There is a peculiar fascination in tracing the musicalancestry of violinists, their ultimate descent from one great teacher oranother.
Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was born in Vienna, studied firstwith his father,
and then with the younger Joseph Hellmesberger at the ViennaConservatory and then in Paris with Massart, the teacher of Wienawski. Massarthimself had studied with Rodolphe Kreutzer, dedicatee of Beethoven's KreutzerSonata, who had been a pupil of Anton Stamitz, tracing the musical lineage backto the great Mannheim orchestra of Mozart's time. Kreisler completed histechnical training at the age of twelve and had a certain success as aperformer in America, before returning to Vienna to follow his father'sexample, as a medical student. In the mid-1890s he returned to the violin andembarked on a career as a virtuoso, appearing as a soloist with the ViennaPhilharmonic in 1898 and the following year with the Berlin Philharmonic, withconcerts following in America and in London. He spent the war years from 1914in America and from 1924 to 1934 based his activities on Berlin. In 1939 hereturned to the United States, taking American citizenship in 1943. There wasalways considerable charm in his playing, particularly in his application ofvibrato, an extension of a technique employed by Wienawski. As a composer he isknown for his transcriptions for the violin and the pieces he wrote andascribed to older composers, whose style they then seemed to reflect. Theseoften appeared to be designed for recording, fitting, as they did, onto oneside of the discs then in use. He recorded Bruch's Violin Concerto No.1, a workof remarkable continuing popularity, in 1924/25 under Eugene Goossens.
An excerpt from the Kreutzer Sonata introduces Adolf Busch(1891-1952), one of the great Beethoven players of the first half of thetwentieth century, particularly in his partnership with the pianist RudolfSerkin. Busch was taught first by his father, an instrument repairer andbuilder. He studied in Cologne with Willy Hess, who had been taught by his ownfather, a pupil of the great violinist-composer Spohr, and by Joseph Joachim.In 1912 he became leader of the Vienna Konzertverein Orchestra and formed theKonzertverein Quartet, with Fritz Rothschild, Paul Doktor and P.Gr?â??mmer. Hisassociation with the younger Serkin, who later became his son-in-law, led tothe foundation in 1926 of the Busch-Serkin Trio, with his brother Hermann ascellist. From 1933 until 1949 Busch refused to play in Germany, and in 1935founded his chamber orchestra in England, settled for a time in Switzerland andthen moved to the United States. As a duo Busch and Serkin played from memory,avoiding the distraction of page-turners. They recorded the Kreutzer Sonata inNew York in 1941.
Born in Vilna, Jascha Heifetz (1901-1988) was taught theviolin by his father
and finally by Leopold Auer in St Petersburg, where he madehis debut in 1911, following this with a successful appearance in Berlin. In1917 he left Russia,
to settle in the United States, where in 1925 he tookAmerican citizenship, embarking on an international career. For many years hetaught at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. As a player hewas known
not only for technical perfection but also for his likingfor faster speeds. He commissioned a number of new concertos, including that byWilliam Walton. Here he is represented first by his 1937 recording of the gypsyZigeunerweisen by the great Spanish violinist Pablo Sarasate.
Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) won himself a reputation first asa precociously gifted infant prodigy and in later life as a man of wideinterests and sympathies, a musician with a profounder understanding of musicand of the world. Born
in New York, he studied with Louis Persinger, then in Pariswith George Enesco and, during two summers, with Adolf Busch in Basel. As aneleven-year-old he had played Bach's Chaconne, which he later described as thegreatest musical structure for solo violin that exists, to his teacher Enesco.As a teacher his later explanations of the work provided a deep understandingof the work as a whole and how it might be played. The present recording wasmade in 1934.
Born in Odessa, Nathan Milstein (1904-1992) studied and madehis debut there in 1920, having briefly been a pupil of Leopold Auer, who leftRussia in 1917. He enjoyed great success in the Soviet Union in joint recitalswith the pianist Vladimir Horowitz. Milstein and Horowitz were given leave to travelabroad in 1925, as cultural ambassadors for the Soviet Union, but decided notto return to Russia. He made his American debut in 1929, eventually, in 1942,taking out American citizenship, although much of his later activity, after thewar, was based in Europe. He had a long career as a player, continuing whenmany of his contemporaries had already withdrawn from the concert platform. Hisrecording of Dvorˇak's Violin Concerto was made in 1956.
One of the most remarkable chamber music ensembles of theearlier part of the twentieth century was the trio formed by the pianist AlfredCortot, the cellist Pablo Casals and the French violinist Jacques Thibaud(1880-1953). The three met to play informally in 1905, but soon extended theiractivities, giving concerts and making recordings together. The lastperformances of the ensemble were given at the house of friends in Italy in1934. Born in Bordeaux, Thibaud was taught by his father, before becoming apupil of Marsick at the Paris Conservatoire. Before he was twenty he hadalready established his reputation in Paris as a soloist, extending hisactivities throughout the world. He was killed in a plane crash in 1953, as heembarked on a further concert tour, taking him to the Far East. The recordingof Haydn's Trio in G major, with its final Gypsy Rondo, was made by the Thibaud- Casals - Cortot trio at the Queen's Hall in London in 1927.
Mischa Elman (1891-1967) had his early training in Odessawith Alexander Fidelman, a pupil of Auer and of Brodsky, before himselfbecoming a pupil of Auer in St Petersburg. He appeared in Berlin in 1904 and inLondon the following year, giving his first New York concert in 1908, andsettling in America in 1911. He had a highly successful career as a soloist, achamber music player and in the recording studio, and was said to have acquiredhis characteristically warm tone in part, at least, from the influence, atsecond hand, of his grandfather, a Jewish folk-musician. He recorded the ViolinConcerto by Wienawski, Auer's predecessor in St Petersburg, in Philadelphia in1950, with an orchestra conducted by another Auer pupil, Alexander Hilsberg.
Yehudi Menuhin recorded Elgar's Violin Concerto in 1932 withan orchestra conducted by the composer, after a cursory meeting at his hotelwith Elgar, anxious to leave for the races on such a fine day. The recording isa famous one, not only for Menuhin's own reminiscences of the occasion, but forthe apparently shared understanding of the work by a sixteen-year-old prodigyand an old composer, later a grandfather figure to Menuhin and his sisters,nearing the end of his life.
The Hungarian violinist Joseph Szigeti (1892-1973) was apupil of Jeno Hubay in Budapest, after earlier teaching from his father and hisuncle. He began his international career in Berlin in 1905, then establishinghimself in London, where he lived from 1907 until 1913. After the war he taughtvery briefly in Geneva and continued his career as a travelling virtuoso, readyto accept
new compositions, which he effortlessly took into hisrepertoire. Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No.1 was first hear