Sunday, July 15, 2012

Arthur Judson

Arthur Judson (Arthur Leon Judson) was an American violinist, conductor, and artist manager born (in Dayton, Ohio, USA) on February 17, 1881.  After giving up his career as a concert violinist, he became the most powerful artist manager and promoter in U.S. history.  One source has him starting his violin studies at age 8 and another at age 12.  Two of his teachers were Max Bendix (famous for his connection to Theodore Thomas) and Leopold Lichtenberg (teacher at the National Conservatory in New York, where Antonin Dvorak was the Director from 1891 to 1895.)  He graduated from High School in 1899 but his enthusiasm and ambition were soon evident in the fact that he became the Director of the music department at Denison University (Ohio) at age 19.  At that University in 1903, he performed the (Richard) Strauss violin sonata, said to be the best violin sonata ever written.  The performance, according to Judson, marked the U.S. premiere of the work.  That claim, however, is debatable, since the sonata was completed in 1888 and it is unlikely that it would have taken fifteen years for it to reach the American public.  After his stint at Denison (1900-1907), he went to New York City to establish himself as a concert violinist.  By then, he had also been concertmaster of the orchestra at the Victoria Theatre in Dayton.  Since his efforts to make a living as an artist yielded few results, he went into the magazine business, finding employment as music critic and advertising manager for the magazine Musical America.  He spent 8 years there.  In this capacity, he became very well-known by artists and administrators around the country.  It thus appears that his playing career lasted about 7 years.  In 1915, he was named manager of the Philadelphia Orchestra.  He was 34 years old.  Shortly thereafter, he created an artist management agency in Philadelphia and in New York as well.  In 1922, he became manager of the New York Philharmonic.  By 1927, he had launched his own radio network, something called the United Independent Broadcasters, which was, within a few months, bought by William Paley.  Paley renamed it the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS.)  Judson thus became a major stockholder in the new company.  The initial intent of Judson’s broadcasting network had simply been to bring artists which he managed to national attention through various radio programs, but, the end result was something far more significant.  He was 46 years old.  By 1930, Judson had control of Columbia Artists Management, and managed the careers of 125 artists and organizations.  Columbia Artists Management had been created via a merger of one of Judson’s agencies with 7 other management firms.  After public criticism of the conflicts of interest created by his myriad activities, Judson resigned his position with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1934.  Also, because of his monopolistic influence – by 1935 he controlled two thirds of the concert action around the U.S. – and the incestuous business structures resulting from his management of orchestras, radio networks, and artists, he was in 1939 investigated by the federal government.  This resulted in his slowly restructuring and diversifying his empire, though his considerable influence, even in the area of orchestral programming, continued unabated for many years thereafter.  It has been said that Judson stopped representing the conductor Otto Klemperer after Klemperer programmed one of Mahler’s symphonies for a New York Philharmonic concert, a decision which Judson disagreed with - I don’t like Mahler either so I would have sided with Judson.  He kept his position with the New York Philharmonic until 1956.  He was 75 years old.  Of course, he was very wealthy by then.  Arthur Judson died (in New York) on January 28, 1975, at age 93. 


  1. Judson might not have played too much, but he helped so many others that it might be said he played vicariously through their outstanding careers - including Jascha Heifetz, Zino Francescatti, Yehudi Menuhin, and Mischa Elman.

  2. Judson was 6 feet 4 inches tall. That made him one of the tallest violinists in history.