Bell Buys Stradivarius for $4M

Monday, October 29th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DALLAS (AP) _ A famed violin _ a three-century-old Stradivarius lost for decades _ has been purchased for $4 million by Joshua Bell, a modern master.

``I instantaneously fell in love with the instrument like I never have before with a violin,'' Bell, 33, said Friday from his home in New York. ``This is like a dream come true.''

This particular Strad _ a violin made by Antonius Stradivarius _ has been stolen twice, last disappearing from New York's Carnegie Hall in 1936.

It resurfaced after a deathbed confession in 1985. A cafe musician, dying in jail, admitted he had stolen the violin all those years ago and it was returned to the insurer, Lloyd's of London.

The violin, constructed in 1713, became known as the Gibson Strad, taking its name from early owner Alfred Gibson. It was stolen in 1919 from the Vienna hotel room of Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman, but was quickly returned. Huberman wasn't so lucky the second time.

He was on stage at Carnegie Hall in 1936 when the violin was stolen from his dressing room. Eventually, he accepted a full settlement of about $30,000 from Lloyd's.

Lloyd's sold the violin to British violinist Norbert Brainin for $1.2 million in 1988. When Bell appeared at a concert with Brainin, ``he let me play a few notes, and I thought it was the most amazing-sounding violin I'd ever heard,'' Bell said.

In August, Bell learned that the violin was about to be sold to a German industrialist. So he talked with Brainin.

``I could only go so far with price,'' Bell recalled, ``and I think he liked the fact that I'd be playing his violin.''