"Four years ago, Cerovsek, who already was playing the "Sennhauser" Guarneri del Gesu on loan from The Stradivari Society, asked to borrow a 1742 Guarneri del Gesu named for Henryk Wieniawski, one of the greatest virtuosos of the 19th Century. Because Cerovsek had a contract to record music of Wieniawski, he thought it would be ideal to use the instrument for this CD, in 1997.
Bein & Fushi agreed. "They said, 'Fine, Mrs. Galvin said it's fine if you borrow it for two weeks,' " recalled Cerovsek, 28. "So I came up to Chicago, swapped the 'Sennhauser' for the 'Wieniawski' and left. I was playing the season-opening concerts for the San Francisco Symphony, so I went out to California.
"And on the day of my first performance with the symphony -- Sept. 4, 1997 -- Geoffrey Fushi calls to tell me he has to get the violin back immediately because he has a buyer somewhere in South America, and that he had another nice fiddle that he'd be happy to swap with me before the next concert.
"This was very traumatic, switching a violin the day of a concert and just before the performance," said Cerovsek, who, like most concert artists, needs to be familiar with the sonic capabilities and tonal nuances of a particular instrument before an important performance.
When Cerovsek received the call, "His eyes filled with tears," recalled his mother, Sophia, who had traveled from Bloomington to San Francisco to hear the concerts. "He pleaded with Mr. Fushi up until the last moment to at least let him finish the San Francisco concerts with the instrument.
"When I came home to Bloomington," continued Cerovsek's mother, who had been corresponding with Mary Galvin, "I faxed her all about [what happened] in San Francisco, and all hell broke loose. Mrs. Galvin called me and said she was very upset, because she had given strict orders that the violin should not go on sale until Corey played it.
"She told me on the phone to tell Corey not to let the instrument out of his hands."
Thanks to Galvin's intervention, Cerovsek was able to keep the violin until last year.
Asked about Cerovsek's experience with The Stradivari Society, Bein said that most of the artists appreciate the loans but that "a couple have a chip on their shoulders. It's hard to imagine they are being taken advantage of."
Bein added that although Cerovsek belonged to The Stradivari Society, the "Wieniawski" violin technically was not listed in The Stradivari Society when Cerovsek first borrowed it.
But Galvin agreed with Cerovsek that he was not treated properly."
In 1944, French and American soldiers were billeted in the Talbot mansion in Aachen. A French soldier apparently discovered the Guarneri in the hidden vault and began to play it. An American soldier, upon hearing the instrument, offered to buy it from the French soldier, who promptly sold it for a few packs of cigarettes and other necessities. Four years later, a GI came to the Wurlitzer offices in New York attempting to sell the instrument. Rembert Wurlitzer immediately recognized the instrument as the Wienawski Guarneri and wired the Hills in London to see if they had information concerning the violin. The Hills wired back that the instrument had been taken from the Talbot's home in 1944 and was still missing. After some protracted negotiations, the instrument was eventually returned to Richard Talbot in Aachen.
The "Wieniawski Guarneri", The Strad, November, 1963, London