Legendary stolen Stradivarius violin found after 35 years

A 1729 Stradivarius violin
(Image credit: Don Emmert/Getty Images)

This cold case hit all the right notes.

More than three decades ago, in May 1980, violin virtuoso Roman Totenberg's Ames Stradivarius violin was stolen from his office at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The antique instrument, which was made in 1734, was valued at $250,000 at the time, and would likely sell for millions of dollars today.

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The violin's disappearance was a "crushing loss" for Totenberg, who called the violin his "musical partner of 38 years," according to NPR's Nina Totenberg, who is his daughter. Though Totenberg dreamed of opening his case and finding his Stradivarius there, he unfortunately never got the chance to see his beloved instrument again before his death in 2012. But at last, the Ames Stradivarius has finally been found, and is being restored and returned to the Totenberg family.

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The New York Times has more on the discovery:

Stolen Stradivarius violins are hard to sell because they are so recognizable. This one turned up, Ms. Totenberg said, after a California woman met with an appraiser in New York in June with a violin she said she had inherited from her late ex-husband."The appraiser looks at her and says, 'Well, I have some good news and some bad news,'" Ms. Totenberg said. "'The good news is that this is a real Stradivarius. And the bad news is it was stolen, 35, 36 years ago from Roman Totenberg, and I have to report it right away.' And within two hours, two agents from the F.B.I. art theft team were there." [The New York Times]

After the violin is restored, Nina Totenberg says her family plans to sell the Strad so that a musician can make use of the legendary instrument once again. "We're going to make sure that it's in the hands of another great artist who will play it in concert halls all over the world," Totenberg told the Times. "All of us feel very strongly that the voice has been stilled for too long."

Read or listen to Totenberg's full story at NPR.

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Samantha Rollins

Samantha Rollins is TheWeek.com's news editor. She has previously worked for The New York Times and TIME and is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.