Friday, February 7, 2014

SPECIAL: Stolen 1715 Stradivarius is Recovered

The following story was written by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Peter Galloway and Cynthia Osterman of Reuters News Service.

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - A rare Stradivarius violin worth millions of dollars that was stolen from a concert violinist in an armed robbery last week has been recovered from a Milwaukee residence, law enforcement officials said on Thursday.

Authorities discovered the prized string instrument inside a suitcase in the attic of a home on the city's south side late Wednesday night, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said during a news conference at police headquarters.

The recovery of the violin came after the arrest on Monday of three unidentified suspects, one of whom police said has a history of stealing art in Milwaukee. "At this point it appears we have a local criminal, who was very much interested in art theft and who was smart enough to identify this as a valuable instrument," Flynn said.

The violin (pictured above) -- which is valued at $5 million -- was taken from Milwaukee Symphony concertmaster Frank Almond during an armed robbery on Jan. 27. Robbers used a stun gun on the violinist after a concert at Wisconsin Lutheran College in
suburban Milwaukee, according to reports. Almond (pictured above playing the Strad. during a Milwaukee Symphony Concert) was not injured in the theft.  One of the three suspects arrested on Monday could be charged as soon as Friday, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm said. Chisholm did not say whether the other two suspects would be charged.  Police traced the stun gun allegedly used in the robbery back to one of the trio of suspects, Flynn said.

The owner of the house where the instrument was found told authorities that one of the suspects had asked to leave the suitcase there and the homeowner agreed, unaware of what was inside, according to Flynn.  One of the suspects served time for stealing a $25,000 sculpture from an art gallery in 1995 and trying to sell it back to the owner four years later, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. Almond said in a statement he looked forward to having it back in his hands as soon as possible.

"We have very strong confidence that the violin is fine," said Mark Niehaus, the president and executive director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.  The violin has a fair replacement value of $5 million for insurance purposes, according to Darnton & Hersh Fine Violins, the designated curator of the instrument when it was loaned to Almond in 2008 by its owner.

The full article can be found at:;_ylt=A0LEVyhuLPRS7lEAI5BXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTB0dWMwNjFsBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA01BUDAwNV8x

What Is It That Makes a Stradivarius So Great?

The following is excerpted from an article by Emma Saunders of BBC News:

Over the years, various theories have been touted in a bid to find out why a Stradi- varius produces such brilliant sound quality. Antonio Stradivari is (pictured, above) considered to be the most distinguished craftsman of the instrument. Born in 1644, he established his workshop in Cremona, Italy, and remained there until his death in 1737.  He made over 1,000 violins, violas and violoncellos, and was commissioned by King James II and King Charles III of Spain. It is believed that around 650 of these instruments have survived. His best violins and instruments were made during what is considered his golden period from 1700-1725. His most famous violins include the 1715 Lipinski and the 1716 Messiah.

Opinions Differ As To the WHY???

But there is still considerable debate about why the violins made by Stradivari sound superior to modern-day instruments.  In 2003, scientists from Columbia and Tennessee universities in the US claimed reduced solar activity in the 17th Century may be the reason for the Stradivarius sound.
They said the colder winters and cooler summers at the time produced slower tree growth which in turn led to denser wood with superior acoustical properties - circumstances not repeated since. In 2006, other US researchers said they believed a Stradivarius owed its distinct sound to a chemical treatment designed to kill woodworm and fungi.  And it was once argued that Stradivari and others used wood from ancient churches, or that they added a mysterious ingredient to the wood, or used techniques that have since been lost.  Some have focused on the type of varnish used on the instruments. Pictured above are some of the labels found inside Stradivarius violins.

But many of today's violin-makers have been unimpressed by such theories, putting the quality down to pure genius on Stradivari's part.  The Cambridge Companion to the Violin states that the structure of a Stradivarius is key, noting the flatter shape and the shape of the plates (the panels that make up the front and back of the violin). Ariane Todes, editor of The Strad magazine, concurs:  "They don't all sound fantastic but a good one that's been set up properly - the thickening of the wooden plate, the movement of the sound post and bass bar - sounds fantastic," she says. Dr Jon Whiteley, a curator at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, which houses the famous Messiah Stradivarius agrees the quality "depends heavily on the shape of the instrument."  He explains that Stradivari's challenge was to produce both expressive sound and the volume needed for large concert halls.  Prior to the period when Stradivari was honing his craft, violin performances were usually confined to small venues such as private parties and were often used in quartets for chamber music, which did not require a huge sound. "Stradivari came through, he proved a match for the new music being made," says Dr Whiteley.  "All his life he was searching for the ideal shape."

The full  article by Ms. Saunders can be found at :

The image of Mr. Almond can be found at:,0,3879050.story#axzz2saRYnQRm 

The two images with the article can be found at:

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