world!
On August 16th, German customs officials at Frankfurt Airport seized a $1.2 million violin (a 1741 Guarnerius) from Japanese violinist Yuzuko Horigome. Horigome is globally-known and has played in cities around the world with top conductors and orchestras, including the London Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic and the Berliner Philharmoniker.
Customs officials confiscated the violin because she could not provide the documents for her 1986 purchase. They are demanding she pay 20% of the value of the violin plus penalties (totally nearly half a million dollars) in order to get it back.
Ms. Horigome has shared the pain of being separated from her instrument: “The instrument is a tool for my work. For musicians, instruments are like parts of your bodies. I feel sad because I feel as if I had part of my body and soul wrenched off." Ms. Horigome has long lived in Belgium and has played and traveled with this particular violin for nearly thirty years. As her friend, I’ve seen firsthand the pain this is causing her. I couldn’t just stand by and watch her suffer -- that’s why I started this campaign.
However, according to a newspaper reporting, German authorities have also suggested that the violin might be returned without taxation if it is regarded as necessary for her job.
Ms. Horigome returned home to Brussels and submitted a certificate proving the violin is a tool for her work, but three weeks from the incident, the violin remains with German customs officials. This is cruel and especially shocking treatment from a country with a long and illustrious history of supporting musicians. Already, many other musicians are reconsidering travel to Germany because they are afraid their instruments will be confiscated. The loss to Germany, culturally and economically, will only grow larger.
It’s clear the violin is vital for Ms. Horigome’s work and should not be taxed. We call on the German government to return the violin without penalties now!