Musician reports 1758 violin stolen from Chicago home

María Paula Mijares Torres, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Entertainment News

CHICAGO — Three musical instruments including a 1758 violin were stolen from a town home in the South Loop Wednesday morning while a family of musicians was sleeping.

MingHuan Xu, a professional violinist and director of the string program at Roosevelt University, said the antique violin stolen has an immense cultural and personal value. It was made by renowned Italian violin-maker Nicolò Gagliano and was lent to Xu by a private sponsor 20 years ago.

A second violin stolen in the burglary was made by Oliver Radke in the late 1990s, Xu said, and a half-size cello belonging to her son also is missing.

“(This antique violin) has traveled with me to so many places and it really has been my musical partner during the last 20 years,” Xu said. “Losing something like that it’s like losing a family member, it’s like losing my own voice, and the violin itself lost its voice too. My heart is really shattered, it was bleeding and I just want the violin back. I want the other instruments, all the instruments back, we can imagine my son is also terrified and devastated losing his cello at such a young age.”

The violin was on a purple hardshell cello-shaped violin case by the brand William Harris Lee & Co. with some flower and butterfly stickers. The family is working on offering a reward to anyone with information on the whereabouts of the instrument, but an amount hasn’t been confirmed yet, Xu said.

Xu, who also is part of the University of Chicago’s Grossman Ensemble, has a concert May 20 and does not have a violin to practice with. She still plans to play.

“Right now I’m going through a grieving, really a grieving period where I feel like my heart is not ready to move on, even temporarily, to another violin,” she said. “I have some very generous friends and violin dealers in town who are willing to loan me a violin to use meanwhile, but decisions have not been made yet at this point. I’m still hoping that my violin will find its way home.”


According to surveillance cameras in her neighbor’s garage, the suspect entered her house around 3:45 a.m. while the family was sleeping after being able to open Xu’s closed car and clicking the garage button inside the car. The family didn’t realize someone had been inside their home until 4:37 a.m. when one of their alarms activated.

Xu’s family has been “completely shaken up” by this event and doesn’t feel safe in their own home, she said. However, they don’t think the incident was a targeted burglary since their home is on the first floor.

“(This) experience was terrifying,” she said. “I think in many ways it’s going to take a while for our family to heal and to feel safe again. … I think when we’re home, we should feel safe and be able to relax, but we don’t feel that way at this time as you can imagine.”

The loaned violin, which is insured, has a sentimental value bigger than its price, Xu said.

“It’s hard for me to tell the exact number on how much (the violin) exactly is worth,” Xu said. “But what I can tell you is this, that it’s not replaceable, something like that is not replaceable, and it’s beyond its price. There’s so much sentimental value to it. It was made in 1758 and sometimes I think about all the stories that the violin has, all of the musicians and violinists who played it before me.”


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