The ‘Gibson, Huberman’ Stradivari, Cremona, 1713
The 1713 ‘Gibson, Huberman’ Stradivari, which has been Joshua Bell’s concert instrument since 2001, has a dramatic history of theft and recovery and tells a cautionary tale about these easily plundered and highly coveted instruments.
In 1936 the Israeli violinist Bronislaw Huberman was performing at Carnegie Hall. During the second half of the concert, while Huberman was playing his Guarneri, his Stradivari was stolen from his dressing room. The violin remained at large, its whereabouts unknown, for nearly 50 years until 1985 when an unremarkable New York violinist named Julian Altman, made a deathbed confession to his wife.
A dramatic history of theft and recovery tells a cautionary tale about these easily plundered and highly coveted instruments
Altman told her he had purchased the violin for $100 although speculation remains that he himself was the thief. Lloyd’s of London had long since paid the insurance claim to Huberman and took possession of the violin. Altman hadn’t dared bring the easily recognisable Stradivari in for maintenance and so after a half century it was filthy and in disrepair. After a careful restoration the ‘Gibson, Huberman’ was sold to Norbert Brainin, first violinist of the Amadeus Quartet, who played it for the last decade of his career until passing it to Bell.
Remarkably, this was the second time the violin was stolen from Huberman; in 1916 it was briefly taken while on tour in Vienna, but was fortunately recovered just days later.
With its broad, strong-arched, gorgeously flamed maple back and glorious deep red varnish this 1713 masterpiece is among Stradivari’s finest.
Commentary by Jason Price
Joshua Bell, Wigmore Hall, Sunday 4 March 2018