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Introduction, allegro and variations for viola

Accompanied by five dealers and one pawnbroker, Hugh Elder tells the tale of a sorry string musician

18 December 2014

In classical musical circles, the viola and the viola players are the butt of jokes: "What's the difference between chopping up an onion and chopping up a viola? No one cries when you chop up a viola."

But there were plenty of tears on 26 February 2014, when a judge chopped up not a viola itself, but the proceeds of its sale.

The facts, as found by the judge, were that a professional musician, who owned a valuable viola (attributed to Ceruti in Cremona in 1803), needed some money urgently to pay a debt, ironically incurred following unsuccessful litigation against builders who had worked on her home. She borrowed £50,000 from the first of five dealers in musical instruments who feature in this tale, dealer A, who took possession of the viola with instructions to sell it, with repayment ...

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