Mischa Mischakoff

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Born: April 16, 1896; Proskurov, Ukraine   Died: February 1, 1981; Petoskey, MI  
This Russian-born violinist became one of the best-known concertmasters in American orchestras, having also a notable teaching, solo, and chamber music career. He was born Mischa Fischberg in a Russian-Jewish village in the Ukraine. In those days after Jascha Heifetz's success, the appearance of violinistic talent in a son of a poor Jewish family was a highly prized event. Mischa received solid training as a boy and was sent to the St. Petersburg Read more Conservatory. He studied with Korguyev and changed his name, owing to the then presence of several other promising young violinists surnamed Fischburg. He simply added a Russian adjectival ending to his given name to create his pleasantly redundant name. He graduated from St. Petersburg in 1912 and in the same year, made a successful Berlin debut. He worked in several schools and orchestras during the war and immediate postwar years and then emigrated to the United States in 1921, becoming a naturalized citizen in 1927.

His main activity through 1968 was orchestral playing, although he also made solo appearances and played in the Mischakoff String Quartet. He taught at the Juilliard School in New York (1940 - 1952) and at Wayne State University in Detroit (1952 - 1981). He had a very beautiful and strong tone, with a steady sense of rhythm. Blessed with freedom from stage fright, he was a steadying influence on the string sections of his orchestras and was valued by conductors for his responsiveness to their beat, as well as for his practical knowledge of bowings and other technical matters useful to them in performance. Even Toscanini found him a valuable source of advice concerning practical details of performance.

Not surprisingly, his most important post as concertmaster was with Toscanini's NBC Symphony Orchestra (1937 - 1952). He also served in the same capacity with the New York Symphony with Damrosch as conductor (1924-1927), the Philadelphia Orchestra under Stokowski (1927 - 1930), the Chicago Symphony Orchestra during Stock's tenure (1930 - 1937), and his longest tenure was with Paul Paray in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1952 -1968). During almost all this time, he spent his summers as concertmaster of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra (1925 - 1965). In 1968 - 1969, he was guest concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony. He was a collector of fine instruments and among the instruments he owned were the "Booth" and "General Kyd" Stradivari and a Guarneri del Gesù. He also played the "Adam" Stradivari. Read less

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