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The Totenberg Stradivarius holds (supreme) court

Nina Totenberg and her father, Roman. The violinist died on May 9 2012, at 101.Courtesy of Nina Totenberg

September 14, 2021

You may remember when NPR’s Nina Totenberg took a break from reporting on the Supreme Court, to reflect on the passing of her father, Roman Totenberg, at age 101. In his 90 year professional career, he worked with composers like Samuel Barber, taught thousands of students, and helped launched two important musical institutions: The Aspen Music Festival and Music Academy of the West. Today’s classical music world is better, thanks to Roman Totenberg.

Roman died in 2012, but his spirit – and his violin – live on in Minnesota this Monday. Totenberg’s Stradivarius violin now belongs to Nathan Melzer, who performs a recital and workshop at the University of Minnesota School of Music.

Melzer will premier a sonata composed by pianist Julian Gargiulo, who has his own following as “The Pianist with the Hair,” and a YouTube channel that’s as much stand-up comedy as it is classical music.

It’s a miracle that Totenberg’s Strad is still around. It was stolen from his office after a concert in 1980. Three years after his death, the violin was found in a basement and returned to Nina and her sister!