90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
PLEDGE NOW
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rare Violin Worth Millions Stolen In Milwaukee

Frank Almond performs with his Stradivarius violin in WUWM's studios in 2008. (Bonnie North)

Frank Almond performs with his Stradivarius violin in WUWM’s studios in 2008. (Bonnie North)

Police around the world are on the lookout for a Stradivarius violin, stolen in a brazen armed robbery Monday night in Milwaukee.

The instrument, owned by Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond, is nearly 300 years old and said to be worth millions.

From the Here & Now Contributors Network, Mitch Teich of WUWM reports.

Reporter

Transcript

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Meghna Chakrabarti. It's HERE AND NOW.

Police around the world are on the lookout for a Stradivarius violin stolen in a brazen armed robbery Monday night in Milwaukee. The instrument is nearly 300 years old, and said to be worth millions of dollars. From the HERE AND NOW Contributors Network, Mitch Teich of WUWM reports.

MITCH TEICH, BYLINE: The violin known as the Lipinski Stradivarius has been on loan from anonymous benefactors to Milwaukee Symphony concertmaster Frank Almond since 2008. On Monday evening, Almond had just finished a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College, and was walking to his car with the instrument when he was approached in the parking lot. Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn describes what reportedly happened next.

CHIEF EDWARD FLYNN: As he approached his parked car, the suspect used an electronic control device, commonly called a Taser, and struck him, causing him to drop the violin and fall to the ground. The suspect then took the violin and fled in a waiting car, driven by a second suspect.

TEICH: Flynn says investigators aren't certain, but they believe the robber targeted this specific violin, which he says is extremely valuable, but only within a very small community.

FLYNN: This is not something that can be easily sold for even a fraction of its monetary value.

TEICH: The violin was made in Italy in 1715 by Antonio Stradivari, and has passed through several hands in its nearly three centuries of existence. It's been known as the Lipinski Stradivarius since it was owned by Polish virtuoso Karol Lipinski in the 19th century. It had not been played regularly for more than a decade before the loan was made to Frank Almond. Speaking on Milwaukee Public Radio shortly after he took possession, Almond described what made the violin so remarkable to play.

FRANK ALMOND: It gives you options. An instrument like this is so powerful and has so many different kinds of shadings and colors, coupled with a range and an evenness that makes it, I wouldn't say easy, but easier to do what you're trying to do artistically.

TEICH: The shadings, colors and range were all in evidence as Almond demonstrated the Stradivarius in the studio with a performance of Bach's "Partita for solo violin in E Major."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PARTITA FOR SOLO VIOLIN IN E MAJOR")

TEICH: Still, even as Almond made the instrument sing once more, he and others acknowledged the risk of keeping a priceless instrument in circulation. In the same 2008 interview, Chicago violin dealer Stefan Hersh said the issue isn't even the dollar value.

STEFAN HERSH: It's posterity. This is a very finite supply of objects, 600-some-odd Stradivari objects in the world. If one is gone when it's custodially trusted - entrusted to you, and then you have to sort of live with yourself having taken something away from posterity by being irresponsible. Frank understands that. Anybody who has these things understands it. It's more than money.

TEICH: Frank Almond himself said he tried not to think too much about the instrument's value.

ALMOND: If I thought about it all the time, I'd go completely crazy. You know, I got my first really great instrument loaned to me when, I think, I was 11 or 12. You just try not to do anything stupid most of the time. It's like having a small child with you. And other than that, you know, I just sort of go about my life, and I can't really worry about anything out of my control happening.

TEICH: A Milwaukee Symphony spokesman says Frank Almond is recovering from the injuries he sustained in the robbery, but he will not perform with the group this weekend. Milwaukee Police have enlisted the help of the FBI's art crimes unit and Interpol in searching for the culprits. For HERE AND NOW, I'm Mitch Teich, in Milwaukee.

CHAKRABARTI: You're listening to HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 29 6 Comments

Michigan Coach Faces Criticism For Keeping QB In Play

University of Michigan quarterback Shane Morris was having trouble standing on his own after a major sack. The coach kept him in the game.

September 29 26 Comments

Methodist Pastor Faces Last Church Trial

Reverend Frank Schaefer, who was defrocked for officiating his son's same-sex marriage and later reinstated, awaits one more church trial. He writes about the experience in a new memoir.

September 29 7 Comments

Monarch Butterflies Could Be On Rebound

After precipitous declines in the monarch butterfly population, there are signs the species may be on the rebound.

September 26 4 Comments

Dean Of Boston Sports Journalism Celebrates 42 Years On The Job

Here & Now's Robin Young visits the most-beloved sportscaster you've never heard of: Jonny Miller.