Translation below



Article published in Ma'ariv Newspaper, 21 May 1950, during Heifetx's tour of Israel. Illya Davidiovich Malkin reminisces on teaching the young violinist.

When Jascha Heifetz's fingers first touched the fiddle's strings

Eliahu Malkin, the genius violinist's first teacher, recounts his pupil's first steps into the world of sound

The genius violinist Jascha Heifetz who is visiting the country [Israel] now, was discovered to have possessed an extraordinary musical talent when he was already ... three-and-a-half years old. His first violin teacher, Eliahu Malkin, recalls his first encounter with the wonder kid and his first steps into the world of music.

Meeting the Father

Eliahu Malkin, who had graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory's Violin Department in 1891, first served as a teacher in the Vilna studio and later as the conductor of the local Popular Theatre Orchestra. When he set up the orchestra, he had also invited Jascha Heifetz's father, who was also a violinist and still a bachelor at the time, to join it. The Theatre only survived one winter season and closed down. Malkin's and Heifetz father's ways separated and the two didn't meet again for five years.


After that period the two had a chance meeting. Malkin asked to the father's wellbeing and the latter told him that he had meanwhile married and he now has a three-and-a-half years old son manifesting an unusual musical talent.

The boy, who saw his father playing the fiddle, nagged to get him a fiddle as well. The father gave in and bought his son a miniature instrument. "I tuned the little violin - the father said - and gave it to my son while I played a few sounds on my fiddle. I kept on playing and my son repeated the notes without much difficulty. He now plays Beriot's first etudes book without knowing notes. Not only that, when I play out of tune, the boy screams no end" the father added.

Malkin asked the father to bring his son to him, since he couldn't believe that a three-and-a-half year old can play by ear.

Blonde hair and blue eyes

On the appointed day - recounts Malkin - the father arrived with a beautiful little boy with blonde hair and gorgeous blue eyes. When his father started tuning his violin, the little boy nodded his head acknowledging that the strings were out of tune. He then adopted the pose of a veteran virtuoso and waited for the sign to begin. And when he drew his bow across the strings I realized that he had already attained a level of playing which others achieve only after a few years of study.

I accepted him as my pupil. He would come daily to my house and he became part of the family. Our large apartment, and the excellent piano, were always open and available to him.

At the piano

Once my wife was practicing at the piano a difficult piece by Bach. The future virtuoso was engrossed in his games, apparently paying no attention to the piano playing. Presently the cook came in and asked my wife to come into the kitchen. As my wife left, the little boy climbed on the stool in front of the piano and proceeded to play with assured hands the difficult piece he had just heard, although he had never previously had any piano lessons at all.

Three years passed. His progress during this time was astounding. I had visited St. Petersburg several times during this period and told my friends there, violin teachers among others, about the wonder boy back home.

With the St. Petersburg Professor

Later on, my former violin teacher from St. Petersburg, Leopold Auer, went on a concert tour, the itinerary of which included Vilna. I came to the railway station to receive him and as I walked him back to his hotel I told him about Jascha Heifetz. I asked him to bring the boy for an audition.

"Please don't", recoiled the Professor, "I had enough of these wunderkinder. Everywhere I go they pop up like mushrooms. Those parents, blinded by desires, think that their wishes are actual reality."

"I can assure you that even among your famous students there isn't a talent like this one", I told the Professor, amongst whose students were Mischa Elman, Efrem Zimbalist, etc.

I didn't relent and didn't let go until the Professor agreed to listen to my pupil. The following morning I brought him to Auer. Jascha started to play and at once I realized that my efforts were not in vain. Jascha Heifetz simply conquered the Professor's heart with his playing and the latter predicted a great future for the boy. He added though, that he needed to study for two more years with me after which time he will accept him in his class in St. Petersburg.

The first concert

The word about the genius boy spread quickly among the musical circles and when he was 9 he had appeared in a concert in Odessa.

Since then he continued to advance steadily towards his status as a world-famous violinist.