After 35 years, Music Lovers Again Hear a Rare Violin

16 March, 2017

A valuable musical instrument was played recently in its first public performance since being rediscovered in 2015.

The instrument, a Stradivarius violin, had been stolen and was missing for 35 years.

The violin has a long history. It was made in the 18th Century.

Later, the instrument belonged to Roman Totenberg, a Polish-born virtuoso violinist. He died before the violin was rediscovered.

Now, the violin belongs to one of his daughters and its sound is again being heard.

The Ames Stradivarius which belonged to renowned violinist Roman Totenberg.
The Ames Stradivarius which belonged to renowned violinist Roman Totenberg.

This week, one of Totenberg's former students, Mira Wang, played the instrument for the first time since its rediscovery. She spoke about her teacher, the violin's former owner.

"I think Roman was one of the most important men I have met as a teacher, and also he was almost like a mentor to me. And I came from China, I didn't know anybody, and he took me really in as a student and into his family."

Totenberg's three daughters all agreed that Mira Wang should perform with the Stradivarius. Amy Totenberg says the former student was close to her father.

"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."

Antonio Stradivari made the instrument in 1734.

Roman Totenberg played the violin for almost 40 years. He performed on many famous concert stages around the world. Totenberg died in 2012 at the age of 101.

The Stradivarius was taken from his dressing room after a show. Daughter Nina Totenberg remembers what happened.

"He was greeting well-wishers afterwards and when he turned around to go back and get the violin, it was gone. And they found the case thrown down the stairs in the place where the concert had been and they called the police and the FBI came."

The disappearance of the violin remained a mystery for 35 years.

Then, the former wife of the man who stole the instrument tried to sell it to a violin specialist who identified it. The former husband had once been a student of Totenberg.

In 2015, the Stradivarius was returned to Totenberg's three daughters. They had it restored to playing condition.

Wang said it was an honor to be the first to play the violin again.

"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. 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."

The Totenberg sisters say they will sell the violin to a performer or a group. They want the instrument to again be heard by listeners around the world.

Rare instruments also are musical treasures. In 2011, a Stradivarius violin sold for more than $15 million.

I'm Mario Ritter.

Deborah Block reported this story for VOANews. Mario Ritter adapted her report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.


Words in This Story

mentor – n. a teacher or someone who helps and gives advice to someone who is less experienced

protégé – n. a student who is taught and helped by someone with experience

virtuoso – n. a skilled musical performer; one skilled in or having a taste for fine arts

restore – v. to repair; to bring back into existence or use