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August 7, 2015 10:56 am

Jewish Family to Get Back Stolen Stradivarius Violin After 35 Years

avatar by Alina Dain Sharon / JNS.org

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A painting of violin maker Antonio Stradivari from 1893. Stradivari violins are extremely expensive, with one being sold at auction in 2011 for $15.9 million. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

A painting of violin maker Antonio Stradivari from 1893. Stradivari violins are extremely expensive, with one being sold at auction in 2011 for $15.9 million. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – U.S. authorities announced on Thursday that they have recovered a rare 18th-century violin that was stolen from Jewish violinist Roman Totenberg in 1980.

The Stradivarius violin was made in 1734 by famed Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari. Stradivari violins are extremely expensive, with one being sold at auction in 2011 for $15.9 million.

The violin in question was stolen after a performance from Totenberg, who has since passed away. Totenberg’s daughter Nina Totenberg, who is also a correspondent for NPR, reported the violin’s discovery on Thursday and said that her father suspected that another violinist had stolen it. Authorities were never able to prove it because they didn’t have enough evidence for a search warrant.

“My mother was so frustrated,” Nina Totenberg said, “that she famously went around Boston asking her friends if they knew anybody in the mob who would break into this guy’s apartment.”

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This past June, a woman who inherited the violin from the suspected thief presented the violin for appraisal. The appraiser notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), who took custody of the instrument, according to court papers cited by the Forward.

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said that authorities will soon hold a ceremony in which they will return the violin to Totenberg’s family, which plans to have it restored and sold.

“We’re going to make sure that it’s in the hands of another great artist who will play it in concert halls all over the world. All of us feel very strongly that the voice has been stilled for too long,” Nina Totenberg said.

 

 

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  • Julian Clovelley

    Wonderful to see the violin recovered. It is a pity however that they have become almost unaffordable investment items when in reality they are “merely” very good instruments whose sound is vastly enhanced by the talent of the musicians who are heard playing them, and by the extra careful setting of the violin before it is played

    The Strad sound is a bit of a myth. Many tests have shown that top violinists themselves cannot pick out the supposed sound from other fine instruments. It is however good that the family owners will seek to ensure that the violin will be played.

    I understand that the trees from which Stradivarius obtained his wood are all gone – The original stand of trees supposedly no longer exists. I had a violin maker friend who managed to get some a few years ago which had been used to make a large cheese board

    Whatever the truth of the matter the discussion fades when one hears a recording of Heifetz playing a Strad or his favourite Guaneri – I am left feeling that his genius could have made a Chinese factory made disposable sing like an angel. Heifetz might himself not have agreed about Strads – but I would then have accused him of being too modest

    I am very glad the violin has been found and returned – a ray of light on an otherwise cloudy day

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