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Priceless Stradivarius recovered after 35 years

The 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was taken from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra's concertmaster in an armed robbery is on display for the media after it was recently recovered, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin February 6, 2014. REUTERS/Darren Hauck
The online news portal of TV5

WASHINGTON - A priceless Stradivarius stolen 35 years ago from an American concert violinist and music professor has been recovered, his daughter said Thursday.

The violin -- made in 1734 -- had been lifted from the office of Roman Totenberg at a Boston area music school in 1980.

Totenberg died in 2012 at the age of 101 after a life that saw the Polish-born virtuoso, who emigrated to the United States in 1938, play for a host of major American symphony orchestras.

His daughter, NPR public radio justice reporter Nina Totenberg, said she received a telephone call from an FBI agent in June, informing her that the violin had been located.

In an NPR blog, she said it turned up in a locked case in the home of the widow of a musician named Phillip Johnson who died in 2011.

The elder Totenberg had long suspected Johnson to be the actual thief, but police did not pursue the lead, his daughter wrote.

The widow took the instrument in June to Phillip Injeian, a violin maker and appraiser, who examined it closely for a half-hour.

"And I said these words: 'Well, I've got good news for you, and I've got bad news for you'," Totenberg quoted Injeian as telling the widow.

"'The good news is that this is a Stradivarius. The bad news it was stolen 35, 36 years ago from Roman Totenberg.'"

Injeian promptly reported the violin to the FBI's art theft unit, which was to return it to the Totenberg family later Thursday in New York.

Nina Totenberg said she and her two sisters intend to sell the Stradivarius, ensuring that it remains "in the hands of another virtuoso violinist."

Around 600 of the highly coveted violins made by the 17th century Italian master craftsman Antonio Stradivari are still in existence.

They are prized for their incredible -- and inimitable -- sound.

One fetched about 11 million euros ($13.5 million) in a 2011 charity auction for victims of the Japanese tsunami.

In January 2014, a 300-year-old Stradivarius was snatched from the concert master of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra in Wisconsin by muggers armed with a stun gun. It was recovered in a matter of days.

In July 2012, a Stradivarius was handed in to a Swiss railway lost-and-found department after an acclaimed violinist forgot it on a commuter train.

And in 2008, an American violinist left a $4-million (3.2-million-euro) Stradivarius in the back of a New York taxi, whose driver returned it to its owner.