published in Ma'ariv Newspaper, 21 May 1950, during Heifetx's tour of
Israel. Illya Davidiovich Malkin reminisces on teaching the young
Heifetz's fingers first touched the fiddle's strings
Malkin, the genius violinist's first teacher, recounts his
pupil's first steps into the world of sound
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
St. Petersburg Professor
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
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."
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.
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.
about the genius boy spread quickly among the musical circles and when
he was 9 he had appeared in a concert in Odessa.
then he continued to advance steadily towards his status as a