This Stradivarius violin was stolen 40 years ago. Now, it’s been revived for the first time.

18 November 2019, 15:39 | Updated: 20 November 2019, 13:11

Polish-born virtuoso Roman Totenberg
Polish-born virtuoso Roman Totenberg. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

Four years ago, this stolen Stradivarius violin was returned to Polish virtuoso Roman Totenberg’s three daughters – and now, it’s being played for the first time.

A 1734 Stradivarius violin, which was stolen four decades ago, has been brought back to life at the crime scene.

The instrument, belonging to Polish-born virtuoso Roman Totenberg, was played by 19-year-old star violinist Nathan Meltzer in a Friday evening concert in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

He played the same music Totenberg had played, minutes before his violin disappeared one night in 1980, in New York.

It turns out the violin, which turned up years later in an attic in California, was stolen by a former student of Totenberg’s.

Read more: What’s so good about Stradivarius violins? >

Stolen Stradivarius brought back to life
Stolen Stradivarius brought back to life. Picture: Getty

After being recovered by the FBI, the Stradivarius was presented to Totenberg’s three daughters four years ago by the US Attorney in Manhattan at the time, Preet Bharara.

Read more: To save the sound of a Stradivarius, this Italian city is keeping quiet >

“Our father would have been so pleased to hear Nathan, a gifted young violinist, breathe life back into the violin,” said Jill Totenberg, who attended the concert with her two sisters, Nina and Amy.

“I felt my father was in that hall listening and smiling,” said Jill.

Totenberg’s three daughters
Totenberg’s three daughters. Picture: Getty

Totenberg, who would call the instrument his ‘partner’, died in 2012 at the age of 101 didn’t live to see his instrument return.

According to his daughter Nina, whenever anyone asked if he thought his violin would ever be found, he said “after I have kicked the bucket”.

The violin is now on long-term loan to Meltzer, who is touring around the world on the instrument. He studies at New York’s Juilliard School with famed violinist and teacher Itzhak Perlman.

At the concert, which was labelled Homecoming – Meltzer played for an audience seated in a circle around him. He played Bach, Beethoven, Bartók and Franck, as well as music by Polish composers Karol Szymanowski and Henryk Wieniawski.

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