"It's a golden-period Strad and the most distinctive feature is that it's in tremendous condition," Levinson told The Dallas Morning News. "Wherever it's been for 20 years, it's certainly not been abused. In terms of tonal color and response time — and just being able to play the instrument — it's an incredible world that other instruments just don't let you into. I can play the same phrase 50 times and discover 50 different colors."
The newly reconditioned violin will be used in concerts at Meyerson Symphony Hall tonight through Sunday led by guest conductor Andrew Grams.
The DSO bought the Strad in 1978 for then-concertmaster Eliot Chapo to play. When Emanuel Borok took over the job in 1985, he was awarded use of the violin. But three months later, while Borok was in Europe, it was stolen from his apartment.
There was no news of the instrument for two decades until 2005, when a retired DSO violinist (who remains anonymous) saw a suspiciously similar violin pictured in an ad in the string magazine The Strad.
The ad announced an upcoming auction by the London instrument dealer Bonhams; DSO officials contacted Bonhams and began negotiating with the dealer and the insurance company. The orchestra eventually reclaimed the instrument, reimbursing the insurance company for its original $250,000 payout after the violin first went missing.
The violin needed minimal restoration and only cost "a few thousand dollars to get it back in shape," the News quoted Dallas Symphony Association president Fred Bronstein as saying.
Borok long since acquired another violin, so Levinson will now play the long-lost Strad. The Dominico Montagnana instrument that Levinson has been playing, and which the DSO bought with insurance proceeds from the lost Strad, will be made available to other members of the DSO's first- and second-violin sections, according to the paper.