Lost, found, melodious

Amtrak employees hear in concert the violin they returned to artist

January 31, 2004|By Jonathan Pitts | Jonathan Pitts,SUN STAFF

He had just completed an aching rendition of Sibelius' dramatic Violin Concerto, and as a sold-out Meyerhoff Hall audience gave him a third standing ovation, guest instrumentalist Gidon Kremer returned to the stage, bowing deeply.

He seemed to gaze toward a box above the stage, where two men sat who, in the eyes of many onlookers, shared star billing last night. The acclaimed violinist dedicated his encore "to all those wonderful people who reunited me with my violin."

Mike Famiglietti of Abingdon and Joseph Butler of Washington, career Amtrak employees, had teamed up on Wednesday to reclaim an item left behind on a train. Little did they realize that the instrument the travel-weary Kremer had accidentally left in a luggage compartment aboard a D.C.-bound train was a Guarneri del Gesu violin, valued at $3 million.

"We had no idea the monetary value at the time," said Famiglietti last night, just before the opening notes of the concert to which the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra had made him and Butler specially invited guests.

"Even if we'd known, we wouldn't have treated it any differently than we do the laptops, shoes, wallets, jewelry, glasses and purses we track down for our customers on a regular basis. Everything that's left behind is valuable to someone."

But, after hearing Kremer play that violin, he admitted: "He makes it sound like it's worth every penny."

Distinguished in a dark green suit and wingtips, Famiglietti looked right at home among the concert-goers, but the clarity of his speech suggested a man with unusual presence of mind.

A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., the 58-year-old spent 30 years in the military - most of it in the Army - working his way up to the rank of sergeant first class, including a tour of duty as quartermaster at the Pentagon, where he oversaw logistical expenditures.

Though Famiglietti was attending just his second Baltimore Symphony performance - the first was a Christmas concert - he and his wife, Librada, had more than enough background to appreciate the music. Two of the couple's three daughters are serious musicians, having studied piano for years with an instructor "who didn't just teach them chords; she had them learn the history behind the great composers, like Bach, Chopin and Tchaikovsky," he said.

As Kremer completed his final figures on the instrument the two men had helped save, Famiglietti was one of the first in the audience to get to his feet, applauding with his hands high in the air.

"He makes that instrument come alive," he said.

Although less demonstrative than the couple, Butler was equally immersed in the music, especially because, he said, his schedule seldom permits him to attend concerts.

They sat back, rapt, as the virtuoso began his encore, "Song of an Angel."

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.