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Owner of stolen 1715 Stradivarius violin releases statement

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MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The owner of the 1715 Lipinski Stradivarius violin that was stolen from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond released a statement on Monday, February 3rd.

The theft of the Stradivarius violin occurred on Monday, January 27th around 10:20 p.m. during an armed robbery of Almond following a concert at the Wisconsin Lutheran College.

The entire statement as written to Almond and posted on his website, reads as follows:

Due to my devastation at the attack on you, Frank, and the theft of the violin, I feel compelled to write this. First, I’m so happy that you are safe. I speak to your many friends, whose responses to this event have been so touching. It has been my joy and privilege to own the Lipinski Stradivari in recent years. I have thought of myself more as a guardian of a treasure than an owner, a treasure that needs to be seen and heard. It has been in my family for over five decades, deeply loved and used in performance across the world. 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. It was a joy for me to feel so welcomed by Frank to write some of the historical essays for the website of “A Violin’s Life.” All this he has done in exemplary, energetic fashion and for all of it I am grateful. I am even more grateful that his terrible experience on the night of Jan. 27 did not result in permanent injury. I had left the concert hall just a few minutes earlier and thinking of what then happened so quickly is very painful.

1715 Lipinski Stradivarius violion

1715 Lipinski Stradivarius violion

As a child overhearing long, expert practice sessions on the Lipinski, I didn’t realize that it was exceptional. To me, that was just how violins sounded. Understanding its capabilities came later: the pure, strong voice, clear, light and dancing, dark, brooding, poignant, tender, ebullient, expressing any emotion the player was feeling. Its loss is devastating.

Perhaps it’s appropriate to say also that I’m not part of any upper echelon, musical or other, 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.

I am very grateful for all the help given by the Milwaukee Police and other law enforcement organizations, the MSO, and those who are offering the reward. If anyone knows anything and can help, I appeal to them to come forward.

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


Meanwhile, the FBI says whoever stole the violin is now stuck. With international officials looking for it, the thieves may be saying "now what?"

The FBI says it would be nearly impossible for someone to sell the violin for anywhere near $6 million.

"Stealing an item that's very valuable is one thing. Some may argue it's the easier thing to do. The harder thing to do is to sell that item," FBI Agent David Bass said.

Bass is one of 14 FBI agents in the country who works on arts crimes. He is based in Milwaukee -- and it is his job to make sure a rare, stolen item is put on databases so dealers and auction houses know its stolen.

"In the beginning, it might seem like a great idea, but most of the time after they've done the crime and they can't get a profit for it, the chances of getting a fraction of the value of the item is very remote," Bass said.

A $100,000 reward is now being offered to anyone who can provide information which results in the safe return of the stolen Stradivarius violin.

Tips or leads can be directed to the Milwaukee Police Department at 414-935-7360 or to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at 414-226-7838.

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  • Joey

    Isn’t there a law against carrying around something so rare and valuable? I work for a bank and we’d never consider allowing a customer just “walk” out with 6 million cash. As a matter a fact a customer purchased a rare gem and they arranged for an armored car to come transport it. I feel sorry for the guy but come on, it’s a “6 million” dollar violin, is there not any care that gets considered when transporting?

    • greg

      There are no laws that says a person can’t walk out of a bank with 6 million in cash. Most banks wont have that much in cash that they can give, and most bank policies will likely not allow it unless certain things are met (such as security, advance notice to gather the funds, etc). The point of that is to prevent armed robbery/theft.

      In the case of this violin, you would be suprized at how many insturments people play that are worth upwards of 100,000$. The theft of such instruments is rare simply because selling them is difficult (market is small, risk is high, etc). Had it just been a real nice violin or other instrument that doesn’t have a famous name associated with it, they could likely make thier money and walk with minimal risk. Because its a famous violin they either A) have a buyer already (and with likely less then a 50K reward) and dropped it off, or B) they are a bunch of idiots and it will likely disappear forever.

      Considering what they were driving (the most popular crappy minivan that is very common on the north side), where the case was found (on the north side), once again they are either really smart (misdirecting the attention to get people to think it was crime done by someone that lives in the north side) or really stupid (actually live on the north side). All things considered there is no worth for that violin over a few thousand to anyone in the area the case was found. So like I said, either they were paid by someone to get it, or they are really stupid and didn’t think anything through. Clearly they came prepared and knew exactly what they were going after, so I would take a guess and say they know exactly what they were doing and exactly what it could be worth. It just comes down to if they have a buyer or not. If they didn’t have a buyer the violin might be recovered. If they did, its unlikely it will ever be seen again.

    • Mary

      No there is no law against carrying something like this that is valuable. As a matter of fact my daughter who has been playing for years now, has a violin that is worth a lot of money borrowed to her by a master. It’s very common that as the better you get at playing, you upgrade your violin to meet your skill. Having a Stradivarius violin borrowed to you, or even owning one is a violinists dream, so why hide it from the world. It has a sound like no other violin in the world!!

  • Desi

    It’s not about if there’s a law or not, it’s common sense. Why would you put yourself….as well as the instrument at risk…..knowing that there are crazy people out here that do this very thing for a living? Luckily, the concert master didn’t loose his life. Hopefully, the Stradivarius will be found safe

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