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December 19: Bronislaw Huberman and the Palestine Symphony Orchestra

Lawrence Bush
December 19, 2016
Polish Jewish violinist Bronislaw Huberman, who founded the Palestine Symphony Orchestra in 1936 -- for which he recruited some 1,000 European Jewish musicians (and their families), who would have been slaughtered by the Nazis had they remained in Europe -- was born in Częstochowa, Poland on this date in 1882. By age 11 he was touring the Netherlands and Belgium as a virtuoso violinist and well on his way to international fame (he played Brahms for Johannes Brahms himself at the age of 14). In the 1920s and ’30s Huberman toured Europe and North America with the pianist Siegfried Schultze, with whom he did extensive recording. Huberman first visited Palestine in 1929 and launched his idea to establish an orchestra there. He abandoned Vienna for Switzerland one year before Nazi takeover of Austria in 1938. The first concert of what would later become the Israel Symphony Orchestra was given on December 26, 1936, conducted by Arturo Toscanini. Huberman’s Stradivarius was twice stolen and recovered before his death in 1947. To hear him playing Chopin’s Nocturne Opus 9 No. 2, with footage of him playing, look below. “The true artist does not create art as an end in itself; he creates art for human beings. Humanity is the goal.” --Bronislaw Huberman

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.