True confessions: My boyfriend was a Stradivarius thief

True confessions: My boyfriend was a Stradivarius thief


norman lebrecht

July 07, 2017

Extraordinary first person reminiscence in the Spectator:

Because I’d been reading about Stradivarius on the bus home, my helpful iPhone suggested a related story: the Totenberg Ames Stradivarius, stolen and ‘silent for decades’, was to be played again in concert….

There are moments in life when a light shines suddenly backwards on the past. Phil Johnson, the violin thief, was my first love; the first bloke to really unsettle my icy little teenage heart. Quite unknowing, I’d listened to him play the Totenberg Strad for hours on end. Unknowing, I’d played it myself.

You will want to read on here.


  • Respect says:

    Why the continuous attempt to glamorize this sociopath? Dear God, this article is appalling.

  • Myrtar says:

    Summary to those that couldn’t bother reading that garbage: A 17 years old girl offers herself to a 42 years old man (Phil) who stole a Strad in his 20s. She thinks he had a rough childhood, so it was OK. She listened to 1 trio of Shostakovich and I quote ” I felt, for the first time, all the horror of the holocaust.”, yes, from one listening.

    In the end she praises the thief since after all, “We were listening to that stolen Strad, but it wasn’t the violin that was extraordinary, it was Phil.”

  • Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

    This is a wonderful story which shows, in an unvarnished way, the true feeling and personality traits of women.

  • B Blankenbach says:

    A wonderful story? The true feeling and personality traits of women? Yuck, yucky and yuckiest. The only thing I see unvarnished here are two scummy people who relished vanity and deception. May the lovely and honorable Roman Totenberg continue to RIP.