Biography

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

America 1921

Huberman arrived in New York on the White Star liner Olympic for his second American tour on 11 October 1921 – it had been 25 years since his last visit. His US tour under the agents International Concert Division included five concerts with Richard Strauss. The day after his 17 October debut recital with pianist Paul Frenkel, Richard Aldrich was not impressed:

“A large audience full of zealous friendliness, some of it no doubt patriotic in origin … heard the first recital in Carnegie Hall last evening of Mr. Bronislaw Huberman … Mr Huberman is now a serious person … but it must still be said that his talent is manifested with a certain crudeness … he frequently seems to find it a severe strain to produce his effects, a laborious operation, back-bending; and the result is labored. Mr. Huberman’s tone is powerful, but it is not notable for warmth or appealing quality.”

The same day saw Huberman begin a recording contract for 7 short pieces with Brunswick records. His last recordings had been of Schubert and Chopin in 1900 for Emil Berliner. The new Brunswick recordings commenced nostalgically with a recording of the same Chopin/Sarasate transcription, Nocturne in E flat. You can listen to many of these Brunswicks in the Brunswick recordings section.

In November there was a chamber music concert with Richard Strauss at the piano, and an Aeolian Hall appearance “sold out even to standing room” with the pianist Harold Bauer and cellist Hans Kindler, playing Brahms D minor trio op.108, and Beethoven trio op. 97 in B flat. Other concerts included a series of Town Hall and Aeolian Hall recitals, as well as a series of Sunday afternoon concerts for the ‘Friends of music’ under Artur Bodanzky.

Strauss ended his second US tour and series of forty concerts at the Hippodrome on 1 January 1922, with Huberman playing the Beethoven concerto. It was reported that before Strauss left America he faced an income tax bill of $8000 on estimated earnings of $50 000.

Huberman left for Europe on 2 May returning on 31 October for another US winter season. He arrived again on the Olympic with Frieda Hempel, Hoffman and Chaliapine. The Saturday before disembarking the quartet gave a concert in the lounge of the Olympic for the benefit of a seamen’s charity. Each artist gave three numbers, and it was estimated the concert would normally have cost $60 000 to stage. Tickets cost $10, and the audience included three members of the Flonzaley quartet.

More Brunswick recordings were scheduled through the winter season, and perhaps Richard Aldrich was warming a little to Huberman’s playing, as his reviews were more positive than the previous year – he was concerned about roughness and forcing of tone in a Brahms concerto, but noted admirable musicianship and great power and conviction in a Taneiev suite. A few months after writing this review, Mr. Aldrich gave up his position of musical critic at the New York Times claiming he “could no longer endure the torture of listening to the preposterous cacophonies of the so-called futurists or modernists in music and because of the boredom of writing about them.” It's unfortunate that more than eighty years later things haven’t changed.

Listen to the Wieniawski Mazurka in D [wma 486k], recorded in January 1922.

Huberman left America for France in March 1923, and when back in Vienna he spoke to the Neue Freie Presse about his American experiences. Musical culture he felt, particularly outside the cities, was based on the gramophone, which even the poorest families owned. Although the American public did not have old traditions and there were comparatively few amateur musicians he said, they were nevertheless extremely musical, and a great European reputation and advertising were not enough alone to bring success in America. Huberman’s interest in America went beyond just music however, as he was heavily involved in the Pan-European movement which had been founded that year by Count Coudenhove-Kalergi. The United States of America provided a role model, showing how economic and political integration could bring peace and prosperity. Huberman wrote a book Mein Weg zu Paneuropa (My road to Pan-Europa) on this topic which was published in Vienna early the following year.

After a South American tour with Richard Strauss, October saw Huberman back in America for a new season with a new pianist, Siegfried Schultze. Unusual works premiered were a sonata in D by the young Polish composer Alexander Tansman and Goetz’s violin concerto op. 22, while chamber music included trio concerts for the Beethoven Association with Salmond and Hutcheson. At a 30th November Carnegie Hall recital the critic Colles noted decisive rhythm and purity of tone in Huberman’s playing, but criticised the fetish of speed.

Huberman’s concerts were “filled to the last bit of standing room” in New York, and this was perhaps no mean feat when affluence and the power of the dollar had brought so many great musicians to New York. On a single day at the beginning of December 1923, the New York Times featured advertisements for Paderewski, Rachmaninoff, Friedman, Rosenthal, Silottie, Lamond, Grainger, Gabrilowitsch, Levitski, Ney, Hansen, Enesco, Huberman, Zimbalist, Salmond, Chaliapin, McCormack, and Clara Butt. As Huberman wrote in Mein Weg zu Paneuropa, “Already today the European Nations have become the tributaries of America.”

America had a tradition of wealthy individuals patronising educational and musical institutions and Huberman lamented the fact that this convention did not exist in contemporary Europe. He was also impressed at the general prosperity of the people. On 12 February Huberman was paid $1000 to play to 3000 employees of a jam and preserves packing company, at the plant’s new recreation hall built as part of a welfare program. Mr Bartlett Arkell, Honorary Vice President of the Philharmonic Society of New York and President of the Beechnut Company had arranged the concert, and requested as many popular numbers as possible. Huberman noticed that the working men and women of the plant arrived at the concert in their own cars, dressed fashionably – this prosperity of the working classes did not exist in Europe.

In March Huberman left for Europe, playing in France and Holland (he had been invited to do broadcasting by the Dutch Government), and was also invited by the Russians to make a tour of that country, which he had not visited since the revolution. In June he gave six concerts in Vienna, one with the Philharmonic Orchestra. The Neue Freie Presse described it “a triumph without equal, an unparalleled victory” and the Wiener Zeitung wrote “The brilliant tone, the nobility of the cantilena, the aspiration and flight toward God are unique.”

Huberman travelled from France on the Majestic for his final American season of the decade. Arriving in New York on 4 November, he declared his race for the ships manifest as Hebrew; previous years he had written Polish. Carnegie Hall concerts were warmly received, with Owin Downes who had described Enesco earlier that year as “a man from an earlier age or at least more unsophisticated community” writing:

“Mr. Huberman at times sacrificed sensuous beauty of tone to dramatic accent. The listener felt sympathetic when he did this – felt, in fact that he would hardly have been a man and artist had he done otherwise … he never imposed himself upon the listener … he gave voice to the composer.”

At the end of December Huberman played in a quartet with Lionel Tertis, Felix Salmond and Harold Bauer, and the group toured from January 5 to February 2.

It was during this period that Huberman completed his last recordings for the American Brunswick record company. Listen to Jota Navarra [wma 680k]. Some people find this recording rough, scratchy and aggressive; the first time I heard it I thought it was wonderful!

Musical Courier, Feb 1921

3 Nov 1921

27 Dec 1921

April 1922

Claire Dux and Huberman,
14 April 1922, Ann Arbor

Nov 1922

Musical Courier, Mar 1923


Newspaper advert: New York Times, 31 Dec 1921

1921 concert program courtesy of Ian Derrett

Top photo: 1922