Rare violins usually have a tale to tell and the “Ames, Totenberg” Stradivari is no exception. The instrument, which hails from 1734, currently sports two names: that of George Ames, an English banker, shipping agent and violinist who was briefly its owner for seven years at the end of the 19th century, now coupled with that of Professor Roman Totenberg, a 20th-century virtuoso and teacher who bought it for $15,000 (USD) in 1960 and died in 2012 at the age of 101. Perhaps its most notorious claim to fame, however, was its theft in 1980 from Totenberg’s office at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Lost for 35 years, it only re-emerged in 2015 when the thief’s former wife decided to hand it over to the FBI. At that point, Totenberg’s daughters decided the best idea was to have it restored. They would then sell it, though they were keen that it should go to a musician and not wind up admired but un-played in a private collection. Thanks to Rare Violins of New York, the instrument was sold for more than $5 million (USD) to an anonymous buyer on condition it was lent to an aspiring young...

This article is available to Limelight subscribers.

Log in to continue reading.

Access our paywalled content and archive of magazines, regular news and features for the limited offer of $3 per month. Support independent journalism.

Subscribe now