Saturday, June 18, 2011

Max Rostal

Max Rostal was an Austrian violinist, arranger, and teacher born (in Teschen) on July 7, 1905 (Heifetz was four years old.)  He is not particularly well-known for anything other than that he had a long teaching career and was under-rated as a violinist.  He began his violin studies at age 5.  He began playing in public from age 6 (1911.)  One of his teachers was Arnold Rose, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic for many years.  (When Fritz Kreisler - as a teenager - applied to the Vienna Philharmonic, it was Arnold Rose who turned him down.)  Another was Carl Flesch when he was still teaching in Berlin.  According to at least one source, Rostal was often compared to Bronislaw Huberman, Fritz Kreisler, and Eugene Ysaye.  In 1925, he won the Mendelssohn Scholarship.  Another obscure violinist who won this prize was Leonora Jackson in 1897.  From 1930 to 1933 he taught at the Advanced School for Music in Berlin.  From 1944 to 1958, he taught at the Guildhall School of Music in London and played many concerts broadcast over the BBC.  He then taught in Cologne (Germany) from 1957 to 1982.  Simultaneously, he was a violin teacher at the Conservatory in Bern, Switzerland (1958-1985.)  Several recordings of his are posted on YouTube and it is said that his few recordings are now treasured by collectors.  Many critics have also said that he had a very individual style.  He was especially praised for his interpretation of Bartok’s second concerto (as is Silvia Marcovici nowadays) and was known to champion contemporary music.  Rostal premiered Alan Bush’s violin concerto in 1949, a work which has not been heard from since.  He also edited quite a few works for violin and wrote a method book as well.  These works can easily be found on the internet.  A violin (and viola) competition (begun in Bern in 1991 and now held in Berlin) is named after him.  In 1944, Rostal was instrumental in organizing the Carl Flesch violin competition (which ran from 1945 until 1992. Raymond Cohen was the first winner of that competition.)  Among his pupils were Sergiu Luca, Norbert Brainin, Yfrah Neaman, Edith Peinemann, and Igor Ozim.  His Guarnerius del Gesu is now owned by the Stradivari Society (Chicago, USA.)  Max Rostal died in Switzerland on August 6, 1991, at age 86.

4 comments:

  1. I recently acquired a CD featuring Max Rostal accompanied by composer-pianist Franz Reizenstein, recorded during WW2 at Decca Studios in London. I googled for info about him (Rostal) and discovered your amazingly comprehensive blog. What a find.
    I know Reizenstein came to Britain in 1934 when the Nazis came to power. I wonder if Rostal did the same?

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    1. Thank you so much for your comment. Rostal recorded a few large works but his discography is relatively small. The recording you have must be very rare indeed. Rostal and his family did leave Germany in 1934 - March of 1934 to be a little more precise.

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  2. I never heard of Rostal until today when I pulled out his 1952 recording of the Kreutzer in a collection of records I inherited 20 years ago and hadn't had time to explore until now. Wow, it's great! Pristine after all these years, with a Record Hunter stamp on the jacket that made me mourn for the days when I haunted the bargain bins of TRH and Goody's on 49th stret. Add me to the list of collectors who treasure Rostal's performances. Love your site.

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    1. Thank you for your comment and sharing this story. I too used to browse diligently through bargain bins though not at the same store - far away from there in fact. Mrs Shapiro owned the store and was very kind to me. More information on Rostal (covering the years 1934 through 1944) has been made available so this profile will be expanded in the very near future. Stay tuned.

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