Emanuel Feuermann (1902-1942)

"Feuermann became for me the greatest cellist of all time" ~ Artur Rubinstein

"The greatest (cellist) ...there is no one after him!" ~ Arturo Toscanini

“He played with noblesse and distinction, and with the complete equipment in the service of an artistic purpose." ~ George Szell

"Of all those who have been entrusted to my guardianship, there has never been such a talent...our divinely favored artist and lovable young man." ~ Julius Klengel

Emanuel Feuermann was born into a musical family, in Kolomea, Poland, in 1902. His father played cello and violin, and was his first teacher. His elder brother Zigmund, was a child prodigy on the violin. When Emanuel took violin lessons from his father, he insisted in holding the violin vertically, so his father fixed a pin on the end of the violin, and turned it into a very small cello.


By the time he was nine, Emanuel was taking lessons from Friedrich Buxbaum, principal cellist in the Vienna Philharmonic. The young Feuermann was indelibly impressed upon hearing Casals’ debut in Vienna in 1912. He was so energized that he demanded his mother buy all the music Casals had performed in his debut. He practiced it incessantly. At 12, he made his debut, playing the Haydn Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Rather than enter a career prematurely, Feuermann spent the next several years in Leipzig, studying with Julius Klengel. Klengel was adept at bringing out the best in his pupils.When Grutzmacher died in 1918, Klengel recommended that Feuermann, only sixteen years old, be offered Grutzmacher's post as professor at the Gurzenich Conservatoire at Cologne. After an outstanding audition, Feuermann was hired. 

In 1933, with the rise of Nazism, he was dismissed from his position at the Berlin Conservatory because of his Jewish background. He toured Japan and the United States, making his American debut in 1935. The critic wrote, "Difficulties do not exist for Mr. Feuermann, even difficulties that would give a celebrated virtuosic pause."

On returning to Europe in 1935, he married and moved to Zurich but was in Vienna at the time of the Anschluss He and his family escaped to British Palestine and then traveled on back to the United States.

In 1938, a reviewer wrote in The Strad magazine, "I do not think there can any longer be doubt that Feuermann is the greatest living cellist, Casals alone excepted...in Feuermann we have a spectacular virtuosic artist of the front rank, the Wieniawski, shall I say, of the cello."

In 1941 he joined the faculty of the Curtis Institute where he taught right up until his death.He also performed trios and recorded with Heifetz and Rubenstein as well as Hubermann and Schnabel. 

He died unexpectedly in 1942, following a minor operation. 

There had been a plan to record virtually all the trio literature with Heifetz & Rubenstein as they were extremely well-matched musically and personally (the only known photo of Heifetz laughing is with him & Feuermann).Sadly the trio sessions were his first scheduled work after his operation.


All Golden Age String Players