Owner of stolen 1715 Stradivarius violin releases statement

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

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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