November 3, 2011 at 10:48 AMJapan had only been forced to open its doors to the world about a decade ago, when the first touring violin virtuoso hit its shores in 1863. He was Agostino ROBBIO (1840-?), had previously performed in England, America and East Asia and claimed to have studied with Paganini. His audience consisted mainly of the foreigners who had begun to settle in Yokohama.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868 more foreigners moved to Japan, and more artists stopped over on their tour to entertain them, including a few female violinists. The list below is probably incomplete. In my book about the violin in Japan (tentatively entitled Not by Love Alone: How the Violin Became Japanese and the Japanese Became Violinists), I will say more about most of them. In some cases, however, I have found very little information, although a Google search has sometimes revealed surprising results. I have CAPITALIZED some of the names, in the hope that members of this list might have information about them beyond what Google (and the World Biographical System database) can reveal:
1875 JENNY CLAUS - American? The Japan Gazette describes her as “the celebrated violinist” giving a performance “prior to her departure for San Francisco”; she had previously toured Australia. Emily Liz, maybe she’s on your list?
1886 Eduard Remenyi, the first foreign violinist to perform for the emperor of Japan. Styling himself a gypsy fiddler, and accusing Brahms of nicking the Hungarian Dances from him, he was one of the most colorful violin virtuosos in a time. He dropped dead while performing in San Francisco in 1898.
1896 Ovide Musin
1901 MAX SCHLÜTER, a Dane, who had studied with Joachim. His fame today appears to rest mainly on having taught Wandy Tworek (1913-1990) and Jakob Gade (1879-1963) of Tango Jalousie fame. Since he’s “local” for me, I hope to dig out some more information eventually.
1907 ANNA SCHÄFER (b. Frankfurt). Not a good name to be searching for, least of all on the internet!
1909 LEOPOLD PREMYSLAV (he came again in1924). Again not a good name to be searching for, this time because of the variant spellings. Hailing from Warsaw, he studied in Berlin – the yearbooks in the University of the Arts’ archives record a Leopold Przemyslev from 1899 to 1902. There is (or was? – they didn’t answer my letter) a LEOPOLD PREMYSLAV SCHOLARSHIP FUND in Johannesburg, so presumably he eventually ended up in South Africa If anyone knows more or has even benefited from the fund, I’d love to hear from you!
1913 DORA VON MÖLLENDORFF(presumably – Japanese phonetic script can be maddening!). She later married the artist Wilhelm Straube and died in 1971.
1912 Mishel Piastro (1891-1970), the last of the violinist I know of who toured to Japan before WW1 and the first of many Russian violinists and students of Auer who found their way to Japan in the years between the two world wars.
Unlike those who toured Japan in the previous era, many of them, such as Elman, Zimbalist and Heifetz are still household names today. That they found their way to Japan in the 1920s and 1930s shows how globalized the world, including Japan, was even then. But more about that in a later blog.
If I remember correctly, the French used a similar tactic, albeit with ultimately much less friendly intentions, to the Vietnamese in 1858 and finally successfully in 1868...
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