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February 2006

Keep the 'Duke of Alcantara' Stradivarius!

February 13, 2006 01:24

This rather interesting article appeared today in the LA Times, about the "Duke of Alcantara." Stradivarius.

It is the story of a Strad lost, then found, and the great "finders keepers" argument that ensued, and ultimately did not work. The law sides with the weeping loser!

In this case, the party that lost the Strad was UCLA, which had it on loan to a violinist named David Margetts. Someone found it by the roadside, the story goes, kept it under her bed for many years, and it emerged in the possession of a violinist named Teresa Salvato.

The part that caught my attention was that, despite UCLA's great efforts to recover this Strad 10 years ago, the school is considering selling it to make money for scholarships and more violins for the school. It certainly would fetch a million dollars or more.

I would argue that this is the whole unexplored crux of the story, as the rest of this happened a long time ago.

The Strad was a charitable donation given to UCLA's music department by Genevieve Vedder, whose husband, Milton, had been an oilman and had bought the instrument shortly before his death.

It seems to me that Genevieve had a noble idea, putting this instrument in the hands of an institution that would use it for teaching and performing. It can mean a great deal to a student to use such an instrument for even a few months. A fine instrument is its own teacher. The instrument tells you how to play anew; the beauty of its tone and the ease of its response opens up a whole new set of possibilities. There is no substitute for this.

You can't make a Strad. It's damned near impossible to buy a Strad. If it is anything like the few fine Italian instruments I've had the chance to play, it is an enchanted piece of wood, full of history, mystique, and some of the most compelling sound we humans are able to produce.

Keep the Strad, people! And safeguard it for the school, for its students and faculty, and for the sake of Music Itself. One Strad is worth more than a hundred lesser violins. And a month playing on a Strad is a scholarship unto itself.

Don't leave this opportunity by the roadside.

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