Sunday, February 17, 2013

Szymon Goldberg

Szymon Goldberg was a Polish violinist born (in Wloclawek, Poland) on June 1, 1909.  Although he became one of the youngest concertmasters in history, he is best known for creating and leading the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra for more than two decades.  He began studying the violin at age 7 in Warsaw.  His teacher was Mieczyslaw Mihalowicz.  After a year, he went to Berlin (in 1917) where he began lessons with Carl Flesch.  At age 12, he made his debut playing a recital in Warsaw (in 1921) but continued his studies with Flesch afterward.  At age 15, he made his Berlin debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, playing three concertos: the Paganini number one, the Hungarian Concerto by Joachim, and the Bach E Major.  Only four other violinists that I know of have played three concertos in one evening – Yehudi Menuhin and Raymond Cohen are among them.  Goldberg embarked on several European tours before settling down to become concertmaster of the Dresden Philharmonic at age 16, becoming one of the youngest concertmasters on record, though not the youngest.  He remained in Dresden until 1929, at which time he became concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.  At the behest of the German government, he was forced out of that orchestra in 1934.  He was 25 years old.  During his time in Berlin, he also played in a string trio, between 1930 and 1934, with Paul Hindemith (violist) and Emmanuel Feuermann.  After his dismissal from the Berlin Philharmonic, Goldberg toured Europe and the Far East as a recitalist, accompanied by Pianist Lili Kraus, from 1935 to 1940.  He settled in London in the late 1930s and continued to play and teach.  In 1938, he made his U.S. debut in New York City’s Carnegie Hall.  He was 29 years old.  While playing a recital in Java (Indonesia) in 1942, he was arrested by the Japanese government and interned in prisoner-of-war camps until the end of the Second World War.  He resumed his career after 1945, touring far and wide.  From 1951 until 1965, he was on the faculty of the Aspen Music School (Aspen, Colorado, USA.)  In 1955, he began his conducting career in earnest by accepting the post of chief conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra.  Some sources give him credit for founding this orchestra but others do not.  He led the orchestra from 1955 until 1977.  From 1977 until 1979, he led the Manchester Camerata.  Eventually, he also guest conducted the London Symphony, the BBC Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony, the Boston Symphony, and the Cleveland Orchestra.  He also taught at Yale (1978-1982), Juilliard (1978-1980), the Curtis Institute (1980-1981), and the Manhattan School of Music (1981-).  Goldberg settled in Japan in 1987.  He was 81 years old.  In 1990, he was appointed conductor of the New Japan Philharmonic (Tokyo, Japan) which he led until 1993.  There are several audio files of Goldberg’s playing on YouTube, one of which is here – it is a duo played with Paul Hindemith on viola.  He also recorded many chamber music works which are easy to find on the internet.  Goldberg died (in Japan) on July 19, 1993, at age 84.  Among his pupils are Ronan Lefkowitz, Ruggero Allifranchini, Pamela Frank, and Fiona Simon.  For many years, Goldberg played the Baron Vitta Guarnerius, now owned by the Library of Congress, and the Liegnitz Stradivarius (1711.) 

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