Emanuel Feuermann (November 22, 1902, Kolomyia, Austro-Hungarian Empire – May 25, 1942, New York City) was a celebrated Jewish cellist, considered by many major musicians to have been the foremost master of his chosen instrument of the 20th century.
Both of Feuermann's parents were amateur musicians. Feuermann's father, who played the violin and cello, was his first teacher. Feuermann's older brother Sigmund was also musically talented and their father decided to move the family to Vienna in 1907. At the age of nine, Feuermann received lessons from Friedrich Buxbaum, principal cello of the Vienna Philharmonic, and then studied with Anton Walter at the Music Academy in Vienna. In February 1914, at aged eleven, he made his concert debut, playing Joseph Haydn's Cello Concerto in D major with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Felix Weingartner.
In 1917, Feuermann went to Leipzig where he studied with the legendary cellist Julius Klengel. In 1919 cellist Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig Grützmacher (1866-1919), the nephew of Friedrich Wilhelm Grützmacher, died, and Klengel recommended Feuermann for Grützmacher's position at the Gürzenich Conservatory in Cologne. Feuermann also became principal cellist of the Gürzenich Orchestra, by appointment of its conductor (who was also the conservatory director) Hermann Abendroth. Feuermann also, as part of the position, became cellist of the Bram Elderling Quartet. At this time, he also joined a short-lived piano trio with his brother and Bruno Walter, the latter on piano.
In 1929, Feuermann became professor at the Musikhochschule in Berlin.
His musical collaborations during this time included violinists Carl Flesch, Szymon Goldberg, and Joseph Wolfsthal and Paul Hindemith, who played the viola in a string trio with Feuermann and Wolfsthal. Other collaborators included Jascha Heifetz and Artur Rubinstein.
On April 3, 1933, the rise of Nazism led to his being dismissed from his position at the Berlin Conservatory because of his Jewish background. He moved to London, along with Goldberg and Hindemith. He toured Japan and the United States (New York City). He then returned to Europe, where he married Eva Reifenberg in 1935. He played the solo part in the premiere of Arnold Schoenberg's Cello Concerto with Thomas Beecham conducting. He moved for some time to Zürich, but happened to be in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss. Bronislaw Huberman helped Feuermann and his family escape to British Palestine. From there they moved to the United States in 1937.
He taught at the Curtis Institute of Music until his death.
In the US, he made numerous legendary chamber-music recordings with the virtuoso violinist Jascha Heifetz, master pianist Artur Rubinstein, and others. His relationship with Paul Hindemith suffered when Hindemith chose Gregor Piatigorsky to premiere his Cello Concerto
Feuermann died in 1942 of an infection resulting from a minor operation for haemorrhoids.
Evaluation and legacy
Klengel wrote of Feuermann, "Of all those who have been entrusted to my guardianship, there has never been such a talent...our divinely favoured artist and lovable young man."
Musicians such as Artur Rubinstein, Heifetz and Arturo Toscanini considered him the greatest cellist of all.
When Feuermann made his American debut in 1935, the hall was packed with fellow cellists, who had come to hear something truly extraordinary. Following the performance a critic wrote, "Difficulties do not exist for Mr. Feuermann, even difficulties that would give celebrated virtuosi pause." In 1938 an English reviewer wrote in The Strand, following a concert, "I do not think there can any longer be doubt that Feuermann is the greatest living cellist, Casals alone excepted...In Feuermann we have a spectacular virtuosic artist of the front rank, the Wieniawski, shall I say, of the cello."
The pallbearers at his funeral included some of the greatest musicians of his time: the pianists Rudolf Serkin and Artur Schnabel, the violinists Mischa Elman and Bronislaw Huberman, and the conductors George Szell, Eugene Ormandy, and Arturo Toscanini. During the procession, Toscanini broke down and cried, "This is murder!"
In 1954, when asked which cellists he particularly admired, Pablo Casals said, "What a great artist Feuermann was! His early death was a great loss to music."
Many believe that Feuermann's interpretation of Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto and his performance of Johannes Brahms's Double Concerto with Jascha Heifetz rank among the best ever.
- Morreau, Annette (2002). Emanuel Feuermann. Yale University Press. ISBN 0300096844.
- Smith, Brinton (1998), The physical and interpretive technique of Emanuel Feuermann, Thesis (D.M.A)--Juilliard School of Music, OCLC 39227313, http://www.cello.org/theses/smith/chap2.htm, retrieved 2008-07-29
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