Today in Music History
A Daily Look at Music History For Violin Students
A Look at What Happened on Today's Date
Long, Long Ago . . . Or Maybe Just Last Year
TODAY IS
January 1
Can You Guess?
Roman Totenberg's daughter became quite a famous person, and is known, at least by reputation, throughout the world.  Can You Guess why so many people know of Roman Totenberg's daughter?

Look at the Bottom of the Page for the Answer.
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1782 - Johann Christian Bach, German composer and son of J.S. Bach, died in London.

1801 - The first musical presentation at the White House. The U.S. Marine Band performed for New Years day reception of President John Adams.

1879 - Premiere of Brahms's Violin Concerto, Brahms conducting, Joseph Joachim, soloist.  See Perlman play mvt 3 in the video at the bottom of the page.

1894 - Premiere of Antonin DvorŠk's String Quartet No. 12 in F, Op. 96 American, in Boston.

1907 - Erich Schmid,  Swiss conductor, was born in Balsthal.

1908 - Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), was chosen as new conductor of the Metropolitan Opera in NYC, conducting Tristan and Isolde.

1942 - Premiere of Carlos Chavez's Piano Concerto. (Recording also contains his Violin Concerto.)

1953 - Premiere of Ernest Bloch's Suite HebraÔque in Chicago.

1982 - The last ABBA concert was held in Stockholm.
He was born in Poland on New Year's Day, 1911. He learned the violin, almost by chance, at age six.  The concertmaster of the Moscow Symphony lived in his building and was babysitting for him.  He discovered that Roman was a fast learner and started teaching him violin.
Roman Totenberg
1911 - 2012
Roman's teacher transcribed some violin pieces into duets, one part easy and one part difficult.  Roman played the easy part, and the two gave concerts together.  That way Roman began bringing in money for his family. He walked on the concert stage at the age of eleven with the Warsaw Philharmonic.

He says that his greatest pleasure when he was growing up was practicing and exploring his violin to see what kind of sounds he could make and whether he could imitate what other violinists did.

While still a boy he was admitted to the conservatory.  He said that his teacher was eccentric and would sometimes keep him at the school for hours at a time causing him to have to walk home in the dark.  Roman was afraid to do so, and would sing loudly to bolster his courage, allowing his parents to hear him coming "from miles away."

Totenberg made his solo debut with the Warsaw Philharmonic when he was 11.  Eventually Totenberg went to Berlin where he became a student of Carl Flesch.  He played with the Berlin Philharmonic, and that was his entrance to the European concert circuit.  He was soon playing as a soloist with orchestras from all over Europe.


In 1935 Totenberg was invited to come to America.  He played in the White House and at the Library of Congress.  Eventually he decided to remain here and became a citizen.
In the United States Totenberg developed a reputation as a fine violinist and chamber music player.  He regularly played with the New Friends of Music, in New York City.  He also became the director of live chamber music concerts for WQXR, a radio station in New York.  As a performer Totenberg has performed with symphony orchestras from across the globe.  As a young man he met composer Darius Milhaud. More than two decades later, Totenberg debuted Milhaud's 2nd Violin Concerto in Aspen, and later played it in Berlin with the Berlin Philharmonic.


Totenberg recorded under various labels including Musical Heritage, Vanguard, Deutsche Grammophon (DGG), Telefunken, Philips and De Camera. His 1989 recording of the Brahms and Lipsinki violin concerti made a list of that year's outstanding recordings. In 1992, two Totenberg compact discs were released: the Ernest Bloch Violin Concerto and Bartok's Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra (sound samples available at Amazon) and Beethoven's Violin concerto with Szymanowski's Violin Concerto No. 1 Opus 35.

Totenberg actually began teaching when he was 11.  His student was 10.  Since that time Totenberg has taught hundreds of students, many at very advanced levels.  He insists that regular practice is important and says students who are truly successful in high school play for a half hour before school and for at least an hour after school every day.

Since 1975 he has played and taught chamber music in Kneisel Hall at Blue Hill, Maine. Prior to that he taught and played at the Tanglewood Festival, the Aspen Music Festival, the Music Academy of the West and Salzburg's Mozarteum.

He taught at Boston University, heading the String Department there from 1961 to 1978. He taught at the Mannes School of Music in New York, headed the string department of the Peabody Conservatory of Music, Baltimore, and the Longy School of Music which he was the Director from 1978 to 1985.

In 1988, Mr. Totenberg was awarded a medal of merit by the Polish government for his life-long cultural contributions to Polish society. Totenberg passed away May 8, 2012.
Yehudi Menuhin Shirt
.
The back is a
Yehudi Menuhin Quote

"The violinist is that peculiarly human phenomenon distilled to a rare potency--half tiger, half poet."
Did You Guess?
Roman Totenberg's daughter is
Nina Totenberg, a reporter and host on National Public Radio.  I don't often get the chance to link to recorded interviews with artists, but there is a delightful interview that Nina did with her father at http://theconnection.org.  You can go directly to the interview by clicking HERE.  It's a long one, almost 48 minutes, but it includes not only some interesting stories, but several recordings of Mr. Totenberg as well.
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