Carl Flesch

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Carl Flesch (portrait of Emil Orlik )

Carl Flesch (born October 9, 1873 in Moson ; † November 15, 1944 in Lucerne , Switzerland ) was a Hungarian-Jewish violinist , violin teacher and music writer.

Youth and education

Karoly Flesch was born in Wieselburg (Moson today: 1937 incorporated into Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary) in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the son of the Jewish military doctor Salamon Flesch. He had two brothers and three sisters. He attended the Jewish elementary school here and learned Hebrew and German as well as French through a governess at home. At the age of six he received his first violin lessons from a brigadier of the fire brigade band. At the age of 10, his mother brought him to Vienna in 1883, where he received his first lessons from Adolf Back - he later described these two years as “lost years”. In 1885 he played for Josef Hellmesberger , the director of the Vienna Conservatory at the time , whose opinion was disappointing. Thereupon Jacob Green consulted who recommended him, preparing to attend class at the Conservatory of Josef Maxintsak with the prospect of inclusion in greens class. In 1886 Jakob Grün took him over to his class. In 1889 he graduated from the Conservatory and in 1890 went to the Paris Conservatory to study Eugène Sauzay . Occasionally he took private lessons with Martin Marsick , who two years later succeeded Sauzay at the Conservatory. In 1894 Flesch graduated from Paris with the 1st prize (Premier Prix).

First successes

In 1895 he made his debut in Vienna with works by Paganini, Bach, Saint-Saëns and other composers. In the autumn of 1896 he appeared for the first time in Berlin with a similar program, whereupon the Hermann Wolf concert agency arranged for him a series of concerts, including in Halle, Leipzig, Strasbourg, Prague and Budapest - here he played under the direction of Hans Richter .

From 1897 to 1902 he was violin professor at the Conservatory in Bucharest , where he founded a string quartet and at the same time became the court musician of Queen Elisabeth (called Carmen Silva). In 1902 he moved to Berlin, but one year later he went to Amsterdam as a professor at the Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck Conservatory . With Sylvain Noach, Hendrik Willem Hofmeester and Isaäc Mossel he formed the Conservatory's string quartet. There began an intensive concert and teaching activity as well as the lifelong close friendship with his colleague, the conductor and pianist Julius Röntgen. During these years his reputation as a soloist also grew, particularly through a series of five "historical performances" in Berlin (1905) in which he presented highlights from four centuries of violin playing.

In 1906 he married Bertha Josephus Jitta, a Dutch woman. They had three children: daughter Johanna and the twins Fritz and Carl Franz Flesch, geb. 1910 in Rindbach (Salzkammergut).

After Joseph Joachim's death , Flesch and his family moved to Berlin in 1908. At that time he was already hoping for a professorship at the local music academy. Flesch's friendship with Wilhelm Furtwängler also dates from this time . Concert tours have taken him to Russia, France and the Netherlands.

From 1910 he gave concerts with the “Schnabel Trio” Artur Schnabel at the piano with the cellist Jean Gérardy (1877–1929) and after 1914 with the cellist Hugo Becker in Germany and other European countries. The trio remained one of the most famous chamber music ensembles of its time until the 1920s. Flesch and Schnabel also published the sonatas for violin by Mozart and Brahms together. The first tour of the USA took place in 1914. Here he recorded five records for the Edison company. In 1920 he founded the charity organization “ Aid Association for German Music Care ” in Berlin . Marlene Dietrich mentions Flesch in her autobiography as her music teacher during this time.

The pedagogue

In 1924 Flesch went to Philadelphia to the " Curtis Institute for Music" founded by Marie Louise Curtis Bok in the same year . Józef Hofmann was at her side . He was appointed head of the violin class. Michael Press, Frank Gittelson, Sacha Jacobinoff and Emanuel Zetlin were at his side as further teachers. When the violist Louis Bailly came to the institute in 1925, they founded the “Curtis Quartet” with Flesch (1st violin) Emanuel Zetlin (second violin), Louis Bailly (viola), Felix Salmond (cello). The teachers played Haydn, Beethoven and Bach. During the semester break, he bought a villa in Baden-Baden in 1926 . In 1928 he returned to Germany.

In 1928 he was hired as an associate professor at the Berlin University of Music for six months a year . Until 1935 he lived in Baden-Baden, where he held his legendary summer courses.

In 1930 Flesch took on German citizenship , but at the same time kept his Hungarian citizenship .


When the National Socialists came to power, Flesch was dismissed from the music college as a Jew on September 30, 1934. On June 20, 1935, he and his family were revoked of their German citizenship. A short time later they fled to London. In 1939 he was able to travel there with his wife thanks to several concert engagements in the Netherlands. They stayed in The Hague because they believed they were safe. In May 1940, German troops occupied the Netherlands and Flesch was asked to leave or return to London. Attempts to get a visa for the USA failed. Flesch's last public concert in the Netherlands took place in January 1941. In 1942 he lost his Hungarian citizenship, had to wear the “ Yellow Star ” and was no longer allowed to teach or give concerts. In the same year Flesch and his wife were arrested twice. But they were released again through a written advocacy from Wilhelm Furtwängler.

At the same time, Géza von Kresz and Ernst von Dohnányi were able to get the Hungarian authorities through that Flesch once again received Hungarian citizenship. In December 1942 the couple traveled to Budapest. In the spring of 1943 Flesch gave one last big concert with orchestra in Budapest. At the same time, Ernest Ansermet was invited to Lucerne, Switzerland, which he accepted. Shortly afterwards he was teaching master classes again at the Lucerne Conservatory.

Carl Flesch died on November 15, 1944 in Lucerne. He was buried in the family grave of the Jewish cemetery in Mosonmagyaróvár, Hungary.


Flesch published numerous pedagogical and violin methodical writings, including standard works such as Die Kunst des Violinspiels (two volumes, 1923–1928, formulated together with Max Dessoir ) and The Scaling System , originally intended as an appendix to the former. In his memoirs of a violinist , he gives pointed information about famous colleagues, making the work an important source for the history of violin playing. He published numerous sheet music editions of important works of the violin literature.

As a soloist he never had the decisive international breakthrough, but he was one of the most expensive and successful teachers of his time. He revolutionized teaching and practice methodology, which in his day was dominated by the principle of the quantity of practice. The illustrious list of his students includes Jan Dahmen , Josef Wolfsthal , Alma Moodie , Ida Haendel , Ginette Neveu , Ricardo Odnoposoff , Henryk Szeryng , Roman Totenberg , Norbert Brainin , Robert Reitz , Szymon Goldberg , Max Rostal , Ivry Gitlis , Bronisław Gimpel , Erna Honigberger as well as Stefan Frenkel , Adolf Leschinski, Bruno Straumann and Aida Stucki .


Flesch owned at least a dozen instruments, including

In 1906 (on his 33rd birthday) he came into possession of the famous Stradivari violin "Brancaccio" from 1725, which he said had made him famous as an artist. Due to his debts from the 1929 stock market crash in New York, he had to sell it to the banker Franz von Mendelssohn , an amateur violinist, in 1931 . The violin was destroyed during a bombing raid on Berlin during World War II.


In honor of his work, the Berlin University of the Arts named one of the concert halls there the Carl Flesch Hall .


  • Primary studies for violin. 5th edition. Berlin. Verlag von Ries & Erler, Königl. Saxon. Court music dealer, Berlin 1911.
  • Collection of etudes for violin . Studies and Exercises for Violin. 47 Etudes - 47 Studies. Vol. II. Publisher: Wilhelm Hansen, Copenhagen, 1921, new edition 1950. (VNr. 17020), - Contains studies by Adelburg, Alday le jeune, Benda, Beriot and others
  • Etude Collection for Violin. Studies and Exercises for Violin. 44 Etudes - 44 Studies. Vol. III. Published by Wilhelm Hansen, Copenhagen 1921. New edition 1950 (VNr. 17021) - Contains studies by Baillot, Bériot, Dont, Ernst, Kotek, Kreutzer, Paganini, Rovelli, Schubert, Vieuxtemps, Wieniawski and others. a
  • The art of violin playing . Vol. I General and Applied Technology, Berlin: Ries & Erler, 1923, 2nd revised edition 1929.
  • Vol. II Artistic design and teaching , Berlin: Ries & Erler, 1928,
    • English edition: Boston, 1924–1930, Italian edition: Milan, 1953, Polish edition: Krakow, 1964, Russian edition: Moscow: Muzyka, 1964.
  • The scale system. Scale exercises through all major and minor keys for daily study . Appendix to volume 1 of “The Art of Violin Playing”, Berlin: Ries & Erler, 1926.
  • The sound problem in violin playing , Berlin: Ries & Erler, 1931.
  • Sayings , private print, 1944.
  • Memoirs of a violinist , Zurich: Atlantis, 1960, English edition: The Memoirs of Carl Flesch, London, 1957.
  • The high school of fingering , Kathinka Rebling (ed.), Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 1995,
    • Italian edition: Alta scuola di diteggiatura violinistica, Milano, 1960, English edition: Violin Fingering: its Theory and Practice, New York, 1966


  • Erika Bucholtz: Henri Hinrichsen and the music publisher CF Peters. Series of scientific papers by the Leo Baeck Institute 65, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2001.
  • Carl F. Flesch: "... and do you also play the violin?": The son of a famous musician tells. Atlantis Musikbuch-Verlag, Zurich 1990. ISBN 978-3-2540-0158-0
  • Carl Franz Flesch: "Where are you from!" Hitler refugees in Great Britain then and now . In: Contributions to German and European history. Volume 30. Edited by Klaus Arnold - Wolf D. Gruner - Kersten Krüger. Hamburg, Krämer, 2003. ISBN 3-89622-057-8
  • Wolfgang Haupt: Carl Flesch and his summer courses in Baden-Baden . Aquensis Verlag, first edition 2010. ISBN 978-3-937978-55-0

Individual evidence

  1. Carl Flesch in the Nederlands Muziek Instituut ( Memento of the original of April 21, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Felix Wörner:  Schnabel, Artur. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-428-11204-3 , pp. 270-272 ( digitized version ).
  3. A series of great EDISON DIAMOND DISC recordings ( Memento of the original from March 24, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. Erika Bucholtz: Henri Hinrichsen and the music publisher CF Peters . Series of scientific papers by the Leo Baeck Institute 65, Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2001.
  5. Steven Bach: Marlene Dietrich, Life and Legend p. 41, 2011
  6. On the 50th anniversary of Emil Honigberger's death , accessed on September 11, 2018
  7. Jose Sanchez-Penzo: The way famous instruments went - Players ( Memento of the original from September 9, 2017 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /

Web links