Stolen Stradi­var­ius found af­ter decades comes to life again

The Reporter (Lansdale, PA) - - LOCAL NEWS -

NEW YORK >> The Stradi­var­ius stolen from the late vi­o­lin­ist Ro­man Toten­berg and mirac­u­lously found more than three decades later has a new life — un­der the chin of a bud­ding 18-yearold vir­tu­oso.

On Tues­day in New York, his three daugh­ters pre­sented the mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar in­stru­ment on long-term loan to Juil­liard stu­dent Nathan Meltzer.

Jill Toten­berg says she and her sis­ters, Nina and Amy, “can now go to lis­ten to our fa­ther” — as if the Pol­ish-born Amer­i­can vi­o­lin­ist were play­ing again.

“And once again, the beau­ti­ful, bril­liant and throaty voice of that long-stilled vi­o­lin will thrill au­di­ences in con­cert halls around the world,” says Nina Toten­berg, who with her sis­ters joined Meltzer at Rare Vi­olins of New York, a world-class dealer that re­stored Toten­berg’s vi­o­lin af­ter years of ne­glect.

The 18th cen­tury in­stru­ment was snatched in 1980 from Toten­berg’s dress­ing room af­ter a con­cert in Cam­bridge, Mass­a­chu­setts. It was re­cov­ered in 2015, af­ter his death, among a former stu­dent’s be­long­ings. The man’s ex-wife dis­cov­ered it and tried to sell it, not know­ing it had been stolen un­til an ex­pert con­tacted the FBI.

The decades­long theft saga ended when then-U.S. At­tor­ney Preet Bharara in Man­hat­tan re­turned the in­stru­ment to the Toten­berg fam­ily fa­mil­iar with it since they were chil­dren.

“It was there when I was born,” said Nina Toten­berg, the le­gal af­fairs cor­re­spon­dent for Na­tional Pub­lic Ra­dio.

An anony­mous bene­fac­tor then pur­chased it and made sure the pub­lic would again hear its sound.

The so-called “Ames” Stradi­var­ius — named af­ter a pre­vi­ous owner —”is one of the most fan­tas­tic ex­am­ples of the late work of An­to­nio Stradi­vari; it’s a large in­stru­ment, so it needs some­body who is strong yet gen­tle to play it,” said Bruno Price, the co-founder of Rare Vi­olins. “You need to have the strength to pull out the full sound, but you can’t crush it.”

A strap­ping, 6-foot teenager, Meltzer meets those cri­te­ria, said Price, adding, “He says the vi­o­lin is wak­ing up as he plays it.”

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