New York Instrument Dealer Sued Over Lost $400,000 Violin

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A violinist is accusing a Manhattan violin dealer of losing her 1837 violin while it was on consignment – by giving it out for trial to someone who never returned – according to a lawsuit filed on March 26.

Kyung-Ah Yang, a South Korean violinist who studied at the Manhattan School of Music, left her J.F. Pressenda violin in 1998 with René Morel Rare Violins, where Emmanuel Gradoux-Matt worked at the time.

According to Yang's suit, Gradoux-Matt was supposed to sell the 176-year-old violin for $285,000, but the instrument did not find a buyer.

In 2011, the suit continues, Yang wanted to retrieve her violin from Gradoux-Matt, who had by then parted ways with Morel and formed his own shop, Gradoux-Matt Rare Violins. The suit alleges that Yang made several e-mail requests but was repeatedly brushed off. The rare violin was being shown "on the West Coast," she was told, and the dealer would "definitely inform" Yang "if anything positive happens."

Finally, in January 2013, with the violin now valued at around $400,000, Gradoux-Matt informed Yang that "he had let an individual in New York borrow [her] violin for a trial, and the individual never returned."

Attempts on Thursday to reach Gradoux-Matt were unsuccessful; the shop's office phone was not answered and its website was offline.

According to the suit, Yang is seeking $400,000 in compensation damages, along with punitive damages of the same amount. The suit was first reported in the New York Post.

Gradoux-Matt's biography states that he is a violin maker in residence at the Aspen Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival and the Heifetz International Music Institute. He also serves on the board of the Long Island Conservatory of Music.

Update 4/5/13: A spokesman for the Aspen Music Festival, which Gradoux-Matt identifies as a client, writes that the festival has never had an affiliation with him.