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Rare violin stolen in Milwaukee hold-up

MILWAUKEE (WSAU-Wheeler News)  A 300-year-old Stradivarius violin was stolen in a robbery after it was played during a Monday night performance in Milwaukee. The Lipinski Stradivarius was on loan to Milwaukee Symphony concert-master Frank Almond, who performed with it at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Police Chief Ed Flynn said Almond was walking to his vehicle afterward when a robber knocked out the musician with a stun gun, took the violin, and fled in a maroon or burgundy mini-van with a separate get-away driver.

Almond is still recovering, and he will not be on stage with the orchestra this weekend.

Flynn told reporters yesterday that the F-B-I's art crimes' team is looking into the crime, along with the international police organization Interpol. An article in 2008 valued the instrument at $3.6-million, but Flynn said only a very small number of people would appreciate its value -- and it could not easily be sold for even a fraction of its worth.

The violin has a unique pattern on its back. It was crafted in 1715 in Cremona Italy. Its current owners are anonymous. Polish violinist Karol Lipinski owned it in the late 1790's and 1800's, and her name stayed with it. Officials said the instrument needs to be played to be preserved because of its wooden construction. Almond once said it's a "finicky" violin that responds differently to various temperatures and humidity levels.