Magazine article Strings

A Friend among Experts

Magazine article Strings

A Friend among Experts

Article excerpt

The late violin dealer Robert Bein leaves a far-reaching legacy

"STRONG EXPERTISE IS A CORNERSTONE of our business," says Boston violin dealer and appraiser Christopher Reuning, remembering the late Robert Bein as one of the top two experts in the violin trade during the last 50 years. Bein, co-founder of the Chicago violin firm Bein & Fushi afid an advisor to the influential instrument-loan program known as the Stradivari Society, died February 24 of melanoma. Bein was 56 years old. Colleagues recalled him as a major force within the insular violin trade. "I think it's fair to say that Robert Bein was America's foremost expert concerning classical Italian violins," says Christopher Germain, president of the American Federation of Violin and Bow Makers. "Bob had an extremely sharp mind and handled more rare violins than anyone else in the business."

That expertise included the ability to identify the work of violin makers and schools of makers, which plays a big role in the way instruments are valued. Bein believed that his opinions provided guarantees that were "in force for the life of the business."

That didn't always work in his favor: In the 1990s, Bein was named in a high-profile lawsuit that alleged he had swindled the heir of British collector Gerald Segelman by appraising a rare violin at a fraction of its actual worth. The lawsuit was settled out of court in 2002.

"We shared half of our lifetime together," says Geoffrey Fushi, Bein's business partner of 30 years.

Introduced by a mutual friend, the men " shared an interest in music and a vision of opening an old-style violin shop-like those of the Hills, Rembert Wurlitzer, or William Lewis in its downtown-Chicago heyday-dealing with the finest instruments and the great players of the day. Bein was interested in fine violins, Fushi in dealing with such world-class players as Isaac Stern and Nathan Milstein. …

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