Ultra-rare film of the Million Dollar Trio

Ultra-rare film of the Million Dollar Trio


norman lebrecht

January 18, 2014

‘My producer said people wouldn’t stand for just music on the screen’. Priceless script, straight out of The Big Sleep, intruding on a rehearsal of the highest paid trio in history: Heifetz, Rubinstein, Piatigorsky.

million dollar trio


  • Roy says:

    Magnificent! Maria Callas said in an interview that “as the violin plays, so the voice must play”, and made later reference to the great Jascha Heifetz. In fact, I’ve just come across this:


    Thank you.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    Thank you for this gift. While I saw Rubinstein and Piatigorsky perform live several times, I have never seen Heifetz live, except in one other video of the Scottish Fantasy. Loved it! THANKS for posting it!

  • John Sullivan says:

    What a treat! I wonder what year this was.

  • Herbert Glass says:

    Wonderful — phony script, including the musicians’ bickering, and all. Is “Big Sleep” a reference to Faulkner & collaborators, who wrote the original screen version of the Chandler story? And whose oldtime radio-announcer-brahmin voice/pronunciation is that in the role of screenwriter here? Regarding the “ensemble” — it’s all Heifetz’s pacing and agitato interpretation in the Schubert; less so, but still Heifetz-dominated (e.g., the scherzo), in the Mendelssohn. And isn’t that Feuermann in the sepia photo? Still, the substantial film clip IS a treasure and I thank you for it, Norman.

    • Boris Barkan says:

      When the greatest masters play together, there is NO INTERPRETATION, NO EGO, NOTHING,

      BUT MUSIC ONLY, just music. To single out one dominating over others is a totally hopeless misunderstanding of mysterious phenomena of Music. Some of performing features are wrongly

      considered as interpretation, which is no more then some trivial technical means used in attempt to justify or highlight some differences in styles etc. It is pointless, irrelevant. Ensemble of greatest

      musicians is a joint quest for artisan TRUTH, paving together the road to JOY, PERFECTION of


      IMPORTANT – TO GET THERE after all.

      • Rodney Punt says:

        Despite the idealistic perspective of Boris, a nice statement in a general sense, in this particular instance I agree with Herbert Glass. Heifetz does provide the perspective in both works, very much so in the Schubert.

  • “And isn’t that Feuermann in the sepia photo?”

    Yes. When Feuermann died in the late 1940’s, Piatigorsky was his “replacement”. Leonard Pennario was the pianist of the trio sometime later … one of the most gifted (and, unfortunately, least appreciated) pianists of the 20th century for his innate musicality and stupendous pianism.

    I love it … they only look at each other twice: once when they start, and once more at the end (although the two string players have almost constant eye contact, but mostly it is Piatigorsky looking at Heifetz). Nevertheless, the ensemble is impeccable! The lesson we can take away from this is: “Listen, don’t look!”

    • francois grillot says:

      no one is least appreciated, they just fall off the charts, but definitely were, at some point. That’s what keep me going! i realized tonight that you can’t take away the music from the musician!!! and then there was video!! wow!!!

  • Brian says:

    The POV is right out of Robert Montgomery’s “Lady in the Lake” , 1947. Pretty clearly copped from that. Except no Million Dollar Trio in Chandler’s book or the film. Or maybe $750,000 Trio without Feuermann.

  • Rubinstein had hands made of velvet.. what a gorgeous tone. One of the greatest trios ever.

  • Philip Lewis says:

    This is some of the most spectacular playing in the history of Western Music.

    It also demonstrates how much has been lost in more modern times.

  • John Buzan says:

    Thanks! This is fun. May I suggest the hidden story of the film by noting that Rubinstein’s servants are all (or mostly) Japanese-Americans, who ten years previous would have been internees–now restored to civilization, etc., etc.

  • Robin Underdahl says:

    Amazing to see them together on film. Thank you for posting this.

  • Anonymous says:

    The cellist in the photo under the video is not Gregor Piatigorsky, but Emanuel Feuermann. (The video, of course features Piatigorsky.)

  • I’m not sure about ultra-rare, as this film was consistently available on video for the last 30 years from Kultur, but it’s still worth celebrating. When Feuermann died unexpectedly at age 39, Heifetz refused to play with any other cellist. It was a full seven years before he was finally be convinced to re-form the trio with Piatigorsky. While Heifetz and Piatigorsky remained became good friends and collaborators until the latter’s death, his approach arguably never matched Heifetz as perfectly as Feuermann’s

    • M.A. Steinberger says:

      I grew up listening to the most perfect recording of the Brahms Double: Heifetz and Feuermann. I am also lucky enough to have been able to attend, as a child, the legendary Heifetz/Piatigorsky concerts.

  • francois grillot says:

    it’s so true of “it’s not the technic, the notes, the music or the style, but what comes through between us while we’re playing”

  • Janet Albright says:

    My piano teacher took me backstage at the Philly Robinhood Dell to meet Rubinstein, c. 1946. He was friendly, jolly and encouraged me to work hard. What a treat to see him again with his supple hands and hear his incredibly beautiful tone — on his own piano. Being there with these three greats, in the middle of the action, was such a treat. Talk about energy! Thanks for posting the video.

  • Rosana Martins says:

    Thank you, Norman, for posting this precious document. Funny that American TV didn’t think it was sufficient to present these extraordinary musicians playing. All three apparently took it all with lots of good humour!

  • Wayne A. Benjamin says:

    When I was about six years old growing up in Winnetka, Illinois, my parents took me to hear this trio at Ravinia, the summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. I believe they played the Beethovan Archduke trio which is still my favorite trio to play (cello). I was studying cello with George Sopkin (cellist of the Fine Arts Quartet) and himself a former student of Feuermann. At age 72 I still play this trio, among others. Music is the best lifetime sport – easily better than tennis or golf. Many of the people I play with are in their upper eighties and still playing. Of course, there are some idiosyncratic behaviours now and then but it is a blessing to be able sit down and be transported by music – even if imperfect !

  • All I can say is “Thank you!” Speechless.

  • Nelson Curtis says:

    So you say it’s “ultra rare” just because the guy ripping off the Kultur release on YouTube says it is so? You, sir, are gullible, and don’t check your facts!

  • Zachary Floreta says:

    Just amaizing !Liquid gold!

  • God Bless the Internet…