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Violinist Frank Almond plays first show since armed robbery

Feb. 12, 2014

After losing the "Lipinski" Stradivarius violin in an armed robbery Jan. 27, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster Frank Almond reunited with the instrument Feb. 10 at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, performing to a full house of more than 600 people.

Brookfield police provided extra security for the show, Almond's first since he was shocked with a stun gun and robbed in a parking lot after a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College.

The show, played with pianist William Wolfram, had a special focus on the history of the violin, made in 1715.

Almond began by thanking everyone who helped bring the instrument home safe to its anonymous owner, who lent Almond the violin long-term. Milwaukee police announced Feb. 6 they recovered the violin unharmed in an attic in Milwaukee and have since charged two people with robbery, Universal Knowledge Allah and Salah Jones.

"I am so relieved that the instrument has been recovered unharmed," Almond said in a statement provided by the Wilson Center in advance of the show. "Thanks to the exceptional work of all the individuals involved in its return, we can now celebrate the wonderful resolution of this most recent chapter in the instrument's storied life."

Jen Bauer, marketing director for the center, said Almond has performed at the venue at least twice before.

"Frank is a longtime collaborator and friend of the Wilson Center, and we are so grateful that he did not sustain injury during this incident," directors of the center wrote in an email.

Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn said at a press conference Feb. 6 that police were able to track down suspects thanks to "invaluable information" from Taser International and several tips they received.

"It appears we had a local criminal who very much had an interest in art theft and was smart enough to identify this as a valuable instrument," Flynn said.

Mark Niehaus, president of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, said Almond, who was performing in Florida the weekend the violin was recovered, was relieved as soon as he saw photos of the instrument in police care.

"He's thrilled that the violin is back," Niehaus said. "These instruments must be played in order to live on."

At the show Feb. 10, Almond performed Beethoven's "Kreutzer Sonata," Tartini's "Devil's Trill Sonata," a Röntgen sonata and a solo piece by Lipinski, for whom the violin is named.

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