Sunday, June 7, 2009

Leopold Auer

Leopold Auer was a Hungarian violinist, teacher, conductor, and composer born on June 7, 1845 (Brahms was 12 years old.) He was born in a small town and first studied with Kohne in Budapest then with Dont in Vienna but stopped in 1858 when the scholarship money from his wealthy patrons ran out. At that point, being only 13 years of age, he was actually forced to start playing for a living. Auer went on to study with Joseph Joachim for two very critical years in Hanover (1861-1863.) From there, he went to work as an orchestral musician in Dusseldorf and Hamburg. In 1868, a trip to London proved fruitful. There, he met pianist Anton Rubinstein, who invited him to teach at the recently founded (1862) St Petersburg Conservatory. The rest is history, since Auer stayed on for 49 years. Nevertheless, Auer continued to play in the various orchestras of the Imperial Theatres and to perform extensively as soloist in other venues. He was also first violin of the string quartet of the Russian Musical Society for 38 years. He came to the U. S. in 1918, debuting in Carnegie Hall in March of that year – aged 73. He started teaching at the Juilliard School of Music in 1926 and at the Curtis Institute in 1928. Before then, he had taught privately from his home studio. Auer is remembered for refusing to play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto despite its having been dedicated to him and for having produced some of the finest violinists of the early Twentieth Century – Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Mischa Elman, Boris Chumachenko, Iso Briselli, Mishel Piastro, Kathleen Parlow, Toscha Seidel, Emil Mlynarski, and Efrem Zimbalist among them. He was also somewhat unusual in that, unlike most violinists, he did not idolize J.S. Bach, though he played some of Bach’s music for violin. In addition to three books on violin technique, he wrote some pieces which are now seldom played (if at all) and an arrangement of Paganini’s Twenty Fourth Caprice which Heifetz used to play. Auer died on July 15, 1930, at age 85 (Heifetz was 28 years old.)

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