Stolen Stradivarius played again after 36 years

People can listen again to a Stradivarius that disappeared 36 years ago.

The valuable instrument belonged to violin virtuoso Roman Totenberg and was stolen from his dressing room in Massachusetts after a concert in 1980.

Philip Johnson, a former pupil of his, was a suspect but was never charged due to a lack of evidence. The violin only appeared in 2015 when his ex-wife had it appraised and it was instantly recognised as Totenberg’s Stradivarius.

Totenberg died in 2012 age 101 and did not live to hear his beloved instrument again. This made the performance of his former student Mira Wang, who played it at a private concert, particularly emotional. Totenberg’s daughters said she was the “fourth sister” because she was so close to the Totenberg family and especially her teacher. A few days before his death, Mira Wang travelled to Newton, Massachusetts, to play the violin at his bedside.

Amongst the audience in a private club were Totenberg’s three daughters as well as as FBI agent Christopher McKeough who was involved in the recovery of the instrument.

Today only about 500 violins made by Antonio Stradivarius, who died in 1737, survived. His instruments are extremely rare and valuable and can be worth millions.

The sisters said that they are planning to sell their father’s violin but wanted to make sure that it did not end up with a wealthy collector but in the hands of a musician who will actually play it.

Jenny Bui
Jenny Bui

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