Great white takes chunk out of $10-million instrument as surfing violinist wrestles instrument from its jaws.
Richard Tognetti had a terrifying brush with death yesterday morning when he encountered a rogue shark at a favourite surfing spot at Terrigal Beach.
The Australian Chamber Orchestra artistic director and lead violinist, a national treasure, escaped unscathed – but his $10-million violin, on his person at the time, did not fare so well.
Tognetti’s surfboard, valued at over $1,000, also sustained damage, and the soloist lost his earring in the tumult.
A keen surfer whose DVD The Reef has just been released, Tognetti was riding the waves for a series of action shots in an extreme sports magazine, having brought the instrument out on the water to feature as part of the daredevil shoot. It was the photographer who first noticed that a large shark had ventured into the shallow waters and was circling them. Eyewitness accounts suggest it was a great white spanning over two metres in length. And it was heading straight towards the violinist and his rare, 250-year-old Guarneri.
“It all happened so fast,” Tognetti recalls, “But that violin is like an extension of my body, so I reacted like a lioness defending her cubs.”
Tognetti managed to protect the precious instrument with his wet-suited body acting as a barrier, and warded off the shark by stabbing it in the nose with the bow. Nonetheless, the 1743 Carrodus violin made by Italian luthier Guarneri del Gesù, on loan from a private doner, sustained some damage: the chin rest is missing and some teeth marks and splintered particles of wood are clearly visible.
“I’m shocked and heartbroken,” said Tognetti from his beachside home, “But the prognosis is good and the violin is expected to make a full recovery.” Several of the world’s renowned luthiers have already volunteered their services and expertise for the repair job, said an ACO spokesperson, and initial damage assessment suggests that the rich sound of the instrument can be preserved.
The sonic adventurer and surfing enthusiast has faced the elements before, notably when he starred in and co-created the 2008 documentary Musica Surfica. In The Reef, musicians and surfers traveled along the coast of northern Western Australia to visit and perform at the heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. But Tognetti is adamant yesterday’s attack was his first close encounter with a shark.
Tognetti has been offered trauma conselling and was advised to remain hospitalised for overnight observation. But the intrepid violinist has resumed his touring schedule and says he is already itching to catch a wave in the near future.“The ACO is all about taking risks,” he said.
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