Mischa Elman (January 20, 1891 – April 5, 1967) was a Ukrainian-born violinist, famed for his passionate style and beautiful tone.
He was born in the small town of Talnoye near Kiev. His grandfather was a klezmer, a Jewish folk musician, who also played the violin. It became apparent when Mischa was very young that he had perfect pitch, but his father hesitated about a career as a musician, since musicians were not very high on the social scale. He finally gave in, and gave Mischa a miniature violin, on which he soon learned several tunes by himself. Soon thereafter, he was taken to Odessa, where he studied at the Imperial Academy of Music. Pablo de Sarasate gave him a recommendation, stating that he could become one of the great talents of Europe. He auditioned for Leopold Auer at the age of 11, playing the Wieniawski Concerto No. 2 and 24th Caprice by Paganini. Auer was so impressed that he had Elman admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory.
In 1903, Elman began to play concerts in the homes of wealthy patrons of the arts, and he made his Berlin debut in 1904, creating a great sensation. His London debut in 1905 included the British premiere of Alexander Glazunov's concerto. He played in Carnegie Hall in 1908, making a great impression on his American audience.
The Elman family moved to the United States, and Mischa became a citizen in 1923. In 1917, he was elected to honorary membership in Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia music fraternity. He sometimes performed in as many as 107 concerts in a 29-week season. In 1943, he gave the premiere of Bohuslav Martin?'s second concerto, which was written for him. Sales of his records exceeded two million, and they have often been reissued on CD.
His most frequent accompanist in chamber works was Emmanuel Bay, who was born on exactly the same day as he was, 20 January 1891. Elman died on April 5, 1967 in New York City. He is buried in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York.
Elman's recorded legacy spanned more than 50 years, with recordings made during the 78rpm era appearing under the HMV and Victor (later RCA/Victor) labels. During the LP era, Elman signed with Decca/London and later with the Vanguard recording group. Unlike his contemporary, Jascha Heifetz, Elman's work has never been re-issued in a systematic manner.
Interview with Mischa Elman