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

Viennese triumph

In September Huberman performed at the Viennese International Festival of Music and Theatre; he was introduced to the Emperor of Austria, Franz Joseph (1830-1916), who presented him with a sum of money for a valuable violin. In the same month he began an eight month course of study with Joachim, but the Maestro was unfortunately absent from Berlin for most of the time. Huberman was not satisfied with the quality of lessons he received from Joachim’s assistant Markees, and so studied secretly with the brilliant virtuoso Charles Gregorovitch. Huberman was pleased that the Berlin course lasted only eight months, as he later said that he might have lost his natural originality, as other students had, if he had completed the normal two year course.

In the summer of 1893 concert tours of Holland and Belgium followed, and although Huberman found “the many-headed Hydra, the public” his best teacher, he studied new repertoire for six weeks with the fantastic violinist Hugo Heermann in Frankfurt, and at the age of eleven, had three weeks of lessons from Martin Marsick in Paris; after this, he became his own teacher. It was in Paris that he met the wealthy and music loving Polish Count Zamoyski who was recovering after the recent loss of a daughter. The Count persuaded his parents to take him to London. This they did, and four unsuccessful concerts were given, as it was difficult to attract public attention in the huge metropolis. The Count then introduced him to the most famous singer in the world, Adelina Patti, who received him in such royal splendour that Huberman was surprised that a throne was missing. Although nervous and trembling, he must have played well, as Patti emotionally called him “Angel” and promised that he would play in her forthcoming farewell tour of Austria and Germany in January 1895. This was superb news, but it did mean waiting for several months, so the family travelled back to Germany.

Back in Berlin the public was “surfeited” with violinists and although Huberman was achieving much success he was earning very little money, and money was desperately needed to cover the costs of travelling, piano-accompanists, and hotel accomodation. It was “the most dismal period” of his artistic life. His father became ill, and the serious strain of the concert giving and transient lifestyle was taking such a toll on the young Huberman’s health that his mother threatened to smash his violin and take him back to Warsaw. To avert this possibility Count Zamoyski presented Huberman with a Stradivarius, “The Gibson,” worth at the time 20 000 lira.

When the family eventually reminded Patti of her London promise, they received the terrible reply that other artists had already been engaged. Patti’s agent who was in Vienna where the great singer was to appear was contacted, and he at first agreed to Huberman’s participation, but later withdrew it giving the “customary refrain that one did not want to see and hear any more of prodigies.” In desperation the family then travelled to Vienna despite the refusal, and after much protestation, after “saying and doing many things” their perseverance was rewarded. It was agreed Huberman would play at Patti’s farewell concert on 22 January 1895.

The first piece he chose to play was the first movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto. As he approached the podium his small, slim, and sickly figure generated a compassionate murmur from the audience. By the conclusion of the piece, his success was greater than anything he or his parents had expected or hoped for. It is said that after one of his encores the singer threatened to leave if he were permitted to play any more. Ludwig Speidel wtote the next day in the Wiener Fremdenblatt “We bade farewell to a descending star (Patti) and had the joy to greet a rising star.” The famous Austrian critic Hanslick wrote “The youthful artist achieved a success so brilliant as could not be exceeded by the brightest star in the galaxy of artists. It is not his precocity as such that characterized the display of his genius, but rather his phenomenal endowment of musical inspiration and musical capacity.” This association with such a legendary figure was the success that Huberman felt secured his professional future. He was asked to give twelve solo concerts in Vienna, and his triumph was enormous.

In a review of the 12 March concert, the Wiener Allgemeine Zeitung wrote:

“Bronislaw Huberman's success however has overshadowed all previous performances in the living memory of the music-loving Viennese public. On Wednesday he gave his farewell concert in the capacity filled Musicvereinssaale. We don't have to take his "farewell" too tragically, as three further concerts of the little "Wunderman" are not only programmed but already sold out. He could give farewell concerts into the summer, such is the enormous demand from the public. Easily understandable. We hear a great artist and see a divine wonder, which cannot be explained by physiological or psychological wisdom.

An 11-year-old boy with the ability to perform Beethoven and Mendelssohn concerti with complete technical mastery, sufficient strength, with full understanding of the spiritual content, with absorption, humour, and esprit - everything in the right place - with a never flagging memory - with attention to details and an extraordinary variation of bowing, this is a phenomenon where the voice of the divinity speaks to us. Only a human who cannot appreciate beauty and noble expression could take a pathological interest in such a manifestation. The "little Huberman" will convince the worst skeptics. Such miracles as told in the Bible may now readily be accepted, if in our over-enlightened time, such an artistic miracle can become reality.”

Musikverins-Saal, 15 Feb 1895

Musikverins-Saal, 12 Mar, 1895

Musikverins-Saal, 27 Mar, 1895

Musikverins-Saal, 29 Mar, 1895


A letter from Huberman to the conductor Albert von Hermann, thanking him for conducting the 12 March concert.