The Happiest Man in L.A. (2 days ago)

A very relieved Peter Stumpf.  AP Photo.On Tuesday, it was announced that the missing 1684 Stradivarius cello had been returned, but in a “damaged state.” Peter Stumpf, the L.A. Phil Principal Cellist who accidentally left the rare Strad on his front steps which was stolen the next morning by a passing bicyclist, was introduced at the press conference on Tuesday as “probably the happiest man in Los Angeles today.”

The cello was found by Melanie Stevens, a 29 year-old nurse, next to a dumpster about 1 mile from Stumpf’s house. A homeless man helped her put it in the trunk of her Lexus SUV where it remained for a couple of days. She had planned on asking her boyfriend, Igal Asseraf (a cabinetmaker) to turn it into (what would’ve been the world’s most expensive) CD rack. It was about a week later that she heard about the theft and then went looking for an attorney, afraid that people wouldn’t believe her story. If she receives the $50,000 reward, she pledges to donate the money to an organization that supports music appreciation for children.

A poster showing the recovered Stradivarius cello that was stolen from the home of cellist Peter Stumpf April 25. NICK UT/APIn reading some other stories about it, the restorer, L.A. based stringed Robert Cauer indicated that:

The prized instrument is damaged but repairable, Robert Cauer, an expert instrument restorer, said. It is cracked on the front, back and upper rib, but there is no crack in the critical rear soundpost, he said.

It is expected that the cello will be ready to return to the stage by October.

A few years ago, when a cellist friend of mine needed work done on her cello, she took in to Cauer’s small store on Cahuenga. At the time, I think she had some car issues and asked me to pick up her cello for her. The storefront (small house as I recall it) was jam-packed with stringed instruments large & small. I remember not being there very long to look around because there were so many musicians going in and out of the small space, I didn’t want to get in the way.

The investigation still continues as the thief has not been found.

Some more interesting coverage can be found at:
The Christian Science Monitor’s story describing the press conference and BBC

Here is the release from the LA Phil (and below that, the one from the LAPD)

May 18, 2004


(LOS ANGELES, CA – May 18, 2004, 1 PM) — The Los Angeles Police Department’s Art Theft Detail has announced that the Stradivarius cello, known as the “General Kyd,” has been recovered. The cello, owned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, has been missing since April 25, 2004.

On Saturday, May 15, the LAPD recovered the cello after the finder’s attorney called the tip hotline to say she had discovered it near a dumpster in the Silver Lake area of Los Angeles. On Monday, May 17, the instrument was positively identified as the Philharmonic’s missing Stradivarius cello.

A Los Angeles-based expert restorer of fine stringed instruments, Robert Cauer, has examined the cello and determined that it requires some restoration. It is expected that the sound of the instrument will be fully restored.

“The Los Angeles Philharmonic is extremely grateful to the LAPD for their tireless efforts. We are deeply gratified that the instrument is back in our hands. While it needs some repair, we are confident that Robert Cauer, who has worked with the cello for over 20 years, will fully restore it. We anticipate the day in the near future when the cello returns to its home on the stage of Walt Disney Concert Hall,” commented Philharmonic President Deborah Borda.
Philharmonic Principal Cellist Peter Stumpf is relieved to have the instrument in safe hands, adding, “First and foremost, I’d like to express my deepest gratitude to the entire Los Angeles Philharmonic Board, staff, and orchestra, for their support in this situation and to the LAPD for working so hard on this case. It’s been a difficult few weeks and I appreciate everyone’s concern.”

Nicknamed the “General Kyd” for the man who brought it to England at the end of the 18th century, the instrument was made in Cremona, Italy, in 1684. The British premiere of Dvor┬Ěk’s famed cello concerto was performed on this instrument in 1896 by cellist Leo Stern. Purchased by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association in the early 1970s, the cello has been played by a member of the Philharmonic ever since. Stumpf began playing the instrument in October 2002 when he joined the orchestra.

From: LAPD Media Relations

“Recovery of $3.5 Million Stradivarius Cello”

News Conference

Los Angeles Philharmonic Office (In the Khoral Hall)
151 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
1:00 p.m.

Los Angeles: The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Office will conduct a joint news conference to announce the recovery of a cello. On April 25, 2004, a $3.5 million Stradivarius cello, nicknamed “General Kyd” was stolen from a private residence in the Los Feliz area of Los Angeles. The cello is owned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

On May 14, 2004, detectives of LAPD’s Art Theft Detail were contacted by an attorney who stated he represents a person who claims to have found the stolen cello. On May 15, 2004, the detectives met with the attorney and his client, a 29 year-old woman. At this meeting, a cello inside a silver colored case was turned over to the detectives. The cello was in a damaged state.

The woman told the detectives that she found the cello next to a trash dumpster in the Silverlake area of Los Angeles around April 28, 2004. She was not aware of the theft so she took the cello home where it remained until she learned of the theft on May 7, 2004. She then contacted an attorney who notified the Art Theft Detail. The cello has been positively identified as the one stolen on April 25, 2004.

This news advisory was prepared by Public Information Officer Jason Lee, Media Relations Section, at 213-485-3586.

For Release 5:00 pm PDT
May 17, 2004

2 thoughts on “The Happiest Man in L.A. (2 days ago)”

  1. Reading the CSM article by Daniel Wood just goes to further show me how poor coverage can be in our L.A. Times. I loved reading the quote from Councilman LaBonge imploring the press to “go out there and write a good news story,” as well as the contradiction by the string technician who first says the instument can be completely repaired but then can’t say how because he hasn’t actually seen it. Too bad those tidbits weren’t (and should have been) found in the Times piece.

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