Bienen lecturer doing well after attack, hopes to find stolen 300-year-old violin


Source: Facebook

A 300-year-old Stradivarius violin on loan to Bienen lecturer Frank Almond was stolen Monday night after he performed at Wisconsin Lutheran College in Milwaukee. The violin could be worth seven figures, according to Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn.

Ally Mutnick, Campus Editor

Bienen lecturer Frank Almond is recovering well but remains “heartbroken” following the theft of a nearly 300-year-old Stradivarius violin in Milwaukee on Monday night, University spokesman Al Cubbage said. 

Almond, the concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, was leaving a concert at Wisconsin Lutheran College when he was attacked with a stun gun, fell to the ground and robbed of the violin, Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn said at a news conference Tuesday. 

Cubbage received an email from Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music Dean Toni-Marie Montgomery, who reached out to Almond this week.

“She had been in touch with him and he was obviously shaken up but physically OK,” he said. “She said he was heartbroken, which makes sense.”

On his Facebook page Thursday, Almond posted a picture of the stolen violin with a plea for its return. The violin, known as the Lipinski Stradivarius, was built in 1715 in Italy. At the news conference, Flynn said the violin could be worth seven figures.

Milwaukee Police had no new information to share in the case Thursday, Lt. Mark Stanmeyer said, calling the case the most high profile robbery “in recent memories.”

Almond left a public message on his Facebook page Wednesday thanking friends for their support. 

“It’s been a challenging week so far,” he wrote. “Your comments and postings have meant a great deal to me. Thank you all again, and I hope at some point I can post better news.”

Almond is part of a Grammy-nominated chamber group called An die Musik and directs the Frankly Music Chamber Series in Milwaukee. He had just finished playing a concert for the series Monday when he was attacked walking back from his car. The Stradivarius was on loan to Almond from anonymous donors.

According to his website, he will leave NU in 2014 and join the faculty of Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University. Almond came to NU in 2010 and is currently teaching this quarter. 

Bienen professors said the community was shocked after learning about the robbery and felt badly about the loss of a rare and valuable instrument.

“Stradivarius, they are beautifully made,” said Gerardo Ribeiro, a Bienen violin professor and a colleague of Almond. “They are absolutely masterpieces. What makes it beautiful is the sound, the quality of sound.”

Professors noted the unique markings on the violin and its rarity mean it will be hard to sell on the black market. Any violin expert could easily identify it as the missing Stradivarius.

In the news conference, Flynn said the violins can be targets for theft because they are so rare. Another Stradivarius violin was stolen from Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1936. It was not found until more than 50 years later. 

Though Ribeiro said he felt badly about the theft, he is mainly hoping Almond is doing better.

“I’m more concerned about him,” he said. “A human being is much more important than the instrument.”

Bienen Prof. Almita Vamos, who also teaches violin, has a studio near Almond and said she knew he had a Stradivarius.

She compared the loss of the instrument to the loss of a famous painting. For a musician, she said, an instrument is irreplaceable.

“This is his life’s work,” Vamos said of Almond. “You get it to play a certain way and you develop a relationship with this instrument. It’s a tragedy.”

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