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Yo-Yo Ma Forgets Cello in Cab

October 16, 1999 GMT

NEW YORK (AP) _ It was the day the music almost disappeared.

Musician Yo-Yo Ma forgot his $2.5-million, 266-year-old cello in the trunk of a taxi on Saturday, but police tracked it down at a garage in Queens in time for his evening concert.

``I did something really stupid,″ Ma said sheepishly after he got the instrument back. ``I was in such a rush, I was so exhausted, I’d given a concert at Carnegie Hall last night. I just forgot.″

Grinning with relief, he explained that police used the taxi receipt to find the driver within hours.

``Somehow magic happened, and I have my cello,″ said Ma. ``The instrument is my voice. So I need it. ... I would be crying right now″ if it hadn’t been recovered.

Ma, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., put his cello in the taxi’s trunk as he rode from Central Park West to the Peninsula Hotel on Fifth Avenue to prepare for a Saturday night concert at the Anchorage in Brooklyn, he said.

After the cab pulled away at 1:20 p.m., he realized he’d forgotten the cello, which was made in Venice in 1733. He declined to estimate the value of the instrument, but a police source said it was worth between $2 million and $2.5 million.

He notified Peninsula security and they called police, said Inspector Thomas Purtell, commanding officer of the Midtown North precinct.

Police, working with officers from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, found the taxi’s medallion number and discovered it was based at a garage in Queens.

Police had the cello back to Ma by 5:15 p.m., just in time for him to make it to his show beneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

``Luckily, luckily I had the receipt, so all of you, take the receipt,″ Ma said.