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

World War I

Huberman’s Russian tour consisting of 150 concerts started in November. In some of the smaller towns conditions were extremely primitive, and the local managers were not always honest. In the short period of time between the end of the concert and the sleigh ride to the local train station violent arguments over figures would sometimes ensue with the management. However the tour overall was a massive success.

In St. Petersburg Huberman gave nine sold-out concerts, which the local newspapers described as the greatest success of the season. The papers also printed a story on Huberman’s upcoming “divorce and marriage to a St. Petersburg aristocrat”… Huberman described this as a harmless publicity stunt, but Elza was violently upset. Huberman felt that art and publicity were inseperable, and necessary to overcome the “law of inertia that rules over masses.” In fact, he felt that artists were obliged to provide publicity. Elza had quite the opposite view, and felt in any case that this was publicity of the very cheapest kind. The difference in thinking between her and Bronislaw was now becoming more and more evident.

Back in Rekawinkel, three-quarters of an hour from Vienna, they rented a summer place, Quellenhof, and invited the composer and pianist Erno von Dohnanyi to stay. Huberman had wanted to meet him for several years, and the two immediately found a raport in their love of music, playing the Kreutzer sonata together. Later during the stay, a romance between Elza and Erno developed which the busy Huberman was perhaps not aware of. His frequent concerts at this time included concerto performances, solo recitals, and a Beethoven sonata cycle with the pianist Eugene D'Albert.

Eventually in 1914 the unhappy Elza decided to end the marriage – as a religious ceremony had not taken place it was declared illegal, and she was free to marry Dohnanyi . The two parents shared custody of their child ‘Hally.’ Elza later wrote an autobiography Lives, Loves, Losses which describes this period of her life in great detail.

In December 1915 Huberman attended the premiere of Strauss’ new “Alpine” Symphony in Berlin, along with Leo Blech, Artur Schnabel, Carl Flesch, Frederic Lamond, Franz von Vecsey, Ernst von Dohnanyi, and Josef Lhevinne. Ignoring the sensible Viennese advice “If you want Strauss have Johann, if you want Richard have Wagner,” even the New York Times gave this event important and sympathetic coverage, calling it a “brilliant War Premiere” and a phenomena accompanying “this great period in Germany history.” There was obviously very little anti-German feeling in America at the time!

Later while on holiday in Heligoland after performing in Berlin, he was arrested because of his nationality and interned. Luckily his staunch friend the German Crown Princess Cecilie (1886-1954) who was a great admirer of his, arrived at the prison to secure his immediate release, taking him back to Berlin in her car. Indignant at the treatment he had received, he repeatedly refused to play in Berlin.

After the war, Huberman reappeared in London billed as one of the metropolis’s foremost cultural attractions and “established himself securely in the first rank of mature musicians.” In June 1919 at a recital at Steinway Hall he was reportedly mobbed by crowds of women, and at the Albert Hall he appeared with Nellie Melba dividing honours equally with the Australian singer.

The catastrophe of the First World War, a civil war between Europeans, caused Huberman to become interested in Politics. What had all the international conferences for military disarmament before the war acheived? If the primary element of capitalism is capital, how could war which destroys capital be considered a natural phenomenon of the system? Where there are no fronteirs, there are no wars. Huberman became convinced that the problem of peace was inseparable from the problem of political unification, a topic that he was to write and lecture on extensively through the 20’s and 30’s.

c. 1912

Crown Princess Cecilie

Beethoven cycle with Eugen d'Albert, Dec 1913

Beethoven & Brahms trio cycle, February 1918

Melba and Huberman, Royal Albert Hall, 29 June 1919


Top Photo: date unknown, V Angerer - Vienna

Konzerthaus programmes used courtesy of:
Archiv der Wiener Konzerthausgesellschaft, Programmarchiv