Emanuel Feuermann

Austrian musician (1902-1942)

Emanuel Feuermann (born Kolomyia, Austro-Hungarian Empire, 22 November 1902; died New York City, 25 May 1942) was a famous Austrian cellist who became a naturalized American.

Life change

Feuermann's parents were amateur musicians. His father started to teach him the violin, but the young boy wanted to hold it between his legs like a cello, so his father bought him a small cello. In 1909 the family moved to Vienna so that he could learn the cello from the famous Friedrich Buxbaum, the cellist of the Rosé Quartet and principal cellist of the Vienna Philharmonic. Then he studied with Anton Walter at the Music Academy in Vienna. In February 1914, aged twelve, he played in his first concert, performing Joseph Haydn's Cello Concerto in D with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Felix Weingartner.

In 1917, Feuermann went to Leipzig where he studied with Julius Klengel. Klengel thought his young pupil was incredibly talented, but that he did not know much great cello music. Feuermann worked very hard. Klengel was a good teacher for him

In 1919 Friedrich Grützmacher died and Klengel recommended Feuermann should take his job at the Gürzenich Conservatory in Cologne. Although he was very young he got the job which had a very good salary, but he was not given the title of “professor”.

During the 1920s he gave many concerts all over the world. In 1929 he became professor at the Musikhochschule in Berlin.He played with famous people such as the violinists Carl Flesch, Szymon Goldberg, Joseph Wolfsthal and Jascha Heifetz, the composer and viola player Paul Hindemith and the pianist Artur Rubinstein.

On April 3, 1933, with the rise of Nazism, he lost his job at the Berlin Conservatory because he was Jewish. He moved to London. He toured Japan and the United States where he played the Haydn concerto with the New York Philharmonic conducted by Bruno Walter. Some music critics were not very impressed with his playing. However, a few days later he gave a recital. Nearly all the professional cellists in New York were there because they had heard that Feuermann was an exceptional player. The audience were extremely enthusiastic and even the music critics changed their minds.

In 1935 he married. He moved to Zürich with his wife, but happened to be in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss while his wife and young daughter were still in Zürich. Bronislaw Huberman helped Feuermann and his family escape to Israel in September 1938. At the end of the year they went to the United States and applied for American citizenship.

He taught at the Curtis Institute of Music and gave concerts and made recordings with other great musicians including Artur Schnabel, Bronislaw Huberman and, especially, with the pianist Franz Rupp.

Feuermann died in 1942 of an infection after a small operation for haemorrhoids.

His reputation change

Feuermann was one of the greatest cellists who ever lived. The cello was not often heard as a solo instrument in those days, but Feuermann and Pablo Casals made people change their minds. Feuermann did not actually practise very much on his own, but when he was making music with other people he worked very hard at all the detail. He loved teaching. He also loved fast cars. His family were very important indeed to him.

Many believe that Feuermann's interpretation of Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto and his performance of Johannes Brahms's Double Concerto with Jascha Heifetz are among the best ever.

References change