Sunday, July 28, 2013

Hugo Heermann

Hugo Heermann was a German violinist and teacher born (in Heilbronn) on March 3, 1844.  He taught briefly in the U.S. but spent most of his teaching career in Frankfurt, at the well-known Hoch Conservatory.  He taught there for 25 years - from 1878 until 1904 – but also concertized sporadically.  Joseph Lambert Massart and Joseph Joachim were among his teachers.  At 20 years of age (1864), he established himself in Frankfurt.  Beginning in 1865, he played first violin in the Heermann Quartet (which also used other names) with Fritz Bassermann on second, Adolf Rebner on viola, and Hugo Becker on cello.  As mentioned previously, he became a teacher at the Hoch Conservatory in 1878.  His most famous pupil at the conservatory (by far) is Bronislaw Huberman – that fact alone is sufficient to keep his name in the music history books forever.  In the early 1900s Heermann came to the U.S. and played the Beethoven concerto in his first U.S. appearance on February 5, 1903.  I don’t know which orchestra accompanied him but I do know he played a cadenza he composed himself.  He very soon after played the Brahms concerto with the New York Philharmonic on February 13, 1903 and received very favorable reviews.  It is said to be the first New York performance of the concerto.  Walter Damrosch was on the podium so it was probably the New York Symphony which he played with, although it was later merged with what we now know as the New York Philharmonic.  Franz Kneisel had already played the first Boston performance – possibly the first U.S. performance of the Brahms concerto - on December 6, 1889.  On April 3 of the same year Heermann played the first Bruch concerto with the philharmonic under the same conductor.  His final appearance with the philharmonic was on January 26, 1907 – by then, he had already settled in the U.S.  He played the Beethoven concerto on that occasion.  A critic pointed out that he had made a “deep impression upon the audience, and was rewarded with all the enthusiastic applause which his performance warranted, being recalled again and again.”  Heermann taught at the Chicago Musical College from 1906 to 1909.  He was later appointed concertmaster of the Cincinnati Symphony, where he served between 1909 and 1911.  In 1911, he returned to Europe, taking up teaching; first at the Stern Conservatory in Berlin, and, beginning in 1912, at the Music Conservatory in Geneva, Switzerland.  For many years, Heermann used a 1733 Stradivarius violin which he purchased in 1860.  On or about the year 1888, Heermann acquired another Stradivarius violin presumably made in 1734.  That violin was purchased by Eugene Ysaye in 1895, from whom it was stolen in 1908.  After it was found in a Paris shop in 1925, none other than (violinist) Charles Munch bought it and kept it until 1960.  It was later played by Henryk Szeryng, who bequeathed it (in 1972) to the City of Jerusalem, to be used by the concertmaster of the Israel Philharmonic.  The violin goes by various names but that does not make it hard to trace.  Another Stradivarius which Heermann used and which was constructed in (about) 1734, is now played by Gidon Kremer.  That violin is known as the Heermann Stradivarius.  Heermann also used yet another Stradivarius violin (from about 1700 - the Jupiter Strad) from 1892 to 1895.  According to the Cozio website, that violin is now in the hands of Hollywood studio violinist Arnold Belnick.  Heermann retired in 1922, living mostly in Merano, Italy, where he eventually died on November 6, 1935, at age 91.  

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