October 25

100 Years Ago This Week,
Jascha Heifetz Made His American Debut

National Public Radio in the United States recently commemorated the centennial anniversary of Jascha Heifetz’s American debut at Carnegie Hall.  Here are some related images from our archives.


Heifetz in 1913 at the age of twelve.

Musical America, Vol. 25 No. 19 (10 March 1917): 11.


A young Heifetz with Professor Auer and his violin students at summer school in Dresden.

Musical America, Vol. 21 No. 1 (7 November 1914): 25.


Heifetz, a young man, with Professor Auer and his violin students in Petrograd (St. Petersburg).

Musical America, Vol. 24 No. 22 (30 September 1916): 11.


One month before the arrival of Heifetz in America

Musical America, Vol. 26 No. 18 (1 September 1917): 2.


The announcement of Heifetz’s debut.

Musical America, Vol. 26 No. 25 (20 October 1917): 33.


A compilation of reviews in several newspapers from his debut

                Musical America, Vol. 27 No. 1 (3 November 1917): 18.  

He has a technic which must make him the admiration and the despair of all the other violinists.  His finger work is almost unerring, whether in rapid flights or in intricate passages of double stopping.  But better than this is the exquisite finish, elasticity and resource of his bowing, which gives him a supreme command of all the tonal nuances essential to style and interpretation.

Above, The New York World (28 October 1917).

Genius is a big word for which there seldom is use.  Comparatively few persons are qualified to have it applied to them.  Yet one such–a seventeen-year-old Russian youth–stood upon the Carnegie Hall stage yesterday afternoon and before his musical task was half completed an audience numbering more than 2,000, that knew, pronounced him the greatest violinist heard here in years.

Above, The New York Sun (28 October 1917)


Musical America, Vol. 27 No. 2 (10 November 1917): 3.

He quickly settled in New York City …

… and traveled the country.

Musical America, Vol. 27 No. 9 (29 December 1917): 47.


A rare photo of a playful Heifetz.

Musical America, Vol. 29 No. 15 (8 February 1919): 48.

A telling commentary, one month after his American debut.

“Mephistos Musings,” Musical America, Vol. 27 No. 2 (10 November 1917): 8.


Finally, Heifetz with his beloved Professor Aurer.


RIPM search tip:  A search for “Heifetz” in RIPM’s e-Library of Music Periodicals reveals that his name appears at least once on 1,545 pages!


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Jascha Heifetz Made His American Debut
October 20

RIPM’s “Illustration(s) of the Week”!
In Celebration of Franz Liszt’s Birthday

In celebration of his birthday on 22 October 1811, we commemorate Franz Liszt with a set of caricatures published in The Musical World (Vol. 53 Nos. 45-48, 1875), originally printed in the Hungarian journal, Borsszem Jankó, depicting the great pianist-composer performing at the piano.


He appears with a smile…


The first chord…                                               With eyes closed…



Pianissimo…                                                         Awesome tingling…



Recalling Chopin and George Sand…                            Dante in hell…


Just after the performance…


RIPM search tip: To access dozens of images of Liszt in the Online Archive, first select “illustration” in the Type field, then, keyword search for “Liszt”.

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In Celebration of Franz Liszt’s Birthday
October 18

Introducing…RIPM’s “Illustration(s) of the Week”!
Caruso Sketches Caruso

Today marks the start of our new (mostly) weekly series, as part of the “Curios” section of RIPM’s enhanced Curios, News, and Chronicles publication.  On most Wednesdays, we will post an illustration selected from the thousands in our archives. We will try to select only those that are interesting, often unexpected, and amusing.  We want to share these with you, hoping that you enjoy them as much as we do.

Last week we published a curio entitled, “Study Under Caruso: Selling Recordings in the 20th-Century”. Today we focus again on the great tenor by featuring another of his talents, that of illustrator.  Caruso sketched dozens of influential musical personalities and many of himself.  Here are just a few, along with contemporary photographs that offer interesting points of comparison.



















RIPM search tip: A search for “Caruso” in RIPM’s e-Library of Music Periodicals reveals that his name appears at least once on 7,865 pages!

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Caruso Sketches Caruso
October 11

“Study Under Caruso”:
Selling Recordings in the Early 20th-Century

A series of focused advertisements by the Victor Talking Machine Company of Camden, NJ began appearing in Musical America in late 1905.  Along with promoting the sale of recordings for the pleasure of listening, the company’s advertisements also promoted their “Red Seal” records as a tool for individual instruction for singers. By securing exclusive contracts with the most revered opera stars of the day, Victor offered people the chance to “study” with their vocal idols.  All one had to do was purchase a Victor Talking Machine, a handful of records, and, listen.


Are you interested in “making great strides forward in you musical education”
… and improving your sense of expression, diction and breathing?


[Musical America, Vol. 4 No. 24 (27 October 1906): 18


Do you want to improve your phrasing?


[Musical America, Vol. 5 No. 2 (24 November 1906): 18]


Did you miss that magic moment from the back row of the opera hall?


[Musical America, Vol. 4 No. 13 (11 August 1906): 14]


Tired of all the painstaking hours of practicing with little to no improvement?
Then take a more leisurely approach.


[Musical America, Vol. 9 No. 16 (27 February 1909): 31]


Do you even need a teacher when you can study with the best vocal instructors at home?


[Musical America, Vol. 10 No. 6 (19 June 1909): 27]


And, of course, learning is a life-long undertaking and
there is always room for improvement.

[Musical America, Vol. 16 No. 10 (13 July 1912): 15]

Caruso listening to Caruso


RIPM search tip:  Select Musical America in the periodical title field of RIPM’s e-Library of Music Periodicals, and search for  “talking machine.” This yields over one-thousand pages of pertinent content.  For more focused results, restrict your search to a span of years.

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Selling Recordings in the Early 20th-Century
October 5

Want to become a better pianist?
Grow your hands!

A transcript printed in Musical America of an address to the 1909 New York State Teacher’s Convention claims that certain people were at a distinct physiological disadvantage when playing the piano, so much so, that they should have their own separate literature.

[Kate S. Chittenden, “Piano Repertoire for Small-Handed Performers,” Musical America, Vol. 10 No. 9 (10 July 1909): 18.]

Harriette Brower also wrote in Musical America about the value of octave studies at the keyboard for aiding students with small hands.

[Harriette Brower, “Value of Octave Study to the Piano Student,” Musical America, Vol. 17 No. 19 (15 March 1913): 26.]

For many, hand size, apparently, did matter.  Of course having small hands is a hindrance to performing certain repertoire with wide intervals.  But beyond anatomy, the perception that small-handed people were impeded from becoming virtuosos was linked to the large hands of master performers of the previous generation.

In a satirical piece entitled “Hands, Insanus omnis faere credit ceteros [Every madman thinks all others insane],” a certain Dr. Legs and Dr. Body praised the hand size and strength of Franz Liszt over the “sad” hands of Chopin.

Dr. Legs and Dr. Body, featured in The Musical World

[Anon., “Hands. Insanus omnis faere credit ceteros,” The Musical World, Vol. 56 No. 19 (11 May 1878): 318.]

Liszt’s “square, large hand” with “longer, knotted fingers” and “iron knuckles” was, according to the doctors, the preferred anatomy for the “command of learned music.”

Along with the hands of Liszt, those of Anton Rubinstein were also admired. A description of the latter was given in a translation of Eugen Zabel’s contribution to the Berlin National-Zeitung.

Zabel continued by declaring Rubinstein’s hands a rarity in size and strength, even bordering on animalistic.

[Rosa Newmarch, “Rubinstein’s Hand,” The Musician, Vol. 2 No. 28 (17 November 1897): 29-31.]

In fact, hands described as square, wide, and powerful, like those of Liszt and Rubinstein reinforced the benefits of having large hands at the piano. By contrast, this view implied that small hands could prevent one from attaining true piano mastery.

To remedy this limitation, physical exercises were often given by teachers and specialists. With consistent training, it was believed that small hands could in fact, grow. A 1912 advertisement from a “hand specialist” named Burnett Jordan visually demonstrated the benefits of such specialized training.

[Musical America, Vol. 16 No. 23 (12 October 1912): 99.]

Jordan’s teacher, the German hand-training specialist Woldemar Schnee, traveled to America for several extended residencies in 1914 and again, in 1922.  With looming Brahmsian features, Schnee reinforced the advantages of having large hands like Rubinstein and Liszt, and promised to enlarge the hands of those less pianistically endowed.

[Musical America, Vol. 37 No. 5 (25 November 1922): 44]

[H. F. P., “Lending Size and Strength to the Hands of the Pianist,” Musical America, Vol. 19 No. 17 (28 February 1914): 29.]

Schnee’s technique—“stretching the skin” by “pulling the thumb and the fifth finger in opposite directions”—was admittedly painful, but not enough to deter pianists from seeking out his services in hopes of, quite literally, expanding their abilities.

While prevalent historically, the idea of small hands as wholly detrimental to great piano playing is a generally outdated concept, thanks to artists like Alicia de Larrocha, Vladimir Ashkenazy, and Daniel Barenboim (maxing out his reach at the 9th).  Some artists, like the fantastic music-comedy duo Igudesman and Joo, have even found a way to satirize this stereotype.  (Don’t pass up viewing this…)

RIPM search tip: For more information on “small-hand” repertoire and articles discussing hand size and piano technique, search for “small hands” in both the Retrospective Index, and in the e-Library of Music Periodicals.

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Grow your hands!