November 2011

Japan on the International Tour Circuit and as a Refuge

November 11, 2011 07:03

Japan on the International Tour Circuit and as a Refuge

In my last blog I introduced the violinists whose foreign tours took them to Japan already in the late 19th and early 20th century, before WW1. After the war, their number increased. By now it was not just the foreign residents who came to their concerts; increasingly, Japanese lovers of Western classical music emerged in the larger cities. As gramophone records became available, they became fans of Elman, Kreisler, Heifetz and the other stars of the time. In the wake of the devastation caused by Russian Revolution and later by the Nazis, some of the violinists ended up staying for years, although America was usually the preferred choice. Many ware Jews. In the 1930s Japanese-German friendship meant that Japan was not a great country to be a Jew in, although safer than most European countries. While outright persecution seems to have been the exception, Jews suffered discrimination and lived in fear of deportation.

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 describe the historical background and include details about some of the foreign violinists, especially those who stayed longer and played a major role in raising the standards of playing. I have managed to wangle a bit of money for an expert in Russian language and literature (who also reads Polish and Czech) under the University of Copenhagen’s Asian Dynamics Initiative (http://asiandynamics.ku.dk/english/).
She has been searching in reference works and making good headway. Again I have CAPITALIZED the more elusive violinists in the hope that someone has information that is not easily obtained courtesy of Google (not even Russian Google). I have drawn blanks in the reference works I consulted, printed or virtual.
1918
Emilio Colombo (1874-1937)
ALFRED JONES (?)
1918 Mishel Piastro; as mentioned in my last blog he had already visited in 1912
1918 Moscow Trio
1921
Misha Elman
1922
Efrem Zimbalist
1922 Mishel Piastro
1922 Kathleen Parlow – another touring female violinist; biography by Maida Parlow French, “Kathleen Parlow: A Portrait”. Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1967

1922 Jaroslav Kocián
1923
Willy Burmester
1923 Fritz Kreisler
1923 Mishel Piastro

1923 Jasha Heifetz came in November, not long after the Great Kantô Earthquake. As I wrote in an earlier blog http://www.violinist.com/blog/Ku92me/20113/
his concerts brought cheer to music lovers in Tokyo after the devastation.

1924
NATALI BOSHKO (1906-?) The New York Times of 1 April 1917 carries a note about a concert she appeared in with her sister Victoria Boshko in Carnegie Hall. Natalie performed Bruch’s Violin Concerto and “Kol Nidrei” accompanied by the (Arnold) Volpe Symphony Orchestra. The sisters had previously performed for the Czar and Czarina on one occasion, which presumably did not enhance their popularity in post-revolutionary Russia. I am told that googling her in Russian produces loads of hits for a singer of the same name.

1924 Michael Wexler (1896-?): Apparently another pupil of Auer's. The local (Japanese) press reported that he was known as one of the three greatest violinists in Russia; he stayed in Japan longer. He did go to New York in 1930, as he had intended, but returned to Japan, where he continued to perform and teach.

1924 LEOPOLD PREMYSLAV; as I mentioned in my last blog he first performed in Japan in 1909; he seems to have ended his days in South Africa.

1924 Efrem Zimbalist

1925
Boris Lass, a student of Auer; like Wexler, he apparently stayed longer (s.b.) According to a short Japanese Wikipedia article about Tsuji Kichinosuke http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E8%BE%BB%E5%90%89%E4%B9%8B%E5%8A%A9
the father of Tsuji Hisako (see my previous blog), Boris Lass was Kichinosuke’s teacher. Corwin Slack, that means you played Boris Lass, right?

1925 was also the year several Russian orchestral players came over from Russia and from Harbin and together with Japanese musicians gave concerts as the Japan-Russia Friendship Symphony Orchestra. At the first desk sat Nikolai Schifferblatt and Josef König, who later returned to Japan as conductors of the Japan Symphony Orchestra, the predecessor of what is now the NHK orchestra.

1926
Boris Lass; he later led a string quartet as well as performing piano trio with Mark Lass and Constantine Shapiro, and sonatas with Maxim Shapiro.

1926 LEONID NIKOLAIEVICH SEVCUK another violinist who stayed longer
1926 Alexander Yakovlevich Mogilevsky (he himself preferred the spelling Moguilewsky); he returned to Japan in 1930 after an extended Asian tour and remained there until his death in 1953. His students included Matsumoto Zensô whom I introduced in my first blog. I have just found a recording of Mogilewsky playing Corelli, La Folia here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIxHC47PNMU Health warning: definitely not for historic performance fetishists!

1927 Michael Erdenko; one of the few Russian visitors who did return to his homeland, where his granddaughter arries on the family musical tradition as a singer: http://www.leonsia.ru/?mode=erdfamily

1927 Roberto/Robert Kitain
1927 Naum Blinder
1927 Efrem Zimbalist
1928
EUGEN KLEIN (1893-1943) (Evgenij Klejn or Kreyn?)
1928 Jaques Thibaud,
1928 Cecilia Hansen, described by Auer as “one of my most talented pupils”

1929
Jan Kubelik; by then he was past his best and his Japanese audience, by now used to the likes of Heifetz and co., noticed

1930
Robert NÊBÂ (? – haven’t yet managed to make sense of the Japanese transliteration of his name)
1930 Efrem Zimbalist
1930 Robert Pollack – 1930-37 taught at the Tokyo Academy of Music, Now Tokyo University of Fine Arts: http://www.geidai.ac.jp/english/
1931
Jascha Heifetz
Alfred Hoffman - not a great name to be searching; there seems to be more about him in Japanese than foreign publications; he taught at what is now the Kunitachi College of Music: http://www.kunitachi.ac.jp/
1932
Renée Chemet – she has been the subject of one of Emily Liz’ contributions about female violinists: http://www.violinist.com/discussion/response.cfm?ID=19135
Contrary to what some internet sources say, she did not disappear mysteriously in the East after this tour, but was alive and well in the late 1930s in New York. She is said to have enjoyed a reunion with the composer Miyagi Michio, with whom she performed in Tokyo, when he travelled abroad to the second World Festival of Folk Dance and Song in Biarritz and Pamplona in summer 1953. Maybe she married at some point and changed her name?

1932 Efrem Zimbalist
1932 Joseph Szigeti
1933
Pierre Reitlinger
1934
Boris Lass; the press reported that he had been in Japan for ten years.
1935 Efrem Zimbalist – his sixth (!) and last Asian tour; you can read about Zimbalist’s Asian tours (and indeed about his whole life) in the excellent biography by Roy Malan, Efrem Zimbalist: A Life (Portland: Amadeus Press, 2004).

1936
Szymon Goldberg
1936 Jacques Thibaud
1936 (?) Willy Frey; Polish-born, he studied in Leipzig and Berlin and performed in Germany until he had to flee from the Nazis.
1937
Misha Elman
1937 Piastro Trio, again May 1939 (Alfred Hi/Mirovich pf, Mishel Piastro vl, Joseph Schuster Vc)
1939
Harbin Symphony Orchestra; by then Japan had, of course, annexed Manchuria and controlled large parts of the mainland and the orchestra’s visit was part of a goodwill tour that also took the musicians to Korea. You can read the recollections of Peter Berton who played in the first violin section of the orchestra here: http://www.jpri.org/publications/occasionalpapers/op35.html

The list is probably not exhaustive, but these are the names I found in the Japanese secondary sources I consulted. WW2 pretty much put an end to touring artists, unless they were entertaining troops. For several years Japanese music lovers had to make do with native talent. The first violinist to tour Japan after the war was Yehudi Menuhin in 1951.

Archive link


Exploring New Shores: The First Touring Violin Virtuosos in Japan

November 3, 2011 03:48

Japan 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.

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