On 28 February 1936 Hubermanís Stradivarius violin was stolen while he was playing his Guarnerius onstage at Carnegie Hall. The next day The New York Times printed the following article.
Huberman Violin Stolen At Carnegie
$30,000 Stradivarius Is Taken From Dressing Room While Musician Is on Stage.
No Clue to Thief Found
9 Bows Valued at $1,500 Each and Easy to Dispose of Passed Over by Criminal.
A Stradivarius violin, insured for $30,000, was stolen last night from the stars dressing room at Carnegie Hall while its owner, Bronislaw Huberman, the Polish violinist, was giving a recital on the stage one flight below.
How the theft was effected remained a mystery. Mr Huberman had played the valuable instrument between 8 and 8:15 oclock in the presence of his secretary, Miss Ida Ibbiken. At 8:15 he wrapped it in its silk scarf and returned it to a double violin case, from which he removed a Guarnerius violin, the instrument he has used for recitals for a year or more.
Taking the Guarnerius with him, he, together, with Miss Ibbiken, descended the short flight of stairs leading to the stage. They left the door, opening on the landing of the stairway, unlocked. Another door, opening on a flight of stairs leading to the back of the stage, was bolted from within.
When they reached the stage they passed a watchman who is always stationed at the foot of the stairs, which is just off a hallway reached from the upper left exit from the stage. The watchman has in view a passage to a larger hallway, leading to the executive offices of the hall and other dressing rooms.
Two Doormen on Duty.
Outside the stage door there were two doormen on duty. No one aroused their suspicions.
During the first half of the program Mr. Huberman was supported by a chamber orchestra of forty-one pieces. At the intermission the supporting musicians left, some to go home and others to loll about in the clubrooms upstairs. Miss Ibbiken remained with Mr. Huberman until he had started the second half of the program.
While the violinist was playing Cesar Francks Sonata, A Major, Miss Ibbiken went upstairs and entered the dressing room. She noticed that the Stradivarius was missing from the case. Disturbed, she returned to the stage, waited for Mr. Huberman to finish taking his bows, and then told him:
The Stradivarius has been stolen.
It is insured, do not worry, he told her. Tell me about it when I have finished the program. But go now and call the police the first thing you do.
Audience Unaware of Theft.
The huge audience attending the recital did not become aware, either through Mr. Huberman or the subsequent police activities, that behind the wood-paneled backdrop a mysterious theft had taken place and that a squad of detectives from the West Forty-seventh Street station were questioning all the musicians and attendants.
When the violinist had finished the recital, he returned at once to the dressing room, now crowded with investigators, musicians and members of the halls staff. He noticed at once that the thief had not taken six bows, valued at $1,500 each, or a total of $9,000, and had also passed over the heavy, deep-red leather velour-lined double violin case, and the scarves with which the instruments were protected in the case.
This indicated, he said, that the thief was not a musician, for one familiar with violins would have recognized the bows as not only valuable but easy to sell without danger of arousing suspicion.
The most distinguishing mark on the violin, he told police, was a spot on the arm which his thumb, during fifteen years of use, had worn through the wood. A repairman had put a heavy piece of red parchment there. Color photographs had been taken only last week and will be available today, he said.
Miss Ibbiken, who has been Mr. Hubermans secretary for many years, said the violin had been stolen, once before, in Vienna in 1919. It was recovered by the Vienna police and the thief served a three-year term, she said.