Sunday, December 27, 2009

Joseph Hassid

Josef Hassid (Jozef Chasyd) was a Polish violinist born on December 28, 1923 (Heifetz was 22 years old.) He is famous for having had an incredibly short and tragic career. Everyone agrees that he was a phenomenally gifted player - he was greatly admired by Thibaud, Huberman, Szigeti, and Kreisler, among many other musicians. Such was his talent that Kreisler said of him "A Heifetz comes around every 100 years but a Hassid once every 200." He received an honorary diploma at the 1935 Wieniawski competition (Ginette Neveu placed first and David Oistrakh second.) He was only 12 years old but he supposedly did not advance to the second round due to a memory lapse. He had been studying with Carl Flesch since age 12. In 1937, he was studying with Carl Flesch in Belgium when he fell in love with a young female fellow-student. The romance was ended abruptly by the parents when it was discovered that there were religious differences. Hassid and his father moved to England in 1938. Late in 1939, he made his first recording for EMI in London. It is posted on YouTube. In 1940, he recorded eight more times - he would never get to record again. He made his London debut on December 5, 1940 (at age 16), playing the Tchaikovsky concerto with the London Symphony under Adrian Boult. He is said to have suffered a memory lapse during the performance. His last concert was on March 1, 1941, playing the Brahms concerto. It was reported (in a newspaper review) that the performance was rather uneven. In 1941, Hassid experienced a mental breakdown. He was treated and discharged but finally had to be committed to a mental asylum in 1943 due to recurring episodes of erratic behavior. He remained institutionalized for about seven years until a lobotomy done in 1950 sealed his fate. The cause of death may have been meningitis. He died on November 7, 1950, at age 26.

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