Violinist Stefan Jackiw’s Bow Breaks During Violin Concerto with Bournemouth Symphony

May 15, 2023, 11:18 AM · Violinist Stefan Jackiw appeared remarkably calm after his $30,000 Francois Nicolas Voirin bow broke during the UK premiere of Ukrainian composer Reinhold Gliere's Violin Concerto, with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra last Wednesday.

Here is video from the incident - the break happens at about 0:17, during a series of, well, broken octaves:

“I’ve had a string break but never had a bow break," Jackiw told The Times. "Most violinists in a lifetime of playing won’t have a bow snap....The striking thing was there was nothing particularly percussive or aggressive about the passage. It was just a freak accident."

In the video you can see: Stefan looks at the bow with bemusement and then, without hesitation, exchanges bows with the concertmaster (presumably Amyn Merchant).

Stefan told The Times he plans to have his mid-19th-century French bow, which he has owned for 20 years, repaired. We hope it is possible to repair and wish Stefan the best - a bow like that is a real companion!

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May 15, 2023 at 04:39 PM · so Jackiw swapped bows with the concertmaster, what happened after that within the orchestra? who ended up without a bow? I suppose that person could quietly go backstage to fetch their reserve bow, get back on the stage, and continue playing?

May 15, 2023 at 04:43 PM · Usually (if you can use that word in such a rare happenstance) what happens when a string breaks is that instruments are passed forward as the problem instrument is passed backwards. Then someone toward the back (or just not in the front - could be third chair) is the one to take the problem instrument backstage. With a string breaking, that person could put on a new string. With a bow, however, I'm not sure there is a lot of precedent! People do tend to have spare bows, so it's possible that the broken bow was placed in safe hands backstage, the violinist who took it back there grabbed a spare bow, and the orchestra members all finished the piece with bows in their hands. I would be interested to hear what actually happened in this situation!

May 15, 2023 at 05:53 PM · The problem with exchanging everything back is that everyone ends up playing a violin that has the wrong CR or SR, etc.

I remember when the Principal Second Violinist of the Roanoke Symphony Orchestra had his bridge snap or collapse during a piece -- sounded like a gunshot. He shrugged at the conductor who gestured back, and off he went to fix his violin. He re-entered at the beginning of the next piece. A pro orchestra isn't going to be utterly lost without their CM or their principal second unless those players have solo parts, and even then, their stand-mates have probably understudied those parts. "We can't play Scheherezade today ... our CM is sick." Please tell me that doesn't happen in a good orchestra.

What I am curious about is how much spare equipment is to be found offstage. Most of us carry our own spare strings, and often an extra bow or two, but a spare fitted bridge? Does an orchestra usually have along an entire spare violin? I mean, suppose the neck snapped on Jackiw's fiddle.

By the way Gliere also wrote a lovely octet.

May 15, 2023 at 09:47 PM · Where did the bow break? At the tip? Near the middle?

May 15, 2023 at 10:15 PM · It was near the tip - but he said on his Instagram, "Fortunately, my bow is repairable!"

That certainly is good news!

May 16, 2023 at 02:38 AM · It may very well be repairable, and will play just as well or nearly as well after the repair. However, it is devalued as an investment. Lydia probably has a better handle on this than I do but I think it is something like 50% to 70% of the value gone with a break and a repair. Hopefully this is covered by insurance.

May 16, 2023 at 03:16 AM · Before I bought a bow like that, I'd want to see medical-grade imaging to ensure that there weren't any fine cracks.

May 16, 2023 at 07:28 AM · That is indeed one of the problems with having a functional tool double as an investment vehicle.

May 16, 2023 at 12:10 PM · And when the bow breaks.....

I seem to recall seeing a video decades ago. I may be wrong, but I think it was Ricci, whose bow either slipped or was broken during a piece, and he reached over and borrowed a bow from one of the 1st violinists.

I also recall a concert (many decades ago) of a youth orchestra during which a first violinist lost control of his bow and it flew out to about the 3rd or 4th row of the audience. The music never stopped as he put down his violin and clumsily hopped off the stage and crawled over a couple of rows to retrieve it, and then crawled back and resumed his place. The music never stopped, but many in the audience applauded.

May 16, 2023 at 01:38 PM · Players who play professionally on precious instruments and bows tend to have them well-insured, so even though it’s a real shame when a great bow breaks, especially if it never works the same way, the players are usually not out any money because they keep updated insurance appraisals and can reinvest in other equipment.

I know of a player who had a Peccatte that broke at the head and was declared a total loss by the insurance company after an attempt to spline the head by one of the most highly regarded bow restorers failed. The player got his payout from the insurance company and bought another bow. He took the Peccatte to someone else who simply reglued the head. The bow was solid enough after that that the player went back to using his Peccatte as his everyday player and stuck the new bow away just as a pure investment to sell in his retirement. Sometimes you can get very lucky.

In another example, a curious cello bow came into the shop where I worked previously. It had been a very fine Sartory, but the bow was involved in a car accident and the frog and head had been irredeemably crushed. A very talented bow maker made a replacement head and grafted it on and found a nice frog as a replacement (not Sartory but a decent replacement). The repair work was done so well that the bow still played like a Sartory even though it was now only worth a fraction of its original value. It worked out very well because a talented cellist on his way to music school was able to buy an incredible bow without going into debt.

May 16, 2023 at 05:00 PM · I would have cried like a baby.

May 17, 2023 at 07:12 PM · I believe Voirin and Sartori are the top names in bows - Any others up there with them?

May 17, 2023 at 08:49 PM · Paul Huang snapped an E-string during a performance with the Colorado Symphony last year. Unfazed, but with the audience abuzz, he went off stage, returned after a few minutes having changed the string, and continued playing. At the talk-back after the concert, this was naturally a prime topic of questions, but he made out it was no big deal.

May 17, 2023 at 09:18 PM · What an experience! And Stefan Jackiw showed great control of his emotions... and with a smile! Without a doubt, a pro!

I wish I would've known of the order of business during such situations back in college. Sitting co-principal in the viola section, my wonderfully talented stand partner's (now a violin professor at Berkley, I believe?) A-string broke and we immediately exchanged instruments. Without missing a beat he performed his viola solo beautifully and with such grace. I, on the other hand, finished playing the rest of the concert (and about 50% of the notes) without an A-string!

May 18, 2023 at 02:09 AM · Voirin, Sartory, Peccatte, Lamy…. that’s just off the top of my head. There are many more.

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