"At some point in the 18th century, Katz says his Guarnerius became part of a private collection of a prestigious Italian commercial gallery, where it spent around 200 years unplayed.
In the late 1960s, a well-known string instrument dealer and collector, Jacques Francais, spotted the cello and could see that it was a phenomenal instrument. Unsure if it could be restored, he sought the advice of Rene Morel, one of the world’s greatest luthiers whose clients have included Yo-Yo Ma and Isaac Stern.
Says Morel from his New York City studio, "Nobody wanted it because it had a very bad accident." Morel, who had seen pictures of it, was convinced it could be repaired. He told Francais, "Don’t worry. Buy it. I'll put it together."
If repairing it wasn’t hard enough, Morel had another challenge: cutting the cello down to modern size, a procedure that if not done by a master can ruin the sound of a great instrument. Morel says that the cello had been cut down once before, but not enough. Reducing it was a painstaking procedure that required him to reshape all of the instrument’s arching and took more than two years of work. Being the master that he is, Morel completely camouflaged his work so that the cello now looks like an original, unmodified Guarneri."