Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Emanuel Feuermann

Emanuel Feuermann

Annette Morreau
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 456
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Emanuel Feuermann
    Book Description:

    The meteoric career of the Austrian cellist Emanuel Feuermann ended with his sudden and tragic death in 1942, aged only thirty-nine. A brilliant soloist and chamber performer, many expected him to inherit from Pablo Casals the reputation of the greatest cellist of all time. The trio he formed with Jasha Heifetz and Artur Rubinstein was considered the leading chamber ensemble in the world. This new biography of Feuermann-a rich combination of documentary and oral history and gripping narrative-discusses his life, work, and legacy and awards him the place in musical history that he was denied by his early death.Born one hundred years ago in a humble Galician shtetl, Feuermann grew to maturity in a tumultuous era. Annette Morreau gives an account of the world wars, politics, music culture, and recording history that form the context of his achievements. She also provides invaluable detail about Feuermann's life, drawing on interviews and private letters of family, colleagues, students, and friends, as well as on a wealth of first-hand recollections from some of the most distinguished musicians of the twentieth century. Morreau describes Feuermann's unique style of playing, basing her assessments on the many surviving recordings he made and on contemporary press reviews gathered worldwide.So that readers can judge Feuermann's extraordinary talent for themselves, a digital download with examples of his performances is included with the ebook.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-18393-1
    Subjects: Music

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-ix)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xvi)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xvii-xvii)
  5. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xviii-xx)
  6. Chapter 1 The Beginning: 1902–17
    (pp. 1-12)

    Emanuel Feuermann was born on 22 November 1902 in the town of Kolomea in Galicia, eastern Europe. Kolomea (or Kolomyja), situated roughly 300 km south east of L’vov, has suffered a chequered history: in 1902 it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire; after World War I, in 1918, the whole of Galicia was claimed by Poland; today Kolomea is situated just inside the border of Ukraine. In 1900, ‘It was an enclave for very poor, very miserable Jewish people’,¹ with a population of just over 34,000, of which approximately half were Jewish.

    Feuermann’s parents, Meier Feuermann and Rachel Hönigsberg, were...

  7. Chapter 2 Prodigy: 1917–23
    (pp. 13-27)

    Feuermann’s concert career was so active so quickly that the temptation to let it continue must have been tremendous; such is the dilemma posed by the prodigy. Feuermann, later in life, influenced no doubt by the circumstances of Sigmund, commented tellingly: ‘I am even of the opinion that a prodigy is not always destined for music . . . Certainly, it is a fact that most prodigies do not develop into artists, but just when their own personality should make its appearance, they fail completely. . . . as long as they are under the influence of teachers or their...

  8. Chapter 3 Nomad: 1923–8
    (pp. 28-42)

    After less than four years, Feuermann wanted to free himself from his duties at the Cologne Conservatory. With management from Wolff & Sachs, the prospect of recording opportunities and the knowledge that his playing was received ‘partly with very great success’,¹ Feuermann believed he could go it alone. It says something of his courage and confidence, qualities that would remain always in his playing. The notion of a solo cellist attracting large crowds on a level with a singer, pianist or violinist was barely established. Casals alone occupied this position with any confidence. And it was the period of hyper-inflation in...

  9. Chapter 4 Berlin: 1928–30
    (pp. 43-58)

    In the first years of the Weimar Republic following the brutal suppression of the KPD (German Communist Party), the left-wing SDP (Social Democrats) dominated German national politics, the Prussian state and Berlin’s municipal government. For the arts this was to be of significance. At the Prussian Cultural Ministry, an institution long in need of reform, now renamed the Prussian Ministry for Science, Art and Public Education, Leo Kestenberg, a Hungarian Jew, in December 1918 was put in charge of music. As a trained musician, a student of Busoni, Kestenberg had taught at the Stern and Klindworth-Scharwenka conservatories in Berlin and...

  10. Chapter 5 ‘Intolerable Jew’: 1931–4
    (pp. 59-84)

    After his initial outburst at the state in which Becker had left the cello department of the Hochschule, Feuermann made rapid progress. He enjoyed teaching:

    Last week I had a students’ evening. Four of them played, difficult pieces, for example Hindemith Sonata, Brahms Sonata, etc. And apparently it was a gigantic success for me as a teacher. People were quite surprised, the directors thanked me etc., etc. I’m not conceited about it just content that I have done good work. The class was at a very low level and now I have five-six who are worth listening to.

    The four...

  11. Chapter 6 North America and Europe: November 1934 to June 1935
    (pp. 85-103)

    On 27 November 1934 thePresident Jacksonarrived in Victoria, British Columbia. For two days Feuermann and Kitzinger rested, staying at the Empress Hotel, before setting out on a 50-hour trip via Canadian National Railways to Winnipeg. Feuermann regarded the journey as passing through a ‘Super-Switzerland’ as the route travelled through the highest mountains in North America. His first concert was an afternoon event for the Winnipeg Women’s Musical Club. It was a private concert for members only, the third in which outstanding musicians of Feuermann’s generation were presented, the two previous performers being Egan Petri and Joseph Szigeti. Feuermann’s...

  12. Chapter 7 Commitments: June 1935 to April 1936
    (pp. 104-130)

    So the die was cast. On 29 May 1935 Feuermann and Eva became engaged in London. A few days later he wrote to Lily: ‘The family at home seem to be overjoyed. My good mother will have been worried by now that neither Sigmund nor I would get married. After all, now that the girls are married and I’m settled professionally I could think about myself. And that meant marrying Eva:’ Eva maintains that her decision to marry Feuermann was not taken easily – he had been present in her life like an older brother or uncle. Although their letters...

  13. Chapter 8 Full Sail: April to December 1936
    (pp. 131-148)

    ‘This week holds unusual riches in store for the musically inclined of Tokyo residents, for it offers an unusual array of concerts by excellent visiting artists. The few who complain that there is nothing worth hearing in Japan must be blind or deaf, perhaps both:² TheJapan Advertiser’schiding of the musical public is striking. Striking, too, is the diet of musicians visiting Japan in April 1936 from the West: the celebrated Hungarian pianist Lili Kraus with Feuermann’s colleague Szymon Goldberg performing a series of Beethoven concerts; the German pianist Wilhelm Kempff performing concertos by Bach, Brahms and Beethoven with...

  14. Chapter 9 Europe: 1937
    (pp. 149-165)

    RMSQueen Maryarrived at Southampton docks on the morning of 22 December 1936. Feuermann, in his new Buick Convertible, drove straight to the Abbey Road Recording Studios in London. He was supposed to record Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ Sonata and Beethoven’s op.69 for Nipponophone, but dearly arrangements had not been completed and instead that afternoon he recorded the Andantino and Variations from Weber’sKonzertstiickOp.20. He was paid £50.¹ His accompanist was Gerald Moore, whom he was meeting for the first time. Moore recalled the occasion:

    He recorded with me and then about 7 o’clock in the evening he got in...

  15. Chapter 10 Momentous Year: 1938
    (pp. 166-186)

    The year 1938 began in Paris, but Feuermann was soon on the move to the United States. In a letter to Eva he mimicked her complaints: ‘Does Munio really have to turn away from me for so long in order to play to other Jews with his two clumsy hands in America while I, his Eva, have to stay in Zürich in order to bring his child into our world, and am I not even allowed to grumble properly[?].’ But he also wrote:

    Do you know what gallows humour is, Oefchen? However tremendously happy I was a little while ago...

  16. Chapter 11 Breaks: October 1938 to February 1939
    (pp. 187-202)

    ‘A dark brown costume, very distinguished for nice luncheons in New York, warm with brown Nutria fur; a little short afternoon dress, plum colour; a white very simple, beautiful evening dress.’² While Feuermann was performing in London, his wife was in Paris buying clothes for an October arrival in New York. A decision had been taken to leave Europe and settle in the United States. Eva later recalled: ‘It was terrible in Switzerland especially. That is why we had to leave. It [talk of war] was all around. There was no possibility to play any more.’³ Eva was also attempting...

  17. Chapter 12 Trios: March to November 1939
    (pp. 203-217)

    It was almost three years since Fred Gaisberg had first mooted the idea of Schnabel, Huberman and Feuermann recording together. In July 1938, the trios finally looked like going ahead. Nipponophone had merged with the Japanese Victor Company. But although the difficulties caused by the exclusivity of the three artists to different recording companies had now been resolved, sorting out the availability of each musician to record was to prove a nightmare. Added to the expected difficulties of matching the free time of three exceptionally busy musicians, Huberman had been involved in an air crash and, although he was lucky...

  18. Chapter 13 Cellist at Large: November 1939 to February 1941
    (pp. 218-235)

    In what had now become an annual November appearance at Carnegie Hall, critics appeared to give up on superlatives to describe Feuermann’s playing. On 23 November Howard Taubman wrote: ‘Emanuel Feuermann was at Carnegie Hall again last night, playing cello in a way that would start our grandfathers on a witch hunt . . . for all but a handful of other professional cellists, he is simply unfair competition.’ The programme had included Mendelssohn’s D major Sonata OP.58, a work ‘rarely taken off the shelves of the studio’.² Irving Kolodin, in theNew York Sun, pointed to the racial association...

  19. Chapter 14 Difficult Times: February 1941 to 10 May 1942
    (pp. 236-259)

    ‘Feuermann, Serkin Astonish; Feuermann Stuns, Amazes’ shrieked the oldest college newspaper in the United States,The Dartmouth. In February 1941, Feuermann and Rudolf Serkin gave a joint recital at Dartmouth College, where they played Schubert’s ‘Arpeggione’ and Beethoven’s A major Sonata op.69. The newspaper’s unattributed reviewer summed up Feuermann’s performance simply: ‘The music that he played, the things he did. Don’t try to imagine them. They are impossible.’²

    Feuermann had just over a year to live. Little correspondence has survived from this period and so merely a patchwork of his life emerges. What does seem evident, however, is that his...

  20. Chapter 15 An Untimely End
    (pp. 260-267)

    In the last days of his life, patriotic activities continued to occupy Feuermann. An unattributed clipping reveals that on 16 May 1942 he took part in ‘I am an American’ Day.² In a speech, said to be his first in public,³ Feuermann stood before a vast gathering of RCA Victor defence workers at Camden, New Jersey, telling them of the possession he valued above all others – his forthcoming American citizenship. And ‘On a bare wooden platform under the breezeswept trees of a city park, he played his chosen instrument – played it divinely – and the mellow, sunny tones...

  21. Chapter 16 Miracle Worker: Writing, Teaching, Performing
    (pp. 268-291)

    Like all professional musicians, Feuermann spent much time away from his family. It was early days for the telephone, which he used, nevertheless, from time to time, and so writing was his main means of communication. Many of his letters survive but many are also known to have been lost – the combined effect of two world wars and limited appreciation until relatively recently of the importance of archives. The vast majority of existing letters are addressed to family and close friends, with very little professional correspondence surviving, although Feuermann may have written more to colleagues than archives suggest.² This...

  22. Chapter 17 Feuermann’s Recordings: Europe and Japan
    (pp. 292-313)

    A powerful image of Feuermann’s career is projected through contemporary reviews and criticism, but recordings bring him to life. That a legacy of recordings remains is of inestimable value. These records will astonish musicians and music lovers hitherto unaware of Feuermann’s artistry. The freshness, the contemporary cleanness of technique, the sound and, above all, the musicianship of this extraordinary player signal an artist far ahead of his time. He lived before the age of mass media; had he lived to be filmed more extensively, allowing later generations to see his extraordinary physical capability, how different his place in the public...

  23. Chapter 18 American Recordings
    (pp. 314-334)

    From 1 April 1939, Feuermann was signed to Columbia’s rival, the RCA Victor Company in America.¹ Even so, Columbia continued certain negotiations: the trios with Schnabel and Huberman, a recording of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto and even a Brahms Double Concerto. None of these projects was realized.

    In November 1938, NBC Artists had assigned the pianist Franz Rupp to Feuermann and, with the exception of a single test pressing, all Feuermann’s last commercial duo recordings were made with Rupp in the space of six months – 31 July to 14 December 1939. There were seven sessions, all of which took place...

  24. Appendix I: Feuermann’s Fees
    (pp. 335-338)
  25. Appendix II: Feuermann’s Cellos, Bows, Strings
    (pp. 339-346)
  26. Appendix III: Chronological List of Known Recording Sessions and Broadcasts
    (pp. 347-363)
  27. Appendix IV: 2002 Currency Value: US Dollar
    (pp. 364-364)
  28. Notes
    (pp. 365-395)
  29. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 396-400)
  30. Index
    (pp. 401-418)
  31. Accompanying CD: Track Listing
    (pp. 419-420)