S0543. EMANUEL FEUERMANN, w.Ormandy Cond.Philadelphia Orch.: Double Concerto in a (Brahms) (w.Jascha Heifetz), recorded 1939; Don Quixote (Strauss) (w.Samuel Lifschey & Alexander Hilsberg), recorded 1940. (Japan) Opus Kura 2102. - 4582158681028
“Emanuel Feuermann was one of the great cellists of the twentieth century, especially admired and appreciated by other cellists. Pablo Casals, speaking with Jose Maria Corredor in 1954, being asked about the best cellists of his day, immediately named Emanuel Feuermann. Casals remarked, ‘What a great artist Feuermann was! His early death was a great loss to music’." Feuermann, likewise, had been a great admirer of Casals.
When Feuermann made his American début in 1935, the hall was packed with fellow cellists who had come to hear something truly extraordinary. Following the performance a critic wrote, ‘Difficulties do not exist for Mr. Feuermann, even difficulties that would give celebrated virtuosi pause’. In 1938 an English reviewer wrote in The Strad, following a concert, ‘I do not think there can any longer be doubt that Feuermann is the greatest living cellist, Casals alone excepted...In Feuermann we have a spectacular virtuosic artist of the front rank, the Wieniawski, shall I say, of the cello’. Feuermann was famous for his unbelievable facility in the upper registers of the instrument, and was said to be able to easily perform Mendelssohn's violin concerto on his cello exactly as written for the violin.
Feuermann was born into a musical family, in Kolomea, in Galicia, Poland, in the year 1902. His father played cello and violin, and was Emanuel's first teacher. His elder brother Zigmund was a child prodigy on the violin, and toured Europe. When Emanuel took violin lessons from his father, he insisted in holding the violin vertically, so his father fixed a pin on the end of the violin, and turned it into a very small ‘cello’. By the time he was nine, Emanuel was taking lessons from Friedrich Buxbaum, principal cellist in the Vienna Philharmonic. But the most significant event in his life as a young cellist was hearing Casals at his début in Vienna in 1912. Feuermann was galvanized, demanded that his mother purchase the music Casals had performed, and began practicing incessantly. In February of 1914, at the age of twelve, Emanuel Feuermann made his own début, playing the Haydn D Major Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Weingartner, with great success.
Rather than being exploited as a child prodigy, as his brother had been, Feuermann spent the next several years in Leipzig, studying with Julius Klengel, who was a very gifted teacher. Klengel was good at bringing out the best in his pupils, while allowing them to preserve their individual personalities. Klengel wrote of Feuermann, ‘Of all those who have been entrusted to my guardianship, there has never been such a talent...our divinely favoured artist and lovable young man’. When Grutzmacher died in 1918, Klengel recommended that Feuermann, though only sixteen years old, be offered Grutzmacher's post as professor at the Gurzenich Conservatoire at Cologne. Feuermann proved his capabilities at an audition, and was hired.
Much could be written concerning Feuermann's career and performances. There was an especially fruitful friendship with Heifetz, the great violinist, with whom he recorded the Brahms Double Concerto. Feuermann, Heifetz and Primrose performed and recorded much chamber music. When Feuermann died, Piatagorsky took his place in the trio. Heifetz appreciated Piatagorsky's talents, but let it be known that he considered Feuermann to have been the true ‘Fireman’.
Emanuel Feuermann died unexpectedly on May 25, 1942, following a minor operation, when he came down with an infection. Unfortunately, the medical use of antibiotics was not yet much advanced at that time. His pall bearers (after his untimely death) included Toscanini, Ormandy, Serkin, Elman, Huberman, Schnabel, and Szell. A quartet including Erica Morini and Frank Miller played the slow movement of Beethoven's Op. 74."
- Z. D. Akron
“Heifetz was universally acclaimed as the violinist of the century. But for many, that wasn’t enough. Even his harshest detractors had to admit that Jascha Heifetz had the greatest technique in history (and the few recordings of his concerts prove that his precision wasn’t a studio fabrication)….Rather than embrace mellow maturity, Heifetz maintained throughout his half-century career the fleet precision of his initial fame….Throughout his career, Heifetz projected his sensational technique and pure tone with affirmative athletic confidence. Even in his last performances, he sounds like the most youthful violinist on record….For most artists, recording quality is at best a secondary concern. But with Heifetz it’s crucial, since the exquisite subtlety of his tone was such an essential part of his artistry….Although his fame arose when the 1900s had barely begun, no artist in the last 80 years has displaced Heifetz as ‘the violinist of the century’….his fabulous recorded legacy reminds us why.”
- Peter Gutmann, CLASSICAL NOTES