What It’s Like Having a Rare Instrument Stolen by Doyle Armbrust

In January 2014, a Stradivarius violin once again became the subject of national conversation. It wasn’t because the $5 million instrument had sold for an obscene sum at auction, but because its owner, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond, had been assaulted with a stun gun, the violin disappearing into the night.

The robbery and recovery of Almond’s 1715 Lipinski Strad has since become a case study in instrument theft. While the perpetrator, self-described “art thief” Salah Salahadyn, is now behind bars, the antique instrument—appraised at $5 million in 2012—continues to permeate national news. That’s best explained by the rarity of instrument theft, a phenomenon increasingly confined to America’s classical hubs.

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Meet the Chicago Symphony’s Newest Composers-in-Residence by Doyle Armbrust

As the Chicago Symphony Orchestra enters its 125th anniversary season, the mind goes a bit sideways considering what tenacity, grit, and vision it must have taken for this world-class orchestra to weather a pair of world wars, a Great Depression, a Great Recession, and the closing of Hot Doug’s. It is an estimable feat, and the city’s prestige is hinged in no small way on its quality and longevity.

The mind does a full-on pretzel, though, when considering the programming in store—which is, um, less than adventurous. The music in question is no doubt deserving, and does include the odd contemporary score, but an opportunity to showcase new pieces not yet chiseled onto the obelisk of Classical Music has been forfeited…except for the recent knighting of two new Mead composers-in-residence, Elizabeth Ogonek and Samuel Adams. As stewards of the MusicNOW contemporary music series, the duo is reinvigorating the CSO with a fresh roster of forward-looking, weird, imaginative works.

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