Joseph Fuchs

Joseph Fuchs - "You can play differently, but you can't play better than Joseph Fuchs" - Nathan Milstein.


Joseph Fuchs
Joseph Fuchs – “You can play differently, but you can’t play better than Joseph Fuchs” – Nathan Milstein.

Legendary violinist Joseph Fuchs in recital this week. A rare and classic broadcast recital from New York fine arts station WNCN-FM, recorded on January 31, 1984 and featuring  American violinist Joseph Fuchs with pianist Lucy Blackman, accompanying him in a wide and varied program of well-known as well as obscure treasures from his vast repertoire.

Interviewed by station Music Director David DuBall, the informal recital is peppered with reminiscences and anecdotes in the course of the 90 minute program, making for an informative as well as historic recital.

Fuchs is considered one of the greatest American violinists of the 20th century, prompting fellow violin legend Nathan Milstein to remark; “You can play differently, but you can’t play better than Joseph Fuchs”. Fuchs had a long and celebrated career, born in 1899 and playing with some of the greatest orchestras and under some of the greatest conductors of the century. His numerous recordings have won awards and considerable praise over the years. And even though his name is not as familiar now as it once was (he died in 1997), violinists and music lovers still refer to his recordings as benchmarks in Classical music performance.

Joseph Philip Fuchs (April 26, 1899 or 1900 – March 14, 1997) was one of the most important American violinists and teachers of the 20th century, and the brother of Lillian Fuchs.

Born in New York, he graduated in 1918 from the Institute of Musical Art in New York where he studied with Franz Kneisel. In 1926 he was appointed concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra, but resigned in 1940 to pursue a solo career. After a successful New York début in 1943, he became co-founder of the Musicians’ Guild, a chamber music organization which he directed there until 1956.

He toured extensively in Europe, appearing at the 1953 and 1954 Prades festivals, and in South America, the USSR, Israel and Japan; he also played as a soloist with every important orchestra in the USA. Joseph Fuchs performed a series of recitals with pianist Artur Balsam in 1956 for the Peabody Mason Concert series in Boston.

A Ford Foundation grant in 1960 enabled him to commission Walter Piston’s Second Violin Concerto, the première of which he gave that year in Pittsburgh. Fuchs also gave the first performances of concertos by Lopatnikoff (1944–5), Ben Weber (1954) and Mario Peragallo (1955); of Martinů’s Madrigaly for violin and viola, dedicated to Fuchs and his sister Lillian (1947); of the revised version of Vaughan Williams’s Violin Sonata, with Artur Balsam (1969); and of the posthumous American première of Martinů’s Sonata for two violins and piano (1974).

Fuchs became a violin professor at the Juilliard School of Music in 1946, and in 1971 he received the Artist Teacher’s Award from the American String Teachers’ Association.

Fuchs performed several times at WNCN over the years, but I am not sure if this recital has been available in any form since it was first broadcast.

Whether you are familiar with the playing of Joseph Fuchs, or have only just heard about him – or aren’t familiar at all, take 90 minutes off and relax and crank this one up. It’s worth it.


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