Thursday, September 6, 2012

Adolph Brodsky

Adolph Brodsky (Adolph Davidovich Brodsky) was a Russian violinist, teacher, and conductor born (in Taganrog) on April 2, 1851.  He is perhaps best known as the violinist who premiered Tchaikovsky’s difficult violin concerto after Leopold Auer turned it down because he found it unplayable.  Although he spent three years in the U.S., his career began and ended in Europe.  His grandfather and father (David) were both violinists and he is said to have begun his lessons at age 4 in his hometown.  At age 9, he played a concert in Odessa (Russia-Ukraine) and was subsequently sponsored by a wealthy patron, to continue his studies in Vienna, at the Vienna Conservatory, with Joseph Hellmesberger (the elder.)  For a time, Brodsky played second violin in the Hellmesberger Quartet, said to be the first string quartet that actually bore a specific name.  In addition, from 1866 to 1868, Brodsky played in the Imperial (Vienna) Court Orchestra.  He was 15 years old.  In 1870, at about age 20, he left Vienna to tour as a concert violinist.  He settled in Moscow in 1873 where he obtained a teaching position at the Moscow Conservatory in 1875.  He held this post until 1878.  On December 4, 1881, he premiered the Tchaikovsky concerto in Vienna with Hans Richter conducting.  He was 30 years old.  Although initially dedicated to Leopold Auer, the dedication was re-assigned to Brodsky.  Nevertheless, Auer subsequently learned the concerto and taught it to his young pupils, one of which was Jascha Heifetz.  Tchaikovsky was not present at Brodsky’s premiere performance although he later attended a concert in Leipzig (in 1888) in which Karl Halir was the soloist and was extremely pleased with the concerto.  From 1883 to 1891, Brodsky taught at the Leipzig Conservatory.  It was here that Brodsky formed the Brodsky String Quartet with Ottokar Novacek, Hans Sitt, and Leopold Grutzmacher.  It was also at Brodsky’s home that Tchaikovsky, Edvard Grieg, and Johannes Brahms met (all at once) for the first time.  Though Brahms advised against it, in 1891, Brodsky accepted a position as concertmaster of the New York Symphony (for which Carnegie Hall was built), playing under Walter Damrosch.  Brodsky returned to Europe in 1894.  Some sources say he returned in 1895.  He was 43 years old.  After spending some time in Berlin, he was invited to England (by Charles Halle) to teach at the Royal Manchester College of Music and to lead the Halle Orchestra as concertmaster.  It was here that he changed his name from Adolf to Adolph.  From 1895 until his death in 1929, Brodsky taught and was Director at the Royal College.  He also occasionally conducted the Halle Orchestra.  It is said that he was one of the first automobile owners in town.  While in Manchester, Brodsky re-established his string quartet with Rawdon Briggs, Simon Speelman, and Carl Fuchs.  In 1919, Edward Elgar wrote and dedicated his Opus 83 string quartet (in e minor) to this new Brodsky Quartet.  In 1927, Brodsky played the Elgar violin concerto with the Halle Orchestra with Elgar on the podium.  He was 75 years old.  For 17 years (1880 to 1897) his violin was the LaFont Guarnerius of 1735, for many years now played by Nigel Kennedy.  Brodsky, who was also a chess player, died on January 22, 1929, at age 77.  Other than Naoum Blinder (Isaac Stern's teacher), I don’t know if he had any famous pupils.  

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