$5M Stradivarius violin recovered in Milwaukee, mayor says

Stradivarius violin

In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. (AP/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra)

$5M Stradivarius violin recovered in Milwaukee, mayor says

Associated Press

MILWAUKEE –  The mystery of what happened to a multimillion-dollar Stradivarius violin stolen in a stun gun attack was answered Thursday when Milwaukee police recovered the instrument and blamed the heist at least in part on an art thief who once stole a statue from a gallery and then tried to sell it back.

The violin, which was built in 1715 by the renowned Italian luthier Antonio Stradivari and valued at $5 million, was found hidden in a suitcase in the attic of a man who police said was unaware the instrument was in his home.

Three people have been arrested in the case, and Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said there was no evidence of other “shadowy” figures from the art world behind the theft.

“It appears we had a local criminal who had an interest in art theft and was smart enough to develop a plan for a robbery,” Flynn said. “Beyond that, we don’t know what his motive was.”

The violin, which police said appeared to be in good condition, was stolen late last month from a concert violinist who was shocked with a stun gun. His attacker grabbed the violin and hopped into a waiting vehicle.

Police traced the stun gun to Universal Knowledge Allah, a 36-year-old barber, while a citizen’s tip led them to Salah Jones, the 41-year-old man convicted of stealing a $25,000 statue from a gallery at Milwaukee’s posh Pfister Hotel in 1995. Officers had the men under surveillance before arresting them Monday, along with a 32-year-old woman police have not yet identified.

Police also have not said what role each suspect had in the heist.

Milwaukee District Attorney John Chisholm said Thursday that he expected to charge at least one of the suspects Friday. He said charges were delayed while prosecutors negotiated with one suspect for the return of the violin.

The suspect led police Wednesday night to the home of an acquaintance, who had allowed the suspect to store a suitcase in his attic.

It’s not clear what the suspects planned to do with the violin. Such high-value instruments are almost always well-documented with photographs and easily identified, said David Bonsey, a New York-based violin maker and appraiser who appears on the Public Broadcasting Service’s “Antiques Roadshow.”

“There’s virtually no place that a violin like this can be taken and fenced,” Bonsey said. “You can’t take it to a pawn shop.”

Some art collectors will buy stolen objects that they keep hidden for their own enjoyment, Bonsey said. But Flynn said there was no indication in this case of “shadowy figures in the art world that were trying to purchase this” violin.

The violin, known in musical circles as the “Lipinski” Stradivarius because it was once played by Polish violinist Karol Lipinski, has been appraised for insurance purposes at $5 million.

It has value as a musical instrument and as a work of art, Bonsey said.

The violin is “part of a body of work from someone whose work just cannot be imitated,” he said. “A lot of people do sculptures, but there’s only one Michelangelo and there’ll never be another one. There’s never going to be another Stradivarius.”

Experts estimate 600 to 650 Stradivarius instruments remain — about half of what the master produced.

One of the most famous is the Gibson Strad, now owned by virtuoso Joshua Bell. It was stolen from Carnegie Hall in 1936 and not found until the violinist who stole it died in the 1980s.

FBI special agent David Bass, an expert in art crime, said Stradivarius thefts are reported every few years but most instruments are found — some quickly and in good condition.

A Stradivarius stolen from a South Korean musician in 2010 while she ate at a London sandwich shop was found about three years later at a property in central England. Three people were convicted in that theft.

The Lipinski Stradivarius was taken from Frank Almond, concertmaster for the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, as he walked to his car after a Jan. 27 performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

Mark Niehaus, the orchestra’s president and executive director, said the instrument appeared in good shape, but Almond, who also teaches music at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., was out of town and still needed to inspect it.

The violin was on loan to Almond by its owner. Such arrangements are common in classical music in part because most artists can’t afford instruments worth millions of dollars. The owners benefit as well because use keeps the instruments in good shape and can add to their value.

“When famous people play these instruments it builds what we call the instrument’s provenance,” Bonsey said. “It adds to the value of the instrument down the road.”

Mystery Surrounds Theft of Stradivarius Violin

Franz Sandner Violin - Strad Model

MILWAUKEE February 5, 2014 (AP) By DINESH RAMDE Associated Press

Violin virtuoso Frank Almond was walking to his car after an evening performance at the Wisconsin Lutheran College when someone jumped out of a van, shocked him with a stun gun and seized the rare and extremely valuable Stradivarius on loan to him.

The robber got back into the waiting vehicle, which sped off.

Almond, who’d been knocked to the ground, wasn’t seriously hurt. But he was devastated by the loss of the violin, which was crafted in 1715 and has been appraised for insurance purposes at $5 million.

The brazen Jan. 27 crime set off a frantic search and raised questions about why someone would steal an item that would be nearly impossible to sell. Would-be buyers in the tiny market for rare violins would certainly know it was stolen, and keeping it in hiding would mean never getting to show it off.

The case in which Almond kept the instrument was found, and the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced someone was offering $100,000 for the instrument’s safe return. But there weren’t any breaks in the robbery until this week, when prosecutors confirmed Wednesday that three people had been arrested in connection with the theft.

Kent Lovern, a Milwaukee County assistant district attorney, said he couldn’t reveal any information beyond the arrests. He said he didn’t expect a charging decision would be made before Thursday.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether the violin had been recovered. Police would say only that the investigation was ongoing.

The violin is known in musical circles as the “Lipinski” Stradivarius. Its previous owners include virtuoso Giuseppe Tartini, who was known for his “Devil’s Trill” Sonata, and Polish violinist Karol Lipinski.

It was passed down through generations, eventually landing with the heirs of Estonian violinist Evi Liivak, according to Stefan Hersh a Chicago-based violin curator who helped restore it to playing condition after it was removed from storage in a bank vault in 2008. The current owner’s name has not been revealed publicly.

Hersh, a friend of Almond’s, said he used to watch how carefully Almond would care for the violin. While some musicians see their instruments as objects or tools, Almond understood the historical significance of the Lipinski, Hersh said.

“He had a special case made for it, he kept it highly protected in his car, he never let it out of his sight,” Hersh said. “As a performer nothing shakes him, but after the theft he was highly shaken. I’ve never known him like that.”

A message left for Almond through the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday. Police have asked that he not speak to the media while the investigation was going on.

Hersh said Almond had scars on his wrist and chest from the stun gun but otherwise wasn’t seriously hurt.

Hersh said he couldn’t sleep after he heard about the theft. He was worried the violin would be damaged, but the more he thought about it the more he suspected the thieves would take pains to protect their spoils.

“You’d have to think someone who thought this through with such meticulous planning would take good care of it,” he said.

Estimates vary for the number of Stradivarius violins that still exist, said Lisbeth Butler, the secretary of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. Most experts believe that 600 to 650 remain, she said.

———

Dinesh Ramde can be reached at dramde@ap.org.

Stolen Stradivarius violin owner relieved Frank Almond not badly hurt

Frank Almond plays the Lipinski Stradivarius in 2008.

Alison Sherwood Frank Almond plays the Lipinski Stradivarius in 2008

Stolen Stradivarius violin’s owner relieved Frank Almond not badly hurt

The owner of a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin stolen from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond during an armed robbery last week has released a statement expressing relief that Almond was not permanently injured in the attack.

Almond posted the owner’s statement in his Non Divisi column online at her request.

“Due to my devastation at the attack on you, Frank, and the theft of the violin, I feel compelled to write this,” the owner writes. “First, I’m so happy that you are safe.”

“Frank, I could never have guessed that after all you have done, you would be physically attacked. I’m so sorry.”

Almond was mugged in the parking lot at Wisconsin Lutheran College Jan. 27 after performing a Frankly Music concert. The robber attacked Almond with a stun gun and fled with the instrument.

The violin is known as the Lipinski Strad in reference to a former owner, the great Polish violinist Karol Lipinski. It was crafted in 1715 in Cremona, Italy. During a news conference following the robbery, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn called the rare violin “priceless” and characterized its value as in the “high seven figures.”

A $100,000 rewardhas been offered for information that results in the safe return of the violin.

Since Almond began playing the Lipinski Strad publicly in 2008, the owner has requested anonymity, though she signs her note “Char.” She describes herself as “just a person who loved her family violin with all its memories and three hundred years of history more than the many opportunities to sell it. My heart is broken.”

She thanks Almond for the public stewardship of the instrument:

“As a non-violinist, non-public figure, it has felt more natural to me to remain relatively anonymous. Not expecting the violin to participate in this tendency, I had the good fortune to find Frank to take loving care of it every day and to use his musicality and virtuosity to express his vision with its glorious voice. That he was concertmaster of the MSO was especially appropriate, as another goal was to give Milwaukee the gift of being able to hear the violin frequently. He has also acted as its human face and voice, giving interviews exploring his thoughts and feelings on getting to know this violin. He has put remarkable effort, talent and enthusiasm into making the first modern recordings of the Lipinski.”

Several of Almond’s friends, including MSO president Mark Niehaus, have described the violinist as very cautious about the security of the Lipinski Strad.

The owner also expressed gratitude to the Milwaukee Police Department and other law enforcement agencies, and to the MSO itself, and appealed to anyone who knows anything about the robbery to come forward.

Anyone with information on the violin or the robbery is asked to call Milwaukee police at (414) 935-7360. People who wish to remain anonymous can call the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at (414) 226-7838.

Stradivarius violin missing for 3 years sells for $2.3 million

Stradivarius

The 1696 Stradivarius violin that was stolen in 2010 from a train station in London has sold at auction for $2.3 million. (British Transport Police / EPA)

Stradivarius violin missing for 3 years sells for $2.3 million

By David NgDecember 19, 2013, 10:02 a.m.

A Stradivarius violin that was stolen from a London rail station in 2010 and recovered in July has sold for £1.4 million ($2.3 million) at an auction this week. The instrument, which dates from 1696, had belonged to violinist Min Jin Kym.

The auction house Tarisio, which specializes in stringed instruments, sold the violin on Wednesday. The selling price fell short of the £2-million estimate from the auction house. The new owner hasn’t been identified, but reports in the British press say that it is a British music festival led by an English violinist.

The instrument was stolen from Kym at London’s Euston station in November 2010. An international search took a number of twists, including the recovery of an instrument in Bulgaria that turned out to be a replica.

ART: Can you guess the high price?

Officials announced the successful recovery of the instrument in July. A man and two teenagers were arrested in connection to the theft in 2011, but the instrument wasn’t recovered until two years later. The thieves had tried to sell the instrument for a mere £100.

Kym has acquired another violin since the recovery of the 1696 instrument. In a release from the auction house, the soloist said: “This violin was a faithful friend for many years and I was devastated by its loss. Its recovery is an absolute relief and I am eager to hear the violin onstage once more and I wish its next owner all the best of luck and success.”

Some of the proceeds from the sale of the instrument will go toward benefiting the authorities who were instrumental in recovering the violin, according to the auction house.

http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-stradivarius-violin-missing-20131219,0,6291202.story#ixzz2o7fpZfZd

How can musicians afford to buy such expensive violins?

How can musicians afford to buy such expensive violins?

Posted byTuesday 22 October 2013 13.48 EDT The Guardian

The price of a really good violin such as a Stradivarius can reach millions of pounds. Which is where wealthy benefactors and charitable trusts step in

Min-Jin Kym plays her antique Stradivarius violin

Min-Jin Kym plays her antique Stradivarius violin. Photograph: National News and Pictures

Three years ago, a Stradivarius on loan to acclaimed violinist Min-Jin Kym was stolen from Pret a Manger at Euston station, London. Kym was devastated to lose the instrument – then valued at £1.2m – a “faithful friend” she had been playing since her teens. Tuesday’s reports that the violin, which was recovered this summer, could fetch £2m at auction in December underline how eye-wateringly expensive violin ownership has become.

“Not many musicians – even very successful ones – could afford to buy a really fine violin,” says Simon Morris at J&A Beare, a specialist dealer whose past clients include Nigel Kennedy and Yehudi Menuhin. That’s where wealthy benefactors step in: “Often, an investor with an interest in the arts will buy an instrument and lend it to them. It’s a very satisfying symbiotic relationship. As well as the financial investment, they benefit from a personal relationship with the player, from the satisfaction of asking them to play private concerts for their friends.” Loans are brokered through philanthropic organisations such as the Chicago-based Stradivari Society, and through introduction forums including Beare’s own International Violin Society. “This is a market driven by need,” continues Morris. “Players will be extremely persuasive in trying to find and convince an investor to fund their instrument.”

While the glamour and financial returns of lending instruments to international soloists appeals to wealthy investors, it’s a different story for most professional musicians, half of whom earn less than £20,000 a year from music, according to the Musicians’ Union. This is a particular issue for string players: unlike pianos, brass and wind instruments, the supply is finite, as the best cellos, violas and violins are hundreds of years old. Prices have been steadily rocketing for decades: far away from Stradivarius and Guarneris, £30,000 is a common starting point for a professional instrument. So musicians scrabble to raise funds through colleges, trusts and charities, who allocate limited grants to young musicians whose careers seem likely to flourish.

The leader of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Laurence Jackson, counts himself fortunate. As a student, he borrowed a violin from his college. After he graduated, in 1989, he was able to borrow more than £30,000 from a charitable trust, The Loan Fund for Musical Instruments. He believes that was “one of the biggest loans they had ever given, at the time”, and the interest rate was so low that he was able to pay it back and buy the instrument outright: “I don’t know how young musicians do it today,” he says. “Even if they are loaned an instrument the insurance alone can cost them thousands of pounds a year.” Morris – who has heard of musicians remortgaging their houses to pay for instruments – agrees: “there’s a funding gap. Musicians are terribly underpaid – so underpaid that they have become the sponsors of music in this country.”

As for the few who do own fine instruments, they really are the lucky ones: “They tend to make more money from owning the violin than playing it,” says Morris. “That’s what funds their retirement in the end.”