Early years / Patti’s farewell / Viennese triumph / Brahms listens / America 1896 / Paganini’s violin / Marriage / World War I / America 1921 / Europe 1925 / Political tension / Riots in Vienna / Stolen Strad / Palestine / World War II / Liberation

World War II

In February 1941, Huberman played a program of trios in tribute to Paderewski with Schnabel and Feuermann, and in May he received his first American citizenship papers. The next month Johanna Brinska (the daughter of the Count and Countess Brinska) arrived on the Serpa Pinto and delivered Huberman a Stradivarius he owned. On 21 December he made his first appearance at Carnegie Hall since his Gibson had been stolen there five years before, playing the Beethoven concerto “in superb form” under Bruno Walter. Both he and Walter donated their services for the concert, for the benefit of the British-American Ambulance Corps.

On 17 January 1942 he performed his first solo recital of the decade at Carnegie Hall; he led a small chamber orchestra that accompanied him in a Bach and Mozart concerto, and after the intermission he was joined by his pianist Boris Roubakine, and played Medtner’s Sonata Epica (which lasted for 45 minutes), Szymanowski’s “La Fontaine d’Arethuse,” and the violinist’s own transcriptions of a mazurka and a waltz by Chopin.

In July he had his first performance at the Lewisohn Stadium where he played the Mendelssohn with the New York Philharmonic before an audience of 7000. His performance was “set up on proportions that would have been suitable for a more intimate auditorium and the public address system did the rest. Mr Huberman’s tone is delicate and refined, without crudity or coarseness and amplification did not harm it.”

Through the 1942/43 winter season two more sell-out Carnegie Hall concerts and an all Bach Town Hall recital took place receiving excellent reviews. In February 1943 he spoke and played at a special United Nations Day on Poland that was broadcast by WMCA, and in July played in a broadcast tribute to the Polish Prime Minister General Sikorski who had died in a plane crash. The radio transcription disc of this performance still survives, and can be downloaded as an mp3 file in the radio broadcast section.

A performance of the Tchaikovsky with the NYPSO in the Lewisohn Stadium repeated the success of the previous year, with an audience of 10 000. The New York Times wrote “It is probably safe to say that the Tchaikovsky concerto has never had a finer or greater performance in this city. The opening movement, Allegro moderato, displayed a dazzling exhibition of pyrotechnics, with a virtuosity unexcelled in the world today.” Boris Roubakine then accompanied on piano for several encores.

Huberman’s fourth Carnegie Hall appearance of the 1943/44 season was on Sunday 23 January, when in a repeat performance of 20th, he played the Brahms concerto with the NYPSO under Rodzinski. This performance was broadcast, and luckily recorded for posterity. Huberman as a child, had of course performed this concerto to the composer himself in Vienna, and one lady wrote to him:

“New York, January 23rd, 1944

Hearing you today, brought back memories of the first performance of the Brahms Violin Concerto in Vienna - I was there - and can even now see Brahms sitting in the Balcony! It was a memorable occasion. - I was 14 - and a scholarship pupil at the Conservatorium.
The years have not dimmed your exquisite playing.
Again thanking you

Alexia Bassian (Hollywood, California)”

Another letter written the next day is particularly interesting.

“January 24th, 1944

I just can’t help writing you after your playing of the Brahms Concerto yesterday with the Philharmonic. Unable to attend the concert in Carnegie Hall I listened over the radio and I want to tell you that it was one of the great moments in my musical experience - and that is plenty! I was deeply impressed, because you conveyed the musical message and not only the notes as, alas, is so often the case! It was music at its very best and highest. For this I want to thank you from all my heart. ---

Yes, the violin is a marvellous instrument and many play it well, in fact technically perhaps to perfection, but beyond the notes there is something which they somehow do not convey. You do it - and the notes are still there. Perhaps I am a little sentimental because my childhood (we are of about the same age) is so closely connected with the first impressions in music I received.

The greater, I believe, the compliment that is due to you. After so many years I still think now that you are one of the truly elect in MUSIC conveying the message by means of the fiddle!

Many thanks again, and my most cordial greetings
A. W. Greiner (Steinway + Sons, New York)”

Huberman was never fond of recording as he disliked the repetition required to achieve a “perfect take” and he also disliked the process of broadcasting in a small studio for radio, as he felt it relied too much upon merely technical matters. In a concert hall filled with an audience, it was easier for him to overcome this constraint, but he still believed the end result was “canned music,” however after receiving the previous letter, he reconsidered his opinion.

He replied to Mr. A. W. Greiner, the Manager of the Concert & Artists Dept thanking him for the letter of January 24.

February 12, 1944

Dear Mr. Greiner:

Your letter filled me with great joy. And now, I must say, I am mighty glad that you could not attend the concert and listened in to the radio. Thus, at last, I have an authoritative account of the range of violin expression transmittable over the radio. And what made me most happy in addition to the personal satisfaction caused by your letter is the fact that this radio test of my playing has by far surpassed my expectations.

With the knowledge that such emotions as described in your letter can be caused over the radio, my whole attitude to it, until now somewhat reserved, undergoes a fundamental change.

I am grateful to you for causing me this more positive stand.

With warm greetings
Cordially yours

Bronislaw Huberman
P.S. Please, excuse my delayed reaction to your letter … I was out of town on a tour.”

Listen to a section of the first movement of the Brahms concerto [wma 174k]. Details of the Brahms recording can be found in the recordings section.

c. 1940

c. 1941

Musical America, Feb 1942

Musical America, Feb 1944

February 1943

Advert for the Rodzinski Brahms that was broadcast and recorded, 23 Jan 1944

Top photo: c. 1935