- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 January 23 , 2004 

Missing Notes: Rare cello back at home after exile in Ukraine

The cello is back, and being restored.

A valued cello that became subject of a diplomatic squabble has been returned to Armenia after 18 years abroad.

On January 12, the Ministry of Culture and Youth Affairs of Armenia officially received the cello from the Ukraine, where it has been a hostage of paperwork. Ukrainian officials have maintained that instrument was brought to the city of Lvov without proper documents and therefore could not leave their country.

The matter became a point of legal lobbying by Armenian diplomats in the Ukraine and by cultural officials in Armenia.

Why the fuss? Because this is no ordinary cello, but is in fact the workmanship of famed Italian master Andrea Guarneri, who made the instrument in 1685 in Cremona.

In 1948, the cello was purchased (for 2,000 rubles) by Armenian authorities for the State Collection of rare musical instruments.

In 1982, it was placed at the disposal of cellist Suren Bagratuni.

Bagratuni took the cello to the United States when he went there to study.

In 1996, Bagratuni's wife, Nina Khoma, took the cello to Lvov to perform in a concert. And it stayed there, because it didn't have the proper passport for returning to Armenia.

Since 1996 Martin Yeritsyan, professor of Yerevan State Conservatory, violinist and a violin master, had been applying to the Ministry of Culture with the request of bringing the instrument back to Armenia.

"It took eight years to prove that the cello is a treasure belonging to our country," Yeritsyan says. "By the efforts of the ambassador of Armenia to Ukraine Armen Khachatryan and his deputy Gevorg Mehranyan it became possible to prove who this cello really does belong to."

Yeritsyan says that the matter was successfully resolved also thanks to assistance of the head of Armenian Community of Lvov Karlos Sargsyan.

The instrument is now under Yeritisyan's care while he is restoring it. The instrument is valued at about $60,000.

And while the restoration is at work, documents are also being prepared to avoid any future confusion about its value or its ownership.

According to information presented by the Ministry of Culture, starting from 1997 another four instruments of the collection of rare bow-instruments have been brought back to Armenia from CIS countries, Germany and England. Some cultural items currently in Lebanon are also being sought.

The State Collection, valued in the millions, includes violins made in the 1760s by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini and by Pietro Giacomo Rogeri.

"Completing its 'Odyssey' the violoncello, which is the property of Armenia, has been returned to Armenia and it is a remarkable episode in our cultural life," said Ambassador Khachatryan. "Our country and people became richer with this great and priceless cultural valueable."

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