Heifetz's last disciple?

Heifetz's last disciple?


norman lebrecht

March 01, 2011

Eugene Fodor, the first American violinist to win the Tchaikovsky Competition, has died aged 60. Such was the shock among Soviet stooges at his 1974 vistory that he was not declared the winner. Instead, an announcement went out that he had won ‘top prize’, a trophy shared with the local candidates Ruben Agranyan and Rusudan Gvasaliya.

Fodor, daunted by overnight fame, succumbed to substance abuse. In 1989, he was arrested for possession in Martha’s Vineyard and concert halls slammed their doors in his face. His website lists no new engagements for the past ten years. He died in Fairfax, Virginia, on Saturday, according to a statement by his sister to violinist.com, confirmed by his wiki entry.
Fodor liked to describe himself as a Heifetz pupil, though exactly how much he studied with the reclusive master is uncertain. His main teachers were Ivan Galamian and Josef Gingold.
Eugene Fodor with President Reagan

This personal reminiscence has just come in from Margaret Yakimoff DeAngelis: 
On February 10, 1979, just before he turned 29, Eugene Fodor played the Sibelius with the Harrisburg Symphony Orchestra. I was a 32-year-old member of the first violin section, where I shared fourth stand with my father.

My mother, second chair second violins, was completely enchanted by Fodor. So was I — he was young, hip, brought the sensibility to the fairly stodgy HSO that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hoped James Franco would bring to the Oscars.

Fodor’s efforts were more successful, I think, than Franco’s, at least for that one night


  • Jessica says:

    Oh heavens. This is sad news. Fodor was probably my weirdest-ever interviewee, but what a character – and what a violinist, at least technically speaking. More on this shortly.

  • Marie Lamb says:

    Once the news of Fodor’s death had a chance to register, I remembered that, at the time of his 1989 arrest, his family and management said they’d had no idea he had a drug problem. This is what his ex-wife said back then: http://news.google.com/newspapers?id=XvRVAAAAIBAJ&sjid=l-EDAAAAIBAJ&pg=6778,848291&dq=eugene+fodor+drugs&hl=en
    Whether this was so, or whether Fodor’s loved ones and associates just didn’t want to admit Fodor had a problem, we don’t know. However, it makes me think of the blog articles you wrote in December 2010 about substance abuse problems with classical musicians, and the frequent reluctance to admit their existence. If anything good comes out of Fodor’s troubles and early passing, I hope that it will get more people to be aware of the pressures musicians face that can lead to substance abuse. Maybe Fodor’s story can avert another case of “too much, too soon.”
    NL replies: Good point, Marie. The piece referred to is here:
    And here’s the New York Times’s opportunistic piece of career assassination:

  • Janet says:

    He did study with Heifetz at USC in the early 70s. The “love of my life” was, at that time, a young Serbian violinist, born within weeks of Fodor, with similar jaw-dropping technique and a virtual look-alike who was also headed for the Tchaikovsky competition. After Peabody, he came to LA to study with Heifetz in ’73. My stage mother ran him off when he returned (we’d been together at The Music Academy of the West) so I don’t know whether or not he got in but, if so, that would have been some kind of rivalry between 2 rock star-types.
    I’ve “peeked in on” Eugene over the years as a way of tracking what the other’s life may be like. I seemed to be the only one NOT doing drugs back then. I was so very sad to learn that they’d taken Eugene so far off track. And now this. Heartbreaking, really. I hope the other is enjoying a happier life and will for much, much longer. RIP Eugene.

  • Nurhan Arman says:

    I am so sorry to hear this sad news. Having played with him a few times in the 70s I had hoped and predicted a brilliant career for him. Music industry can be ruthless for artists with personal difficulties.

  • AV says:

    Not the last Heifetz disciple, but certainly at least the third one to die suddenly and prematurely, after Varujan Kojian (57) and Erick Friedman (64). His career was a result of a mix of personal discipline and luck. Neither excelled. Nevertheless, a brilliant virtuoso with a tone that carried. Music lovers will miss Eugene.

  • Jacob says:

    We’ll always have his star turn on “SCTV”: