Music News & Info: Classical

Frank Almond, Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster, recovering after being assaulted and robbed of “Lipinski” Stradivarius

Frank Almond and "Lipinski" Stradivarius

Violinist Frank Almond, Concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, was assaulted late Monday evening, Jan 27, following a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College.  According to a report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn stated at a news conference Tuesday that Mr. Almond was attacked with a stun gun and robbed of the instrument he played that evening — the famed 1715 violin crafted by Antonio Stradivari known as the “ex-Lipinski”  — in a parking lot in the rear of the school.

The newspaper goes on to state:

“As Almond lay on the pavement the robber fled to a nearby vehicle, described as a maroon or burgundy minivan driven by an accomplice, which then left the scene, Flynn said. . . . Mark Niehaus, MSO president and executive director, said Almond was recovering from the attack and would not be on stage this weekend. . . .

Though police have not ruled out that the robbery was a random street crime, they are working with investigators with the FBI’s art crimes team based in Quantico, Va., which specializes in high-end art thefts, and have notified Interpol, the International Criminal Police Organization, Flynn said.

“This is a potentially international crime,” Flynn said, adding hat investigators are searching everywhere from pawn shops to international databases.”

Mr. Almond is an accomplished violinist who, in addition to his Milwaukee post, has been concertmaster of the Rotterdam Philharmonic under Valery Gergiev, along with having served as guest concertmaster of other prominent orchestras.  He frequently plays as a solo and chamber musician with the Ojai Festival, “An Die Musik” in New York, and many others.  He also writes a blog, Non Divisi, which he cheekily notes as doing “instead of practicing.”

The “Lipinski” Stradivarius has been on indefinite loan to him since 2008 by anonymous owners who “have strong ties to Milwaukee,” as Mr. almond stated in a 2013 interview.  It is named after Karol Lipinski, the noted Polish violinist who played this instrument from about 1818 until he died in 1861.

In 2012, Mr. Almond had successfully completed a Kickstarter campaign to produce an album which celebrated the musical legacy of the 1715 violin.  The result of that project was A Violin’s Life, a CD released in 2013 that includes track’s directly associated with the famed instrument:  A violin's life

  • “The Devil’s Trill” by Giuseppe Tartini, one of the violin’s previous owners;
  • The first recording of a sonata by Julius Röntgen, son of Engelbert Röntgen, a member and eventual concertmaster of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra who played the violin during his tenure with that great ensemble in the late 1800s;
  • The Caprice, Op. 29 no. 3, by Lipinski;
  • And the Schumann D minor Sonata which, according to various accounts, was often played by Mr. Lipinski on the Stradivarius with the composer on piano.

The CD appeared in the Top 10 of Billboard’s classical music charts during the first week of its release.

The concert this past Monday evening was part of “Frankly Music,” a series of concerts that was created by Mr. Almond ten years ago to “change the way audiences experienced a chamber music concert, embracing a format that combined superb musical performances with social and educational elements.”  He continues to serve as the series’ Artistic Director.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Almond for a speedy and complete recovery, and also to law enforcement authorities for being able to quickly find and return the priceless instrument.

UPDATE:  The violin has been recovered, arrests have been made in connection with the crime (Feb 6), and Mr. Almond is recovering (both physically and mentally) and speaks about his experience (Feb 11).  Thank God.

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