In 2013, the international Shark Research Institute’s official log of shark-human encounters recorded 20 incidents, including one involving Richard Tognetti, the artistic director and lead violinist of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
“Tognetti was riding the waves for a series of action shots in an extreme sports magazine,” says the record. “He was carrying a $10 million violin with him on the water to feature as part of the daredevil shoot … Tognetti managed to protect the precious instrument … and warded off the shark by stabbing it in the nose with the bow.”
It goes on, under the section on injuries: “The chin rest is missing and some teeth marks and splintered particles of wood are clearly visible.”
The incident report was based on a story that turned out to have been an April Fools’ Day joke; the Shark Research Institute dutifully amended their records to clarify the incident hadn’t happened at all.
But the fact the story went up in the first place suggests something of Tognetti’s predisposition for bringing danger and daredevilry to the calmer waters of classical music. When Tognetti was appointed leader of the ACO in 1989, aged 24, he was determined to disturb the sediment of the art form.
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