Can anyone name the Army Fiddlers?

Can anyone name the Army Fiddlers?


norman lebrecht

July 24, 2018

A clue: the kid on the right is today’s centenarian Ruggiero Ricci.


  • Sixtus says:

    Second from left looks like Jack Benny.

  • Just Sayin' says:

    Left, Heifetz?

  • Robert Holmén says:

    I think that’s more hair and more waistline than Jack Benny had in WWII.

    Hard to tell when their faces are only five pixels wide.

    None of them quite looks like Stuart Canin, another army violinist.

  • David Lowenkron says:

    Erno Neufeld, Felix Slatkin, Marshall Sosson, Ruggiero Ricci

  • BillG says:

    Good think AR 600-9 wasn’t in effect during this time. A few of the fiddle players look a little fluffy.

  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    It is Kaper, Slatkin, Sosson and Ricci. During the war, a government initiative was created to protect American musicians from going into battle. The group, with the unwieldy name” Army-Air Force Tactical Command Orchestra” mostly did radio broadcasts. It was based out of Santa Ana, California, with a second group on the East Coast headed by Glenn Miller.

    How good were they? Over the past few years, transcription discs have been discovered and the listening results are amazing. With each musician handpicked by a highly talented group of officers, the orchestra could rival any in the States if not the world. They performed mostly light but difficult music and on occasion one of the musicians would appear as a soloist.

    My father was both a concertmaster and conductor for the group. Dave Brubeck was the staff pianist, and got caught growing weed behind the barracks. To give you an idea of the level of musicianship, Ricci was assigned to the third desk, inside, or the number six violinist.

    All the musicians were grateful not to have to go overseas, but instead, give the troops and those on the home front some inspiration during this time.

  • David Lowenkron says:

    Wasn’t Bronislaw Kaper a film composer and pianist, not violinist?
    When Felix Slatkin was just coming out of the Army in Santa Ana, my father included him with some others, arranging for some recording or radio work. Felix was the ONLY one from that group who insisted on finding out who was responsible for his hiring! Out of gratitude, Slatkin arranged for my father to get a seat in the violin section with the 20th Century Fox studio orchestra–a position he held for almost 30 years!
    My well being, growing up, was largely set up by Felix’s action.
    My father subsequently played in the orchestras used for most of the concerto recordings made by Jascha Heifetz on the west coast, as well as playing in the orchestra at the Ojai Festival when they were conducted by Igor Stravinsky one year and Aaron Copland the next!
    My father’s prize violin, a Camillus Camilli, was purchased from Erno Neufeld!
    My identifications still stand: Erno Neufeld, Felix Slatkin, Marshall Sosson, and Ruggiero Ricci.

    • leonard Slatkin says:

      You are absolutely correct! Erno is the one on the left. What a tremendous violinist. And indeed, Kaper was a film and song composer, Not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that.

      Erno was a frequent guest at our hose for chamber music evenings. Am I correct that other members of his family were also musicians?

  • David Lowenkron says:

    My parents started a concert series at the Hollywood-Los Felix Jewish Community Center in the 1950’s at a time where there were hardly any other chamber music series in the Los Angeles Area.
    The Hollywood String Quartet was featured practically every season, with others such as pianists John Browning, Daniel Pollack, Jacob Gimpel, Andre Previn; and violinists Israel Baker, and Zvi Zeitlin.
    On one program Erno Neufeld performed the Chausson Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet with his wife, pianist Sylvia Panitz Neufeld.

  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    I do remember your father as well as the series at the JCC. It is sometimes forgotten what a rich chamber music scene LA had during those years. Series at the Assistance League, Wilshire Ebell Theater and the LA County Museum of the Arts. We were fortunate, yes?

  • David Lowenkron says:

    When you were a YOUNG child, my parents, Paul and Olga were visiting your home in the Wilshire district. My mother asked you, “Who is your favorite composer?”
    You answered “Brahms”.
    She then asked you who your least favorite composer was.
    You answered “Mozart”.
    When she asked why, you screwed up your face and sang out:

    Again, you were very young then, and Brahms is still my favorite composer (and we share that with Janos Starker, Condoleezza Rice, and Artur Rubinstein!).

    • Leonard Slatkin says:

      Guess what? After some extensive research, and some photo comparisons, it turns out that our guesses have been incorrect. The violinist is Bronislaw Gimpel. He came to the States in 1942, and after the war was the concertmaster of the LA Phil for a while. His brother, Jacob, was a marvelous pianist. Good to finally have an answer to this question that both my brother and I have been trying to figure out.

      Oh, eventually I decided that Mozart wasn’t so bad after all, but my opinion of Brahms never changed.

      • David Lowenkron says:

        Does that mean that an errata sheet has to be included in all future printings of “Conducting Business” regarding page 18?!

        By the way, it took me some time to come up with 5 responses to Vincent Persichetti’s challenge of naming 5 piano concertos that start with piano alone.
        My first 4 were easy: Beethoven #4, Rachmaninoff #2, Saint-Saens #2, and of course the Barber. After that I seemed to be at wits end until I settled on the Prokofiev 5th! 🙂

  • Kyle Wiedmeyer says:

    Ruggiero Ricci isn’t a centenarian, he’s dead.

  • Garry Humphreys says:

    Thanks, gentlemen, for one of the most interesting and entertaining exchanges I’ve seen on here for a long time! Got any more mystery pics, Norman?

    (And thanks, Mr Slatkin, for your comments in particular. We remember you here in London!)

  • Andrew says:

    The army still has fiddlers. I was on a train at Clapham Junction in London and there was a young man in a hoodie listening to music on his headphones with his head bobbing up and down. He looked at me and asked about my violin as I was carrying a case at the time . “Here we go,” I thought, yet more wisecracks about machine guns… I told him I was an only an amateur and he then offered me his headphones to ask if I liked the recording of Anne Sophie Mutter he was listening to! He told me he was in the army and played violin in an army orchestra., Mornings were spent on the parade ground and afternoons in rehearsal… that is what he told me. The Anne Sophie Mutter was genuine so I had no reason to doubt him. I presumed he was on leave…..

  • Vivien Braly says:

    I’m late to the party here but the fiddler that is third from the left is my great uncle Marshall Sosson. He was a stellar musician and an even more amazing man.

  • Gene Alvillar says:

    The violinists are Bronislaw Gimpel, Felix Slatkin, Marshall Sosson and Ricci.