Rush of tributes for America’s last violin giant

Rush of tributes for America’s last violin giant


norman lebrecht

July 10, 2019

Tributes are pouring on for Aaron Rosand who died last night of pneumonia, aged 92.

Stephen Waarts: ‘Thank you Mr. Rosand for your incredible influence in my life and contribution to the world of music. I feel so grateful for all the time, wisdom, and generosity you shared with me through the years.’

Robert Koenig: ‘I’m so saddened and heartbroken to hear of the passing of legendary violinist Aaron Rosand. As a young student at the Curtis Institute of Music, I was so enthralled to be working with his long list of incredible students and spent countless hours in his studio. I could never have imagined that I’d have the opportunity to perform and tour with him and will always cherish that time together. RIP, dear Maestro….You will never truly know the gift that you have given me.’

Brinton Smith: ‘One of the greatest is gone.’

Quinton Morris: ‘My mentor, former teacher and a man who inspired and challenged me to think outside the box and dared Me to be different. A legend has passed – Mr. Aaron Rosand. He was one of my confidants who insisted on me getting a lesson at his home before I played any recital at Carnegie Hall, which consisted of a coaching…followed by smoking cigars, drinking scotch and reading duos half drunk at his house. We had a bond and a very special relationship. He called me SONNY, which was followed by a cough and a chuckle by me. I will miss him dearly. Thank you, Mr. Rosand for your contributions to the music world and teaching inspiration worldwide. I will miss our phone chats immensely.’

Hugh Sung: ‘I owe this maestro more than I can put into words. He opened my ears to a whole world of artistic individualism while at the same time taking me – quite literally – around the world with performances and recordings. ‘

Kimberlee Dray: ‘oday we learned of the passing of an iconic violinist, Aaron Rosand, whose recording of the Arensky Violin Concerto I listened to in tears while sitting right next to him. He leaves an incredible legacy and I will always be grateful he took the time to encourage a Mom who really loves to play. I think that says a lot about him.’



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I have some deeply saddening news to share with you. My teacher Aaron Rosand passed away last night. I learned so much from him; his pure, beautiful sound that would shimmer and cry when being drawn from the instrument; his gruff laugh that would often be accompanied by some sort of rebuke telling me that I wasn’t sustaining the line enough, or that I needed to “find my own sound”. He was tough on me, but only because he believed in me. There’s not one day that goes by when I don’t think about the things he said to me during our time lessons. I’m still learning every day thanks to you Mr Rosand. We will miss you, but your legacy lives strong in the wonderful musicians you’ve produced. Photo: Pete Checchia c. 2007 at the Curtis Institute of Music

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  • Robert Fitzpatrick says:

    Aaron Rosand joined the Curtis faculty in 1981 when John de Lancie engaged Aaron Rosand and Szymon Goldberg to replace the recently deceased Ivan Galamian. Aaron held the Dorothy Richard Starling chair at Curtis and personally endowed the Aaron Rosand chair for his friend. the late Joseph Silverstein.

    Aaron Rosand was a performer and teacher who always championed the highest standards even in the selection of his legendary Havana cigars. He had many friends, a large group of admiring colleagues, legions of grateful students, and yes, even a few enemies who did not agree with his outspoken championing of the traditions of Efrem Zimbalist and the other disciples of the Russian school of virtuoso violin playing.

    We sat together for many years during Curtis violin auditions and he kept copious notes on every candidate. Occasionally he would give someone a very high grade but write “NFC” after his remarks. Assuming a more sinister meaning with the N = no and the C = chance, I asked him what it meant. His reply: “Not for Curtis” meaning that although he liked the candidate, he felt that their musical personality was not compatible with the Curtis tradition.

    Bon voyage, bon vent, while thinking of La Havanaise with cigar smoke wafting in the air, Maestro Rosand.

    • NYMike says:

      As recounted to me by Joey Silverstein a few years ago – when Galamian tattled to Zimbalist that Joey was running to NY on weekends to coach with Dounis, Zimmie kicked Joey out of school. Years later as Joey had made his own illustrious career including occupying classmate Rosand’s endowed chair, Aaron made a trip to NV to see Zimmie. While there, he regaled Zimmie with tales of Joey’s success, begging him to relent and allow Joey to finally graduate in his original ’50 class. Zimbalist did so.

  • boringfileclerk says:

    This is a devastating loss. He was a true artist and gentleman. Words cannot express. May his memory be for a blessing.

  • Jan Kaznowski says:

    In this 1982 NYT article, he talks about his early days :

    “things were very difficult for me. My wife and I were not living well nor eating well for that matter. I remember becoming known as a pinch-hitter – going in for indisposed violinists. I played for Milstein, Szigeti and others, because word had spread that I had a vast repertory of concertos at my fingertips, and could step-in at a moment’s notice. But as for a career – it was still pretty impossible.”

    “I didn’t make the phone calls, I didn’t write the letters.. In the business, I didn’t have a thick enough accent”

  • JamesM says:

    OMG he was wonderful, and very underrated in the mainstream. I remember a Carnegie Hall recital in the 70s that thrilled me to no end. “Discovery” repertoire, as he enjoyed presenting, played by a master. Thankfully there are recordings, though not enough from Mr. Rosand. He will be so missed!

  • David K. Nelson says:

    I am saddened to hear this news; I had the wonderful opportunity many years ago to interview Aaron Rosand for Fanfare Magazine at the Bein & Fushi shop in Chicago (he was giving a masterclass that evening). He could not have been more gracious to me and to my wife, and in spite of a rushed schedule he gave me all the time we needed. He did not harp on the situation with Stern when I asked about it but did acknowledge it. Quite correctly, he did not want it to be the topic of the interview.

    He was pretty firm with all the students he heard that night: ditch the shoulder pad. Of course he had the ideal build for a violinist NOT to use a shoulder pad and those of us with longer necks find it hard to do without one. But yes, the violin sounds so much better without one.

    Fortunately for all of us, about the time of that interview and for several years after he was finally able to record the true masterworks of the violin concerto literature such as the Beethoven, Brahms and Sibelius concerti, as well as unaccompanied Bach and many sonatas and recital pieces with Hugh Sung pianist. And Vox did a fairly good job of remastering for CD his earliest recordings, including the Beethoven sonatas and the Sarasate dances.

    It might be that Rosand has (now “had,” alas) the last of the immediately identifiable violin tones, no matter if the recording was a Vox item circa 1960 or one of the digital Vox or Biddulph releases made decades later. And there was never a need to site age as a qualifying basis for a Rosand recording – I have never heard anything but splendid playing from him. He was seemingly ageless from a violinistic standpoint. And as much as his nemesis Isaac Stern also made great recordings and gave great concerts, the same could not be said of Stern; in those final years you had to make excuses for the playing in concert and on recordings.

    And Rosand had real stamina – I remember a Milwaukee Symphony appearance where on the same program (!) he played the Sarasate Carmen Fantasy, the Chausson Poeme, and the Ernst f# minor concerto — at the rehearsal I was amazed when he gently corrected the percussion section for adding an unwritten tambourine beat (which he heard while fiddling away like crazy) and played on violin a tricky chromatic passage of the cello part of the Ernst without hesitation when the cello section had issues with it.

    His violin mechanics, in short, were perfect.

    It is unfortunate but some of his very nicest recital recordings were on Julian Kreeger’s Audiofon label which seems to be long gone, as are many of those early CD labels (it featured lots of piano recordings as I recall). Should you happen to see any of the following available, snap them up: solo violin works by Bach, Telemann and Ysaye (CD 72012); Sonatas by Respighi, Walton and Sibelius with John Covelli, pianist (CD 72020), and sonatas of Strauss, Grieg and Saint-Saens with Seymour Lipkin, pianist (CD 72026).

  • fierywoman says:

    When I was 16 and at the Reston (VA) Music Center, Rosand came down and played the Beethoven and Brahms violin concertos on the same program! How did we luck out? It was astounding.

  • Esther Cavett says:

    ===at the rehearsal I was amazed when he gently corrected the percussion section for adding an unwritten tambourine beat (which he heard while fiddling away like crazy)

    I *love* stories like that. Thanks for sharing !

  • Peter Hughes says:

    I am deeply saddened to learn of Aaron Rosand’s passing. The brief time I spent with him was life altering. The impact of his life, his playing and his teaching, will be felt for many for years to come.