According to the Hills, this is the earliest cello that still bears the original label untampered. However, its dimensions have been reduced. It was originally designed as a bass with five strings.
Antonio Stradivarius: His Life & Work, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, W. Henry, Arthur F. & Alfred E. Hill, Antonio Stradivari: His Life & Work (1644-1737), London
"The Los Angeles Philharmonic was reunited with its priceless Stradivarius cello on Tuesday, three weeks after a clumsy thief stole it from the porch of the orchestra's principal cellist.
The cello, slightly damaged, narrowly escaped being turned into a case for compact discs. It is now undergoing repairs and is expected to return to the stage of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in October.
"This is a great day for us," said a beaming Deborah Borda, president of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association. "The cello and the orchestra are back together."
The instrument, built in the Cremona, Italy, workshop of Antonio Stradivari in 1684, is one of only 60 cellos made by Stradivari still extant and is insured for $3.5 million.
The cello was turned over to the police on Saturday by Melanie Stevens, a 29-year-old nurse who said she found it, in its plastic case, on April 28. Ms. Stevens said she saw it leaning against a Dumpster in the Silver Lake neighborhood, a mile from where it was stolen.
She said that she had no idea at the time that the philharmonic was missing its irreplaceable cello.
Ms. Stevens asked her boyfriend, Igal Asseraf, a cabinetmaker, if he could repair the cracks and scratches in the instrument, said her lawyer, Ronald Hoffman. Mr. Asseraf agreed to try, but said that if he could not fix it he would hinge the top and turn it into a case for compact discs. Ms. Borda said on Tuesday that she reacted with horror when she heard that. "At least it wasn't a planter," she said.
Ms. Stevens stored the cello in a back bedroom and did nothing until she saw a television report 10 days ago about the missing Stradivarius. She contacted a lawyer, who negotiated its surrender on Saturday. A $50,000 reward had been offered for the cello, but it was not clear if Ms. Stevens was eligible for it.
The cello had been taken early on the morning of April 25 from the front porch of Peter Stumpf, leader of the orchestra's cello section. He had inadvertently left the instrument outside, officials said. A security videotape caught the thief riding away on a bicycle and recorded the sound of the bicycle running into trash cans.
Ms. Borda, accompanied by the orchestra's stringed instrument conservator, Robert Cauer, went to police headquarters on Monday to identify the cello. Mr. Cauer immediately recognized the instrument, which he has tended for 20 years. He called the damage routine.
Mr. Stumpf, mortified, appeared briefly at the news conference announcing the retrieval on Tuesday. "I'm just incredibly relieved it's been solved and the cello has been returned," he said. "This has been an enormous weight on me for the last three weeks.""
Priceless Cello Is Again in Orchestra's Possession, John M. Broder, The New York Times, New York
"At the sale of Sir Wm. Curtis's instruments, lot 7, was a violoncello of the date 1684, said to have been made by Stradiuarius for a Corfiote nobleman, and deposited by him in a chest with cotton, and there left for at least a century; it was put up at 200 guineas and bought in for 235."
The History of the Violin and Other Instruments Played On With the Bow From the Remotest Times to the Present, William Sandys and Simon Andrew Forster, The History of the Violin and Other Instruments Played On With the Bow From the Remotest Times to the Present, London
Leo Stern first came into possession of the cello in 1893 but the final payment was made, with the help of Lord Amherst of Hackney, in 1901.
W. E. Hill Business Records (1850 - 1990), W. E. Hill & Sons - Business Records (1850 - 1990)