Guy Who Identified the Stolen Stradivarius Can Help You Pick a Violin

Feb 25, 2014

The Classical music world was relieved when Milwaukee police found the stolen Stradivarius. But how were they sure it was the genuine article? After all, people have tried to pass off counterfeits before.  Enter this guy: 

Credit Stefan Hersh /

Stefan Hersh.

If you need to identify a rare violin, he’s your man. Hersh is a Chicago-based violin curator and he’s familiar with the stolen instrument because he restored it in 2008. And, of course, he also played the instrument.

“Classic Stradivarius sounds are really powerhouses that project a tremendous range of color,” said Hersh. When he was in Milwaukee to verify the stolen Stradivarius, he gave an impromptu performance surrounded by police officers.

Hersh said playing the recovered Stradivarius in front of the Milwaukee police was an impromptu moment that is very special to him.
Credit Stefan Hersh /

“Strads have an unbelievable combination of woody color and brilliance of the whole range,” Hersh said. Dealing with a Stradivarius instrument is somewhat of a routine for him, but that doesn’t diminish his admiration for the power of the Strad.

Hersh is also a well-known violinist and string instrument trade enthusiast. We appreciate his frequent stops in the Pacific Northwest as a regular performer with the summer Olympic Music Festival  and the Vancouver Symphony. He’s also the founder and president of Darnton & Hersh Fine Violins and Midwest String Rentals. When he’s not behind the counter he’s on stage playing key positions in orchestras across the United States, including the Minnesota Orchestra and the Chicago String Quartet. 

If you’re in the market for a violin and need advice, Hersh can help you out.  He shares his knowledge of stringed instruments on the blog Soundpost Online:  “Where players, makers and connoisseurs of the violin meet to exchange news, views and information.”

He offers this tip to beginners: “For starters, it’s better to rent from a good company that takes care of its instruments.” He stresses that quality over quantity is a motto to live by when taking up the violin. “It’s far better to practice one hour a day than seven hours in two days.”