A Stradivarius, stolen and missing for 35 years, once again thrills audiences


A stolen Stradivarius is back thrilling audiences with its sweet sounds after being missing for 35 years.

The 'Ames Stradivarius' was bought by renowned virtuoso violinist Roman Totenberg in 1943. It was made by Antonio Stradivari in 1734.

Totenberg's former student Mira Wang had the honor of giving the first concert performance with the instrument since it was stolen from Totenberg's dressing room in 1980.

"It means a great deal to me that I can use the violin, to be the first one who would bring it to the public. I often think of Roman and think about, he's looking at me from above. And so there's a complication in the emotions, there's a pressure, there's joy, there is a lot of sorrow that he could never see this or hear this and I wish he was with us," said violinist and Roman Totenberg's former student, Mira Wang.

Totenberg had a long and distinguished career performing on the world's greatest concert stages. He never saw the instrument again and passed away in 2012 at the age of 101.

In 2015, the lost violin was finally recovered. Philip Johnson, also a former student of Totenberg, died in 2011 and left the instrument to his wife who took the violin to a specialist who immediately recognized it for what it was: the valuable Stradivarius that had been stolen 35 years earlier.

Totenberg's daughters Jill, Nina and Amy, say that while the final decision on what to do with the violin is still being worked out, the choice of Wang to give the first concert with the instrument was a choice they all agreed with.

"We call Mira our fourth sister. She was my father's protégé. He's certainly had many beloved students but she was so close and to all of us, to him, and this is just the most wonderful extension of his playing," said Roman Totenberg's daughter, Amy Totenberg.

The daughters say the sound of the Stradivarius brings back their late father's presence.

"Another reincarnation, there's no doubt. But there were also times when we have been so moved we've cried and I'm sure all three of us will cry at some point and have to really sort of pull ourselves together, or not pull ourselves together," added Roman Totenberg's daughter, Jill Totenberg.

Around 550 Stradivarius instruments remain in existence. One violin sold for a record $15.9 million (USD) at auction in 2011.