The instrument is worth up to $6 million.
The 1715 Lipinski Stradivarius, made by famous violin craftsman Antonio Stradivari, was stolen from Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond on Jan. 27. The Milwaukee Police Department, the FBI and Interpol immediately began searching for the instrument, whose estimated value is up to $6 million.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Almond was leaving a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College when the suspects used a Taser to stun him. He fell and dropped his violin case. The attackers then fled with the instrument. Three suspects have been arrested, according to a Feb. 5 report by Milwaukee-area TV station WISN.
This situation is unusual. Art crimes such as instrument thefts are rarely violent, according to the FBI's website. Plus, the violin cannot easily be sold for even a fraction of its value, says Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn.
Naha Greenholtz, concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, knows Almond and was a member of the Milwaukee Symphony's first violin section.
"My heart really goes out to Frank, not only for the violence that was done to him, but for the terrible loss of such a remarkable instrument, she says. "I've heard that fiddle many times in concert, and it lives up to the hype -- spectacular, especially in the hands of an amazing artist like Frank.
Greenholtz says urban performance venues may provide an extra layer of protection for musicians.
"Where Frank's violin was stolen is in a quiet suburban area, she says. "I think that something like this, however unlikely, is more likely to happen in an area like that than, say, in downtown Madison, where it is well lit with lots of people around.
So how safe are musicians going to or from concerts at night? Greenholtz says she has always felt safe in and around Madison's Overture Center, but she will probably clutch her violin case a little tighter than normal.
Almond is reportedly in good condition, but it is not yet clear if the violin was damaged. Though the instrument is probably heavily insured, the public could lose the transformative sound Almond elicited from it. There's no insurance to cover that.