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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now for some real lost-and-found sound.

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BRAND: That's Philippe Quint, a 34-year-old Russian-born American. He's considered one of the best violinists of his generation. He had the misfortune to forget his instrument. He left it in the back of a Newark taxicab last month. It was a four-million dollar Stradivarius.

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BRAND: The cab driver returned the 285-year-old violin and that brings us back to this music.

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BRAND: It was performed by Philippe Quint in one of the most unlikely of places. Nancy Solomon reports from New Jersey.

NANCY SOLOMON: Tucked away near the car rental returns at Newark's airport is a parking lot where hundreds of taxi drivers park their cars, hang out in trailers and wait for their turn to pick up a customer. But yesterday, on a glorious spring afternoon, this lot became a mini Carnegie Hall.

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SOLOMON: Violinist Philippe Quint showed his gratitude for the return of his violin by giving a private concert for all the airport's cabbies. A hundred or so drivers attended the performance, virtually all of them immigrants and all basking in this one moment of glory. Patrick Hasmaeus (ph), a Haitian-born driver, says the honor is shared by all cabbies.

Mr. PATRICK HASMAEUS (Taxi Driver, Newark, New Jersey): We have found cell phone, camera. We turn them right away to the office, but this time four-million dollars violin? That's a serious issue, and we want the world to know we cab drivers in Newark, we the most honest cab driver in the Metropolitan area.

SOLOMON: But let's go back to the beginning of this story. How does a guy leave something, anything, worth four million dollars in a taxi?

Mr. PHILIPPE QUINT (Grammy-nominated Violinist): Oh, my God.

SOLOMON: Philippe Quint had taken a taxi from the Newark Airport to his Manhattan home in the wee hours of April 21st. He'd performed that evening in Dallas, was exhausted and left the Stradivarius in the cab while he carried his luggage across the street.

Mr. QUINT: I turned to get the violin, but I only saw a cab driving in the distance. I almost fainted, but at the same time, I instantly knew I had to do something. So I composed myself very quickly and started making a lot of, a lot of phone calls.

SOLOMON: Luckily the taxi was a minivan, so that allowed workers at the taxi commission to narrow the search to eight possible cabs. The next day, they found the cabbie, Mohammed Khalil, who discovered the violin untouched in the back of his van.

Mr. MOHAMMAD KHALIL (Taxi Driver, Newark, New Jersey): Oh, he hugged me and he cry. He can't believe it that he will find it back again.

SOLOMON: And that brings us back to the concert. As it turns out, the night Khalil accidentally drove away with the violin was his last night of work before retiring from the business.

Mr. KHALIL: He was my last customer and this is it. It's a happy ending for me and a happy ending for him, too.

SOLOMON: And not a bad ending for this story either.

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SOLOMON: For NPR News, I'm Nancy Solomon.

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COHEN: Day to Day is a production of NPR News, with contributions from Slate.com. I'm Alex Cohen.

BRAND: And I'm Madeleine Brand.

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