Vienna 1895 / America 1896 / 1900s / 1920s / 1930s / Australia 1937 / 1940s / Neville Cardus / Alexander Ruppa

America 1896

Reviews of the America tour of 1896/97.

New York Times, 22 November 1896

The Boy Violinist Proves to be an
Artist of the First Rank

Overture, “Carnival de Boheme” … Dvorak

Concerto … Mendelssohn
Allegro, Andante, Finale,
Bronislaw Huberman.

Preludes, “Die Koenigskinder” ... Humperdink
(New, first time in America.)
Act. II. May Festival and Dance.
(“Hella Fest und Kinderreigen.”)
Act III. The Minstrel’s Last Lay.
(Spielmann’s letzter Gesang Verdorben, Gestorben.)

Air and Prelude ... Bach
Bronislaw Huberman.

Symphonic Poeme … Saint-Saens
“Ronet d’Omphale.”

(a) Romanza … Wagner
(b) Gypsy Airs … Sarasate
Bronislaw Huberman.

If a musical hearer, unacquainted beforehand with the nature of the occasion, had turned his back to the stage a few minutes after Seidl’s orchestra had done playing Dvorak’s overture at Carnegie Hall last evening, he would have been greatly interested and impressed by what he heard. For it was a performance of the first movement of Mendelssohn’s concerto, which not only did justice to the suavity of the composition, but also imparted a willfulness and impetuosity to its rhythmic swing such as he could not often have heard before. He could have heard it delivered in a tone which, if not exquisite, was full and clear, and with a complete mastery of its difficulties. His conclusion would have been that some theretofore unknown but very individual violinist was giving his own interpretation, at many points novel, of the familiar classic.

If he had then turned round and looked, as well as listened, he would have been impressed with the notion of something uncanny and out of nature. It would have seemed too preposterous that the slight child of thirteen, in long hair and a silken blouse, whom he would have seen, should know and feel and do all that. The technique is not the remarkable thing about Huberman’s playing. It is what technique ought to be – the means to an end. The point is that he has a definite notion of his own of how the music should be played, and he plays it in that way. Nobody who heard him play a single movement last night could doubt that his interpretation was his own. It is simply inconceivable that he could have been coached to play as he plays.

The most remarkable point about his playing is not at all its precocity, but its maturity, the magistral and authoritative way in which he presents you with his interpretations to take or to leave – the total absence of anything tentative or conjectural or dubious about them. His confidence that the way he plays the thing, whatever it may be, is the way it ought to go, recalls Kipling’s London clerk, in “The Finest Story in the World,” flinging out with authority his reminiscences of what has happened to him three thousand years before in a previous state of existence. Really, that is as likely a supposition as any other to account for Bronislaw Huberman.

Which is to say that he is not a pupil, but a master, an artist about whom it would be an impertinence to make allowances and to say “considering.” He is entitled to be judged like the other of the leading violinists of whom he is one. Not by any means that he is impeccable. He has distinctly more fire than finish. In the first two movements of the Mendelssohn concerto, accordingly, he was distinctly inferior to Sauret, who played the concerto here so exquisitely last year. In the last movement, accordingly, where vigor, dash, and power are more called for than finish, Huberman was as distinctly superior to Sauret. But the whole concerto was most interestingly given.

Upon the whole, the last movement of the concerto was the best thing he did, excepting possibly the final “Gypsy Airs” of Sarasate, which make great demands upon execution, but which he gave with a delightful spirit and freedom. For an encore to the concerto he played Schumann’s “Trauemerei” with a muted violin, and marred the performance, as also that of the Bach air, by an abuse of the vibrato which was really outrageous. The Bach air was further injured by the suppression of the accompaniment, which is an integral part of the composition, almost into inaudible-ness. Whether this was the violinist’s fault or the conductor’s, it was grievous. The “prelude” from one of the solo sonatas, on the other hand was played with admirable vigor and clearness. For a final encore he played an amazingly difficult rondo by Bazzini with a complete and easy conquest of its difficulties. The young violinst has justified the European praise of him and won a genuine and well-deserved success.

New York Times, 27 November 1896

The Young Violinist Pleases a Large
Audience at Carnegie Hall.

Bronislaw Huberman, the juvenile violinist, suffers from over-advertising and underdressing. There really is no good reason why Huberman should be advertised as a mature artist, nor is there good ground for dressing him in knee trousers, loose silk shirts, and long hair. He is not a mature artist, and he is not a juvenile prodigy. He is simply a boy whom nature has blessed with something like a real genius for violin playing, and who has reached the age of about sixteen years without mastering his art. It would do Huberman a world of good to go into retirement and study earnestly under masters of opposite styles, like Joachim and Ysaye. He would then be a violinist.

That the boy has a genuine musical organization was proved by his playing yesterday afternoon at Carnegie Hall, where he gave his first recital in the presence of a large and unduly demonstrative audience. The boy’s most important number was Bruch’s first concerto, with which he began his afternoon’s work. He played it not at all like a mature artist, but like a boy with genius in his blood. Huberman has fire, dash, élan at times, and occasionally his cantabile spreads into the warm glow of radiant beauty. But that is not often. He pleases most by the splendid sonority of his tone, a tone rough and impure yet, but very noble in its majestic breadth. It is a grand foundation on which to rear a better technic than that shown in the last movement of the concerto, which was played coldly, deliberately, even tentatively.

Huberman plays sharp very often, and his intonation is generally open to question. But his bowing, barring an over-fondness for detached notes, is admirable, and his phrasing shows a fine feeling for musical effects. There is a great amount of earnestness in the young man’s work. There is no question that he loves his art, and that he puts all the emotional experience he has, together with a great deal of musical instinct, into his playing. He has a fine future before him, if he will content himself with being a violinist and drop his present style of dress and advertising.

In addition to the concerto he played a Chopin nocturne and Wieniawski’s “Faust” fantasia. Adele Lewing, pianist, played some harmless, unnecessary numbers in a harmless, unnecessary style, and Mr. E Romayne Simmons supplied the violinist with accompaniments which were of the earth, earthy.

Other American reviews:

The young violinist has justified the European praise of him and won a genuine and well-deserved success. – TIMES

Huberman is a genius; his movements and looks indicate it, and his playing more surely yet verifies this idea. – SUN

If this child does not burn with the true fires of genius, then genius never existed. – PRESS

His performance of the Mendelssohn Concerto would have been marvelous had he been twenty years older. – EVE. POST

This body will not only make a furor; he will fill the aching void which Paderewski’s absence has left in so many feminine breasts. – EVE. SUN

His exquisite tone and puiseant appreciation, his buoyant and delicate grace of execution were all of the most admirable description. – MAIL AND EXPRESS

There is not, perhaps, the force of a full grown man in his touch or tone, but no lack is felt, for everything in his playing is homogeneous and in proportion.


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