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Sad News About A Fine Cello


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Something happened today that affected me more than it should have, one of the problems with having a poetic spirit. It has left me feeling lonely tonight, in a way I can't really define, so I thought I would share with kindred spirits.

I bought a nice old french cello on ebay. It arrived at Jay's Violin shop today, but during shipping, the box was crushed and the cello was badly damaged.

Imagine a cello in your mind. Now shatter the neck in three places. Throw the gorgeous hand-carved scroll in a corner of the box, toss the fingerboard in another place. Then jump up and down on the top, until you make three horrible full-length cracks in the top, the exposed raw white wood of the crack stark against the beautiful century-old varnish, like a femur sticking out of a tanned leg.

Jay opened the box, took one look and decided to leave it in the box until I saw it.

I was furious ... not with the guy who sold me the cello, but with the shippers who had damaged it...3,000 dollars ... a very nice cello, made in 1895, by a real maker in a real place... Charles Brugere in Mirecourt...a piece of history, traceable to one lone man working in a shop with sweat and sandpaper.

I called the guy who shipped the cello, and he's giving me a full refund, but that's not really the point.

There's something so very sad about it... Cracks ... damage to a cello ... it's forever. This cello was made in 1895... and it survived this long, until some fool jumped up and down on the box...it just breaks my heart.

And it was NUMBERED... Number 30... Cello #30, from a real maker...a cello with a history that spanned more than a century...and now it's in pieces ... literally in pieces ... the scroll was lying alone in the box.

beautiful ... just gorgeous ... but odd ...macabre as the head of a beautiful woman ... but detached from the body....

Well, I suppose relating a smashed cello to a decapitated person is a bit much, but great musical instruments are like people, but people who don't ever have to die. A great Cello can live forever, but by the same token, damage is forever, too.

I'm sure there's a poem there for someone more poetic than I am...

::Sigh:: it made me feel so lonely. I can't really think why...so sad...

Thank you for listening...

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I know exactly how you feel.

Last year I imported a 19thC Chinese cabinet from England that had shortly before been brought from China. It was in perfect condition having survived the perils of sequestration during Mao's reign, distribution to a peasant family then rescue by a dealer.

After crossing the Atlantic, passing through the port of Philadelphia and delivery to my house, I broke a leg off helping to carry it up my stairs

This was worse because I had to blame myself rather than anyone else. But no amount of blame can undo what has been done.

What these experiences do is heighten the respect and admiration for antiques that have weathered the passage of time intact and adds to their value for true collectors who appreciate these things.

It also makes us realize that we are never the owners of such things but merely the custodians for a period of time which is brief compared to the life of these art objects.

A wise violinist and Strad owner once said that this was not his violin, he was it's violinist for a while. I never forgot that.

Is restoration out of the question?

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If there is not a poem in your story, there surely is a country song. Perhaps: "You Turned My Heart to Jello and Stomped All Over My Cello". Bound to be a hit. Now that I have the stupid comments out of the way, I would seriously consider reconstruction. If done properly, it will come to life again. Violins, cellos and such are extremely hard to kill. The spirit is still in the old girl, even it is cracked a bit. Probably won't affect the tone at all. Just think of the restoration as a life-saving rescue.

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DougP is right.

I think I appreciate a well restored instrument even more than a pristine one.

It shows it was twice blessed.

Once by the original maker then again by the person who loved it enough to bring it back to life.

Such restoration also testifies to the value of the instrument and clearly demonstrates that it was worth putting the effort into.

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I bought two old violins without cracks,but they faked the crackes.

You know an instrument, without damage or repairs, has no character. You get a real chance to fix it. It gives you a chance to put a label inside telling the world that you have saved this cello from destruction, the world will forever be grateful for your kind and loving care to this instrument (I am not joking). Every time I look at cracks (fake cracks ) of my violins, I wish they were real and well-repaired. I have seen a 1920 Roth well restored ;it was rock solid and has focused tone, I admired the restorer's ability to put it back together in such a good shape. The repairer intended to make a bold statement if you looked at his repairs carefully,with a message hidden (and asked a lot of money too, not shy about that). Otherwise, it was just another uneventful Roth. Make sure put your name and the year you have it fixed then history will take care of the rest. /yuen/

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Sorry Phillip, I understand your dismay. I've seen firsthand what Fed-Ex did to a fine modern cello that was well-packed in a fiberglass case. It's almost impossible to give it the packing it truly needs to survive any reasonable abuse, so I don't ship cellos and basses for that reason...

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Hi Philip, my condolences. I was sad to read about what happened to that cello. It's entirely regrettable that a piece of history has disappeared. Your description is especially vivid, those horrible cracks, the decapitations. String instruments transcend human existence and we are to be their custodians. Whoever treated it so brutally destroyed a lot more than $3000, but a part of Charles Brugere's lifework is lost forever.

When I read your post this morning I was on my way to the post office to pick up my violin I bought from Jesse. I had prayed every day that God would bring this violin here safely, and thanks be to God that it was preserved through the postal system. I played it today at a wedding at our church, and feel grateful that I was able to use it for a bigger purpose. I do feel regretful that your cello met a horrible fate, and wonder what the purpose of it is. I just know that I would be very sad if anything happened to my two violins. I felt like I was adopting a dog or cat today, so I know how you feel. My sympathies.

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HI, and thanx for all the notes. I am enclosing(if I can figure out how) the ebay auction link, which includes several photos. None of them does the instrument proper justice. it's a beautiful cello.

The cracks are repairable, but will require the top off, and at one cleat per inch of crack, it will want at least 30 cleats on the top. It also needs a completely new neck. In the pics a neck crack is visible, but it was stable, and that wasn't the only break location.

Amazingly, there was no insurance at all. The box was not labeled "this end up" so instead of being stood on end. it was laid on it's side, and FEDEX piled everything in the world on top of it. That seems the logical explanation for how the damage occured.

The ebay seller has been completely honorable and is giving me a 100% refund, and is going to suck up the damage himself, God Bless Him, for which I wish to publicly offer Kudos.

All Best.


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Lovely instrument. I can see why you are so upset about losing it but it is sounding as though it can be salvaged, but at a price. One can spend so much on repair work and it's always a trade off financially whether it is worth it or not. Do you have access to a good repairman?

How exactly was it packed? Hopefully it was in more than brown paper and bubble wrap? I would think a fiberglass cass would be the minimum requirement for an item such as this.

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I'm sure there's a poem there for someone more poetic than I am...

I once read of a fellow,

A talented maestro,

Whose life was full of sorrow,

For the loss of his sweet betrothed, oh

Her trousseau was of pekoe

Her voice was like a rainbow,

Gliding high as a swallow

In a glittering rainwashed meadow

Or swooping to a windrow

Sotto, largo, alto,

Thorough, yet non molto..

With fame por todo mundo

Her journey through the mal-low

Turned to a wicked tableau,

Her escort was a psycho

Who dealt to her a deathblow,

Perhaps the space, too narrow,

Made him squash her like a taco

Or could have his pet hippo

Needed a place to wallow?

That bastard commie pinko!

That Sumo from Kyoto,

Then dumped her at the Depot

And kept his incognito

Now you may never tango

With your expected Cello,

So plow for her a furrow,

And try to love… un otro…?

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I recently had a violin shipped from Canada to me (in Virginia). The fiddle was damaged in shipment, and although UPS took the shippers money for insurance, they refused to pay the claim. I didn't claim the full selling price, but a reasonable repair cost.

The shipper says he will take them to small claims court in Canada, and he believes he'll be paid for the damage. We'll see...

What can Brown do for you?

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I had purchased a violin a few years ago that was damaged in shipping by the US Postal Service. They offered me two options: They would give me the full insured price. plus shipping costs if I gave the violin to them (which they would have repaired and resell) --OR-- I could repair it and give them the bill, up to the insured value, plus shipping.

I opted to repair it, take the money from the USPS, then sold it for a tidy profit that I then used to go to a local luthier and put a nice down payment on a quality rental.

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