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The Strad that was saved from the sea

A Slipped Disc reader in Los Angeles, absorbed by the controversy over the violin supposedly retrieved from the Titanic, recalls a local incident when the Strad belonging to the concertmaster of the LA Philharmonic was swept out to sea. Here’s what happened:

“On Jan. 16, 1953, it rained in Los Angeles. Sascha Jacobsen, concertmaster of the Los
Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, was driving along the Pacific coast
when his car stalled in a swelling rush of flood water. Jacobsen
frantically grabbed his violin case and climbed from the car to seek
higher ground. The current claimed the case, containing a 1732 Strad
known as the Red Diamond for its unusual brilliant varnish. Washed to
the ocean and found partially buried in sand, it was soaked and
lifeless when it was taken to Hans.

For two weeks he slept at the shop and worked furiously to rescue the
Red Diamond. He built a tank for removing salt and grit from the wood,
surgically dissecting the instrument, bringing it back to life piece
by piece, developing techniques as needed along the way. In nine
months, the Strad sparkled again, its revered voice returned and Hans
Weisshaar became known as the man who saved the Red Diamond.”

Here’s a further account of the case from a violin trade website.

sascha jacobsen


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  1. I was very fortunate to get a cance performing a concert on this particular Violin many years ago. I remember having picked the Red Diamond at that Strad / Del Gesu Exhibition in Zurich without knowing the background Story yet. This Violin is a powerhouse with an unbelievable sound projection and brilliance. By far the most impressive from all the other Fiddles I compared with there. As you can imagine I was stunned to hear later on about the history of this Masterpiece. Some people say the Violin sounds better then befor the Incident. Thats what the curator of the exhibition told me.

  2. Steven Honigberg says:

    Born in 1913 in Wildberg, Germany, Weisshaar works in Switzerland, Holland and Germany before coming to America at 24 to learn his craft in the reputable shops in New York with Simone Sacconi and at Lewis & Son in Chicago. At the urging of violinist Nathan Milstein, he moves in 1947 with his wife and children to Hollywood to establish his own business. He sets up in a humbling location with a lone associate.

    For two weeks Weisshaar sleeps at the shop and works furiously to rescue the “Red Diamond”. Damage to the violin is extreme: the top is cracked and badly warped; the two-piece back distorted and disjointed; the ribs deformed and the linings unglued; neck detached from the body; piece at neck missing; the purfling separated and swollen; the joints and blocks unglued and the Stradivarius label, unrecognizable. Never having restored an instrument from the devastating damage the seawater has imprinted, the luthier, develops techniques as needed along the way.

  3. The LA Times account of the Weisshars and the story of the Red Diamond is so beautiful. Absolutely wonderful.

  4. Mati Braun says:

    I heard about it in 1963 from Jecobsen himself while I was playing for him as a student in Blue Hill Maine.

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