Bronislaw Huberman

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Bronislaw Huberman

Birthdate: (64)
Birthplace: Częstochowa, Silesia, Poland
Death: June 16, 1947 (64)
Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland (unknown)
Place of Burial: in Switzerland
Immediate Family:

Son of Jacob Huberman and Alexandra Huberman
Ex-husband of Elza Galafrés - Huberman - von Dohnanyi
Father of Johannes John Huberman
Brother of Leopold Huberman and Stasha Huberman

Occupation: Virtuoso violinist, Virtuoso Violonist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Bronislaw Huberman

Bronislaw Huberman was one of the towering figures among violinists of his generation. Yet despite lavish praise from Fürtwangler, Toscanini, Walter, and other major conductors and artists, he remained a controversial artist throughout his career, owing to his highly individual style of interpretation and to a technique that, while not weak or unimpressive, lacked the consistency in difficult passages of the finest virtuosos. The Gibson ex-Huberman Stradivarius violin which bears his name was stolen and recovered twice during the period in which he owned the instrument.

Huberman was born in Częstochowa, Poland. He was the son of a law clerk who was a good amateur musician himself. As a young child, Huberman showed remarkable talent, giving his first public concert at age seven. He studied with Michalowicz and Rosen, then at the Warsaw Conservatory with Isidor Lotto, all before he reached the age of ten. In Berlin, Joachim was impressed with the youth's talent, but not disposed toward teaching prodigies. He referred him to Markees, but it was, by Huberman's own assessment, his study in Berlin with Charles Grigorovich that honed his talents. At the age of 11, he gave a successful concert tour of Holland and Belgium and soon afterward gained the support of arts patron Count Zamoyski in Paris and singer Adelina Patti in London. The former presented him with a Stradivarius and the latter, after some wrangling, allowed him to play at some of her final concerts. At a January 1896 concert in Vienna, Huberman astonished Brahms with a performance of his violin concerto and by his late teens, he had scored numerous successes throughout Europe. He had even given one hugely successful tour of the United States in 1896-1897. In 1902, following a lengthy suspension of concert activity, Huberman suffered a great loss with the passing of his father, who had given up his law clerk position and sacrificed much else for his son's career.

Huberman soon resumed concertizing with numerous successful tours. His only marriage came in 1910, to actress Elza Galafrés. Their union lasted but four years and produced one child, Johannes (born 1911).

At the outbreak of World War I, Huberman was briefly interned, but he remained active throughout the next two decades, curtailing his schedule in 1933 with the rise of the Nazis. In the 1920s, Huberman became an active supporter of the Pan-European movement, even writing several essays later published in a book entitled Vaterland Europa (1932). He refused to play any concerts in Germany from 1933.

Palestine Philharmonic Orchestra

In 1929 Huberman first visited Palestine and developed his vision of establishing classical music in the Promised Land. In 1933, during the Nazis' rise to power, Huberman declined invitations from Wilhelm Furtwängler to return to preach a "musical peace", but wrote instead an open letter to German intellectuals inviting them to remember their essential values. In 1936 he founded the Palestine Orchestra, which gave its inaugural concert performance on 26 December with Arturo Toscanini conducting. This laid the foundations of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, which, however, was not established until 1948, a year after Huberman's death.

Stradivarius theft

Before 1936, Huberman's principal instrument for his concerts was the 1713-vintage Stradivarius "Gibson", which was named after one of its early owners, the English violinist George Alfred Gibson. It was stolen twice. In 1919, it was stolen from Huberman's Vienna hotel room, but recovered by the police within 3 days. The second time was in New York City. On February 28, 1936, while giving a concert at Carnegie Hall, Huberman switched the Stradivarius "Gibson" with his newly acquired Guarnerius violin, leaving the Stradivarius in his dressing room during intermission. It was stolen by a New York nightclub musician, Julian Altman, who kept it for the next half century. Huberman's insurance company, Lloyd's of London, paid him $US30,000 for the loss in 1936. Altman went on to become a violinist with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C. and performed with the stolen Stradivarius for many years. In 1985, Altman made a deathbed confession to his wife, Marcelle Hall, that he had stolen the violin. Two years later, she returned it to Lloyd's and collected a finder's fee of $US263,000. The instrument underwent a 9-month restoration by J&A Beare Ltd., in London. In 1988, Lloyd's sold it for $US1.2 million to British violinist Norbert Brainin. In October 2001, the American violinist, Joshua Bell, purchased it for $4,000,000.

The purloined violin was a relatively minor misfortune for Huberman during the turbulent 1930s: a 1937 plane crash rendered him incapable of playing for over a year. In November 1938, he successfully returned to the concert stage in Egypt, and the following month he appeared as soloist with the Palestine Symphony Orchestra for the first time in his career. After a tour of Europe in 1939, Huberman relocated to New York, where he lived until the end of the war. Following cessation of hostilities, he took up residence near Lake Geneva, Switzerland. In 1946, he became ill and was unsuccessfully treated in Italy for six months. Huberman died in Corsier-sur-Vevey, Switzerland, in 1947.

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Bronislaw Huberman's Timeline

December 19, 1882
Częstochowa, Silesia, Poland
February 27, 1911
Age 28
Vienna, Vienna, Austria
June 16, 1947
Age 64
Corsier-sur-Vevey, Vaud, Switzerland
Age 64
in Switzerland