Last Friday brought double doses of sorrow for Utah Symphony violinist Judith Rich.
While attending a memorial service for colleague Christie Lundquist, a clarinetist who died several weeks ago and whose talent Rich admired, someone stole Rich's most precious material possession: an 1822 Nicolas Lupot violin appraised last year at $168,000.But the violin has more than monetary value for Rich. It has been a constant companion since her mother bought it for her when she was 13.
"It's been my life," Rich said. "I have spent years, hours, practicing it.. . . How I loved this instrument."
After finishing rehearsal at Abravanel Hall with the symphony about 11:30 a.m. Friday, Rich left her violin in a musicians lounge while she ran to the box office. Upon returning she noticed Lundquist's memorial was about to start and stepped into the auditorium.
When she returned to get her violin about 1 p.m., she found the case where she had left it and hurried to a recording job. But when she got to the studio, she realized the violin was missing from the case.
"I had a sinking feeling in my stomach," she said. "I knew that I had put it in there."
She returned to to Abravanel Hall to see if she had locked it away. But the violin was nowhere to be found.
"My opinion is that it was a crime of opportunity rather than a planned crime," said Salt Lake police detective Nick DeLand. There was at least one other violin nearby that was not taken, and the violin was the only thing taken from the case.
The musicians lounge is usually locked to the public. But on that day the door was apparently left open while substantial traffic circulated through the building for the memorial, Rich said.
"It's just so difficult to speculate on what happened," Rich said. But, "it was definitely not one of my colleagues."
Those present at Abravanel Hall at the time include the building's staff, symphony members and numerous Lundquist family members and friends, DeLand said. "Unfortunately, that day security was light, and there were a lot of comings and goings."
The stolen violin is rich in history. Not only was it crafted by Lupot, a late 18th century to early 19th century French violin maker who copied the famed Italian Stradivari violins, but it is also an instrument rumored to have been used by the English Royal Orchestra in the 1800s.
The violin was purchased by William Lewis and Son, of Chicago, in the first half of this century before it came to the possession of David Shand, Rich's childhood music teacher and a member of the Utah Symphony.
In 1957, when Rich was 13, Shand offered the violin to Rich's mother, who bought it for a little less than its then appraised value of $4,000.
"For my mother to get this instrument was a real sacrifice," said Rich, whose father died when she was 11.
But the sacrifice paid off, as the violin accompanied Rich through the years, including the time she spent earning bachelor's and master's degrees from the Juilliard School in New York and the 24 years she has spent with the Utah Symphony.
So attached was she to the violin that she had named it Louie Lupo, in honor of a friend and its maker.
At this point there is no sign of the violin. But Rich is not giving up hope.
"I know that this instrument is going to come back," she said. At the same time, she said, "I just have to keep reminding myself that I can still play and that I can make any instrument sound beautiful. No one can take that from me."
Rich is offering a $10,000 reward for anyone who returns the violin or for information leading to the return of the violin.
The violin has a red-orange varnish and a one-piece back with the grain slanting upward from left to right. The varnish on the chin rest area has nearly worn off.
Anyone with information can call DeLand at 799-3320.