Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sascha Jacobsen

Sascha Jacobsen was a Russian violinist and teacher born (in Helsinki, Finland) on December 10, 1895.  Jacobsen’s birthdate is also given as November 29, 1895 and December 11, 1895.  Little is known of his early life.  It has been said that he grew up in St Petersburg.  He has been often confused with another violinist (from Philadelphia) named Sascha Jacobson.  A humorous song written by George Gershwin in 1921 includes his (first) name (along with those of Jascha, Toscha, and Mischa – Russian violinists Heifetz, Seidel, and Elman, respectively.)  It is known that he enrolled at Juilliard in 1908 where his main teacher was Franz Kneisel.  He graduated from Juilliard (Institute of Musical Art) in June of 1914 (some sources say 1915.)  He was 18 years old.  (A fellow-student of his was Elias Breeskin.)  In February of 1915, Jacobsen played parts of Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnol at an Aeolian Hall concert.  On November 27, 1915, he made his official recital debut at Aeolian Hall playing (among other things) Saint Saens’ third concerto.  After the announced program was concluded, he had to play numerous encores and he received very favorable reviews the following day.  He first soloed with the New York Philharmonic on March 9, 1919 (at age 23) playing Bruch’s first concerto with Walter Damrosch conducting.  Jacobsen concertized as a soloist between 1915 and 1925.  He began teaching at Juilliard in 1926.  After being hired, he almost immediately formed the Musical Art Quartet which disbanded in 1945, after almost 20 years of concert activity.  Recordings of this quartet are not hard to find.  Jacobsen also did solo recordings, although mostly of short works for violin and piano.  A well-known recording of his is the Chausson concerto for string quartet, violin, and piano with Jascha Heifetz as violin soloist.  You can listen to that recording here.  He moved to Los Angeles (California, USA) in 1946 and taught at the Los Angeles Conservatory but at other music schools as well.  From September 1947 and May 1949, he was guest concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Some sources say he was concertmaster up to 1952 but I could not confirm that.  It has been said that Albert Einstein was one of Jacobsen’s pupils.  (Einstein also took lessons from Toscha Seidel.)  Jacobsen’s most famous pupils are probably Julius Hegyi and Zvi Zeitlin.  Among the violins he played are the Red Diamond Stradivarius (1732), the Cessole Stradivarius (1716), the Windsor Stradivarius (1717), a GB Guadagnini (1779), another GB Guadagnini (1772), and a Del Gesu Guarnerius constructed in 1732.  Jacobsen died on March 19, 1972, at age 76.  

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