New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Will Not Sell "Golden Age" String Instruments

Classic Arts News   New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Will Not Sell "Golden Age" String Instruments
The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra does not intend to sell any of its valuable collection of string instruments to pay down its deficits and loans, as was previously reported.

Stephen Sichak, the NJSO's interim director, told The New York Times that while the orchestra did consider the option, "The down side is, if we sell the instruments, we'd potentially lose the right to play them. We do not have plans to sell the instruments."

The New Jersey Star-Ledger reported last week that $3.1 million that is being taken from from the NJSO's endowment would be paid to the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Instrument Conservancy, a separate entity created by the ensemble in 2003 as the legal owner of its rare 30-piece "Golden Age" collection, purchased in 2003, which includes 17th- and 18th-century Stradivari and Guarneri string instruments. In return, the conservancy would sell the orchestra three of its most valuable instruments, which in turn would allow the orchestra to sell the instruments to private donors.

While the instruments won't, in fact, be sold, the $3.1 million in endowment money will still be at the orchestra's disposal to cover costs during the season, according to the Times.

The Star-Ledger previously reported that the NJSO finished the recently-ended fiscal year with a six-figure deficit, although the figure is apparently smaller than the $892,000 deficit recorded in 2004. The orchestra posted a $27,000 surplus in 2005.

Sichak told the Times that the approximately $12 million debt resulting from the acquisition of the instruments has prevented the orchestra from paying off an accumulated operating deficit of $4.2 million. Fundraising has been hampered by controversy surrounding the purchase of the instruments from longtime orchestra supporter Herbert Axelrod, who was subsequently arrested and convicted of tax fraud in an unrelated case. There have been numerous allegations, backed up by appraisers, that Axelrod fraudulently inflated the value of the instruments he sold to the NJSO in order to claim a hefty tax deduction.

The NJSO, which is based at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, is struggling with both debts and the lack of a chief executive since Simon Woods resigned last summer to take a similar job with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. A new president is expected to be announced shortly, however, and the orchestra soon begins its second season under the baton of music director Neeme J‹rvi.

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