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A Fiddler's Tale

How Hollywood and Vivaldi Discovered Me

Louis Kaufman with Annette Kaufman; Foreword by Jim Svejda

Publication Year: 2003

This fascinating memoir, written by one of the greatest American violinists of the twentieth century, recounts an extraordinary life in music.
    Once called by the New York Times "a violinist's violinist and a musician's musician," Louis Kaufman was born in 1905 in Portland, Oregon. He studied violin with Franz Kneisl at New York's Institute of Musical Art. He was the original violist of the Musical Art Quartet (1926-1933) and won the Naumburg Award in 1928, the year of his American solo recital debut in New York's Town Hall.
    During these early years, he played chamber music with Pablo Casals, Mischa Elman, Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Efrem Zimbalist, among others. After performing the violin solos for Ernst Lubitsch's 1934 film The Merry Widow, Kaufman became the most sought after violin soloist in Hollywood, playing in some 500 films, including Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, The Diary of Anne Frank, Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, and Spartacus. He worked closely with Robert Russell Bennett, Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alfred Newman, Miklós Rózsa, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, and Victor Young.     
    Extraordinary as it seems today, Kaufman was largely responsible for bringing the once-forgotten music of Antonio Vivaldi to its current popularity worldwide among both classical musicians and the general population of music lovers.
    The book includes a music CD with Kaufman’s performances of Vivaldi’s Concerto 2 of op. 9, Havanaise by Camille Saint Saëns, Nocturne for Violin and Piano by Aaron Copland, Much Ado about Nothing Suite for violin and piano by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Jerome Kern, among other favorites.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. 8-9


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pp. ix-xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

If one were to judge solely on the basis of how many people actually heard his playing, then Louis Kaufman should be the most famous violinist who ever lived: this for the simple reason that more people have probably heard him play than all those who heard Paganini, Sarasate, Joachim, Kreisler, Heifetz, and Stern combined. Any of the millions of people...

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pp. xiii-19

I greatly appreciate the valuable advice and supervision of my friends Robert Mandel and Steve Salemson at the University of Wisconsin Press during the preparation of the manuscript. I would also like to thank Susan Brodie for her fine editing of A Fiddler's Tale. My thanks to Professor...

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1. Bucharest to Portland and Back

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pp. 3-12

My mother, Paulina Adler, was the oldest of nine children in Bucharest. When she was quite young, her father died suddenly of a massive heart attack, induced by shock. He had returned from a buying trip to Paris and discovered his shop and home burned to the ground. His wife...

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2. I Become a Violinist

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pp. 13-23

One day I noticed at the neighborhood movie house an announcement of an amateur talent contest after the western film. I reported, "Papa here's a chance for me, the first prize is three dollars, the second is two dollars, and the third is one dollar. I might be able to play and...

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3. New York and Kneisel

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pp. 24-40

I played an audition for the imposing Dr. Franz Kneisel. He was tall and portly, with black hair and eyes and a ferocious black mustache. His class was full, so for the first six months I was to study with Hugo Kortschak until Kneisel could find a place for me. This period was...

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4. More Kneisel — Auer — Graduation — Chamber Music

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pp. 41-47

After a chamber music session in 1922, a guest approached and offered me a contract to perform piano trios nightly at a hotel he managed in Miami, Florida. I would play in the dining room for winter season guests. His offer included round-trip fare from...

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5. The Musical Art Quartet Is Launched: I Become an Art Collector

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pp. 48-53

Sascha Jacobsen was already a fine violinist when he arrived from Russia to study with Kneisel. He was an amiable and pleasant companion, very witty and sophisticated. He owned a lovely Stradivarius violin, which he played with rare artistry. Sascha considered it very vulgar and...

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6. The Musical Art Quartet

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pp. 54-61

Vivid memories remain of the special occasions we participated in at the Bohemian Society. One outstanding event was our world premiere of Efrem Zimbalist's string quartet. Even more memorable was the program to honor Fritz Kreisler's fiftieth birthday. Many famous musicians...

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7. In Baltimore and Capri with the Musical Art Quartet

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pp. 62-70

Ambassador John Work Garrett and his wife, Alice, engaged us for six weeks to stay in a spacious cottage on the grounds of Evergreen House, their home in Baltimore, and perform string quartets. Evergreen House was filled with souvenirs of the Garrett family and beautiful...

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8. Paris!

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pp. 71-74

We thanked the Garretts and made our farewells to Sascha and his wife, Kitty, and the Rosanoffs as they left on their sybaritic sailing. Paul and I set off from Naples with second-class railway tickets. We shunned expensive sleeping cars and meals on trains and slept in modest hotels...

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9. Italian Concerts: Encore Paris

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pp. 75-79

Our tour began after another luxurious Atlantic crossing on the Italian Line to Genoa, where we were met by Ernesto, the Garretts' chauffeur, and proceeded to Rome in their spacious Lincoln limousine. We were elegantly housed in the Rospigliosi palace (the American Embassy...

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10. "The Real Thing": Romance and Annette

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pp. 80-92

My life seemed controlled by a powerful force that inexorably led me in directions that gave meaning to my unfolding chronicle. At decisive moments, that mysterious force called my "karma," in combination with the enchantment of music, always brought unexpected opportunities. My...

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11. Together in Europe — Our Honeymoon

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pp. 93-105

The boat docked at Le Havre early on a gray morning. We were fascinated by the pearly sky, lush green countryside, and sober gray buildings facing us. The soft quality of the light resembled impressionist paintings of Boudin, Monet, and Pissarro. After clearing customs, we walked to a...

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12. Hometown Triumph and California Here We Come!

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pp. 106-111

It was very gratifying that my parents, although disappointed that I avoided a big wedding in Portland, were delighted with my bride. My father was greatly upset to learn we planned to live in Los Angeles. He always assumed I would settle in Portland when I married...

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13. The Goal: Los Angeles

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pp. 112-114

We arrived at the Los Angeles railroad station, a Spanish-style building surrounded by palm trees and flowering plants, on a bright sunny morning in January 1934. What a dramatic change from the gray December skies of Portland and San Francisco! I was ready...

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14. Hollywood: The Golden Years

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pp. 115-147

Mr. Stothart requested me for his next score for Mutiny on the Bounty, starring Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh. I accepted, and then terminated our NBC broadcasts. However, that first night, driving home through deserted streets, I considered the infinite possibilities offered by...

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15. Another Aspect of Hollywood — Art and Music: William Grant StillDarius Milhaud

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pp. 148-159

We often visited Earl Stendahl's art gallery on Wilshire Boulevard and entered the world of art we had enjoyed in Paris and New York. Earl had great vitality and boundless enthusiasm for the arts. His adventurous spirit led him to world explorations, and he...

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16. Bernard Herrmann — Another View: Other Friends, Anthony Collins — Herrmann's Rebirth and Apotheosis

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pp. 160-176

After that first encounter, I reported to Annette how stimulating the day's session had been and how fascinating Bernard's comments about music, composers, and conductors had been during orchestral breaks. About 10 P.M. that evening, Bernard was walking in our neighborhood...

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17. Concert Opportunities — Works Progress Administration: Music — Art — Theater — Trail-blazing

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pp. 177-187

Nathan Abas, born in Holland, a colleague from Kneisel's class, came backstage after that concert and invited me to visit his office the next day. He conducted the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Bay Area Symphony and directed the Project's choruses, bands, and other musical...

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18. Vivaldi Discovers Me — We Meet Francis Poulenc — Historic Recordings

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pp. 188-197

Shortly after the Khachaturian recording, Jacques had a disagreement with RCA and sold that recording to the Concert Hall Society. They reaped outstanding reviews and impressive nationwide publicity, for this was the first Khachaturian to be heard in the United States. Sam was...

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19. En Route to France via Honolulu

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pp. 198-206

Alex, quite shocked by such hostility, attempted to change the conversation, saying, "Markova and Dolin have just returned from the islands and had fine success." Mrs. Stroud hissed, "Those Russian communists." I politely said, "You are quite mistaken; although they are exceptionally...

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20. En Route to Venice via Zurich — after Visiting Poulenc

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pp. 207-211

We immediately realized this opportunity would be the ideal solution for all our transportation and sightseeing in Europe. I canceled our train tickets, and then Andre drove us to Agence Renault. We selected a blue four-door model with scotch-plaid seat-covers, heater, windshield wipers...

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21. Unfinished Business: Meeting Malipiero

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pp. 212-217

It seemed almost incredible to us that Vivaldi's immense output should have practically vanished, nearly forgotten for two hundred years. Yet here we were, parking the car and entering a gondola in Venice, hoping to find a mere eight concertos from only one opus! We settled into the...

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22. Brussels con Moto: Paris Recordings — Arrival in Brussels — Fateful Meeting with Paul Collaer

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pp. 218-231

On this first visit to Belgium, we were greatly impressed by Brussels's imposing Grand Place, with intact handsome medieval houses still serving as public buildings and restaurants. Brussels's royal churches and museums were filled with incomparable fifteenth-century masterpieces by...

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23. More Poulenc, More Brussels: Paris Premiere of Il Cimento dell'Armonia e dell'Invenzione

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pp. 232-238

We met Poulenc at the entrance of radio headquarters and searched for an available studio. Poulenc opened a studio door, and a slim young lady seated at a piano stood up and fled, saying, "Excuse me, I think this is your studio." Poulenc and I began warming up, trying various passages...

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24. Introducing Vivaldi to America: Opus 9 Reveals Another Masterpiece — the Paris Premiere of La Cetra

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pp. 239-249

Since winning the Naumburg Award in 1927, I had remained in friendly contact with the Naumburgs and always invited them to my New York concerts, for they were truly interested in the careers of their prize-winners. My letter reached them at Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Hotel on...

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25. Unexpected North African Tour: Paris Friends

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pp. 250-256

I was met at Casablanca's airport by Monsieur Fina, manager of Radio Maroc, who delivered me to the station, where I boarded a train to Rabat. Andre Girard welcomed me, and we drove to the hotel and later to a reception arranged by Jacqueline Capek of Radio Maroc. This affair was to...

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26. We Meet Samuel Barber in San Francisco — Drama in Holland: Friendships with Artists

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pp. 257-261

During our New York sojourn, we met young Samuel Barber, who arrived with his orchestral score and a tape of Serge Koussevitzky's performance with violinist Ruth Posselt. We studied the score together as we listened to the tape, which he gave me as a guide for the conductor, and...

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27. South American Adventures

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pp. 262-287

Before leaving Paris in early March 1952 for a brief United States tour, we visited Fritz Horowitz's office and encountered his son Michael Reiner, who reported, "My father has booked a concert tour for you in Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina, for next May and June...

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28. Utrecht Recordings — War Crimes — Search for Spohr

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pp. 288-290

Early next morning David Josefowitz introduced me to Otto Ackermann, an extraordinarily fine conductor. We immediately began rehearsing the Mendelssohn concerto and discovered that our mutual concepts of the work fit like gloves. The rehearsal and recording were completed in...

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29. Paris — the Survivor — Maryan

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pp. 291-294

The evening that we returned from Utrecht to Paris and the Royal Hotel, we took an after-dinner stroll down the nearby Boulevard des Champs-Elysees. A man arose from a sidewalk cafe and approached me saying, "Kaufman, you don't know me in Paris? I knew you...

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30. London Adventures in Music and Art

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pp. 295-317

Marjorie Osborne had become our devoted friend and my informal representative in London. On a 1950 visit to London, from Paris, she warmly welcomed us. She had obtained comfortable, modestly priced quarters for our sojourn, in a large Knightsbridge flat...

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31. Northern Exposure

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pp. 318-324

I ordered the music from Skandinavisk Musikforlag and found it extraordinarily well written for fiddle, so I wrote to Enwall, who arranged the premiere for that fall. Fate and my "karma" could not solve conflicting schedules with Jacques, so Swedish conductor Sten Frykberg was engaged to conduct...

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32. Miracle in Milan: Recording in Paris

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pp. 325-329

After crossing the Gotthard Pass via auto-train I drove through Swiss Ticino, with gray skies but no rain. As we descended the mountains, shortly before crossing into Italy, traffic suddenly stopped. A long line of autos waited for road-dearing crews, with huge equipment, to remove...

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33. Return to Los Angeles: Korngold Memorial Concert

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pp. 330-339

One Sunday afternoon we visited the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and encountered Philip and Florence Kahgan. Phil had been musical contractor at Paramount and now was in charge of museum concerts. He was very pleased that I was home again and invited me to play...

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34. Adventures behind the Iron Curtain

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pp. 340-351

Annette's mother was visiting North Dakota and decided to remain there for (supposedly) minor surgery, so she canceled her trip to Europe and later returned to Los Angeles. However, I kept her KLM continental reservations. In August, Annette and I boarded a charter flight to Frankfurt that...

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35. Recordings at Last — the Lebduska Mystery

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pp. 352-356

In the summer of 1971 Yaltah Menuhin introduced us to Giveon Cornfield, owner of Orion Records, and his wife, Marion. Giveon had collected my recordings for many years, and he asked, "What could you record for me?" For thirty years all the record companies to whom I had proposed...

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36. Cousin Mico Kaufman, Sculptor

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pp. 357-361

In autumn 1972, an unexpected letter arrived from Mico Kaufman, stating he had been born in Buzau, Romania, the son of Herman Kaufman, my father's brother. After miserable experiences in Nazi labor camps during the Second World War, Mico left Romania to escape military service in the...

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37. The Dybbuk — a Devil to Produce

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pp. 362-370

I asked Miklos Rozsa to be honorary chairman of the committee, which he willingly accepted, and my dear opera-loving friend Milah Russin Wermer to be co-chairperson. Our steering committee was composed of Irving and Jean Stone, Mrs. Marta Feuchtwanger, Dr. Paul and Milah...

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38. From Sicily to Tahiti

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pp. 371-380

We flew directly from Los Angeles to Rome, changed airplanes, and arrived in Palermo in early afternoon. A taxi drove us in brilliant sunshine to the outskirts of this ancient city with Roman and Norman walls, to the elegant Albergo Igea facing the blue Mediterranean Sea. Its art nouveau decor was...

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39. Hazardous Travel

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pp. 381-390

We flew to Budapest and again visited its fascinating museum and the ancient Roman site and museum on the banks of the Danube. I obtained tickets for a Kodaly program at the opera. To avoid being delayed in traffic caused by heavy rain, we decided to take the subway from our hotel directly to the...

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pp. 391-394

I was immediately attracted by Louis's sincere desire to be helpful to musicians, artists, his friends, and me when we first met in New York. He was truly enthusiastic in admiring the achievements of his contemporaries, a rare quality in the professional world. Throughout our lives he always...

Appendix 1 - Reviews

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pp. 397-403

Appendix 2 - Los Angeles Program Notes, 9 December 1956

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pp. 404-429

Appendix 3 - The Changing Recording World

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pp. 405-430

Appendix 4 - Violin Editions of Louis Kaufman

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pp. 406-431

Appendix 5 - A Louis Kaufman's Filmography: Concertmaster in the Golden Years, a Partial List

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pp. 407-411

Louis Kaufman Discography

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pp. 412-445


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pp. 446-448


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pp. 449-462

Louis Kaufman CD Playlist

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p. 489-489

E-ISBN-13: 9780299183837
E-ISBN-10: 0299183831
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299183806
Print-ISBN-10: 0299183807

Page Count: 462
Illustrations: 70 b/w photos, 8 pg. color insert
Publication Year: 2003