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13 Winter 1913–1914: Bar Mitzvah

Galina Kopytova Indiana University Press ePub

DURING JASCHA’S PERIOD OF STUDY at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, he returned often to Vilnius to visit, but two years had passed since he last performed in his hometown. The previous appearance was in December 1911 at a charity concert, during which he performed only Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen. The music-loving residents of Vilnius were in luck when toward the end of November 1913, local newspapers published the following announcements: “Vilnius Symphony Orchestra. City Hall. 4 December 1913. Symphony Concert with the participation of world-famous violinist Jascha Heifetz. Conductor A. Wylezinski.”1

The Heifetzes arrived in Vilnius on December 3 and that same day Jascha participated in a rehearsal with the Vilnius Symphony Orchestra. For the first time, the young boy was to perform the Beethoven Concerto, one of the greatest and most challenging works in the violin repertoire. This concerto featured prominently in Heifetz’s career, and in his old age he remarked that “there is so much beautiful music. But the Mozart and Beethoven Concerti are special. They are the most difficult, too.”2 Coincidentally, just prior to Jascha’s arrival in Vilnius, his conservatory classmate Cecilia Hansen had also performed the Beethoven Concerto there.

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20 The First Half of 1917: February Revolution

Galina Kopytova Indiana University Press ePub

NO ONE COULD HAVE PREDICTED just how the political and social unrest would develop during 1917. Military successes during the previous year had created a sense of optimism; the hardships of the first two years of the war were not felt as sharply in the expanses of the Russian Empire as they were in other warring European countries. The autumn 1916 draft ofthirteen million farmers, factory workers, and transportation workers, however, left the economy in total ruin. The Tsar, taking upon himself the responsibilities of commander-in-chief, was overburdened with wartime affairs. Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, meanwhile, mourned the death on December 16 (OS)of the controversial Russian Orthodox mystic, Grigory Rasputin. He had served as her confidant and had been successfully treating the bleeding episodes of her son, who was afflicted with hemophilia, a condition the boy inherited from his mother. Highsociety, monarchist conspirators, afraid of Rasputin’s growing influence on the royal family, murdered Rasputin, thus depriving the Empress of her last hope in the fight with her son’s illness.

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17 The End of 1915

Galina Kopytova Indiana University Press ePub

JASCHA HAD NOT SPENT AN AUTUMN in Petrograd for three years: in 1912 he toured Germany; in 1913, after a summer in Loschwitz, he played concerts in Berlin, Dresden, and Warsaw; and in 1914 the Heifetzes were detained in Germany until December. With its changeable weather and abundance of rainy days, September was nevertheless mild in the city. The beautiful yellow color of falling leaves resembled the gilded cupolas of the St. Nicholas Cathedral, which sparkled under the autumn sun, but within a few weeks this pleasant weather turned quickly into winter, bringing with it a mix of rain and snow.

Jascha and Pauline returned to the conservatory in the middle of September, and Ruvin received the customary residency certificate from the police station permitting him and his family to remain in the city until January 15, 1916.1 After many years of service, Stanislav Gabel had recently resigned as conservatory inspector and was replaced by Professor Nikolai Lavrov, who now gave Ruvin the necessary papers for dealing with the police authorities. It was Lavrov who had examined Pauline back in January 1912 when she entered the conservatory, and he continued to be supportive of the Heifetz family. As director, Glazunov continued to approve Ruvin’s enrollment in the conservatory, which allowed the Heifetzes to stay in the city. A significant readjustment, however, is apparent in Ruvin’s residency certificates from September 1915 on. Ruvin had previously been registered as a “student of the conservatory,” but was now listed as “capital.” This change indicated that although he still resided in the city as a student, he was now supporting himself financially. Clearly, Jascha’s concerts must have provided the family with enough to live on.

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10 1912: A German Tour

Galina Kopytova Indiana University Press ePub

UPON THEIR RETURN from the Latvian coast, the Heifetz family moved from their apartment on Voznesensky Prospekt to building 8-10 Bolshaya Masterskaya Street, a tall corner building facing Torgovaya Street. This was a familiar place for Jascha since it was just across the street from where he had lived with his father two years earlier. The building was new, and some final work on the inside continued for almost a year after the Heifetzes arrived. In one direction the building looked onto the dome of the synagogue, and in the other, beyond the Kryukov Canal, one could see the back of the Mariinsky Theater and also the conservatory, which was just a five-minute stroll along Torgovaya Street. That year, an amusement park with roller coasters, a Ferris wheel, swings, and other attractions opened in the nearby Demidov Gardens on Ofitserskaya Street, but Jascha had little free time for the many temptations. Leading up to important performances, Auer paid special attention to his students and made every effort to help them perfect their concert programs.

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7 Fall 1911: In the Class of Professor Auer

Galina Kopytova Indiana University Press ePub

PROFESSOR LEOPOLD AUER, born on June 7, 1845 (NS), was already sixty-six years old when Jascha entered his class in 1911. His father was a painter from the small Hungarian town of Veszprém near Lake Balaton. In his 1923 biography, My Long Life in Music, published in New York, Auer wrote about his journey from difficult beginnings in the backwaters of the Austrian Empire to a successful musical career in the upper circles of the Russian Empire. The only major Russian work on Auer’s life is a 1962 monograph by Lev Raaben.1 Owing to the absence of documents pertaining to Auer’s career in the archives of the conservatory and the Russian Music Society (RMO), Raaben relied on personal correspondence, conservatory reports, and other indirect sources. There was a reason for the absence of documents: the files of professors still in Russia after the 1917 revolutions were kept, but those belonging to Auer and others who departed, such as Nikolai Malko and Vladimir Drozdov, were discarded.

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