Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia

Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia

Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia

Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia

Synopsis

Notoriously reticent about his early years, violinist Jascha Heifetz famously reduced the story of his childhood to "Born in Russia. First lessons at 3. Debut in Russia at 7. Debut in Carnegie Hall at 17. That's all there is to say." Tracing his little-known upbringing, Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia uncovers the events and experiences that shaped one of the modern era's most unique talents and enigmatic personalities. Using previously unstudied archival materials and interviews with family and friends, this biography explores Heifetz's meteoric rise in the Russian music world--from his first violin lessons with his father, to his studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with the well-known pedagogue Leopold Auer, to his tours throughout Russia and Europe. Spotlighting Auer's close-knit circle of musicians, Galina Kopytova underscores the lives of artists in Russia's "Silver Age"--an explosion of artistic activity amid the rapid social and political changes of the early 20th century.

Excerpt

The idea for a book about the childhood of Jascha Heifetz (1901–1987) did not arise overnight, and the story behind the book is notable in and of itself. in the middle of the 1980s, I was conducting research in the personal archive of the violinist and music critic Viktor Grigoryevich Valter (Walter) (1865–1935) in the Russian Institute for the History of the Arts. the documents and materials were fascinating, but nothing stood out as particularly significant. At that time, I did not know a surprise was hidden in a particular folder that a previous owner had labeled, “unidentified.” in that folder I discovered correspondence addressed to Valter—letters and telegrams signed by a certain R. Heifetz and his son Joseph. Judging by the postage stamps and the address of the sender, these letters were written from Vilnius, Lithuania in the summer of 1911 and from Loschwitz, Germany, near Dresden, in the summer of 1913. a tiny but enthusiastic voice rang out from the stillness of the archive: “Much Respected Viktor Grigoryevich! I am on vacation now, and only practicing violin and piano a little bit. I am now studying the Tchaikovsky Concerto and the Handel Sonata….” My immediate impression that these words belonged to the great Heifetz was confirmed only when I reached the very last piece of correspondence in the folder, which was signed, simply, “Jascha.”

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