Isidor Achron


Born: November 24, 1891 Died: May 12, 1948
Isidor Achron was born in Warsaw to a family of Russian-Jewish heritage. His older brother, Joseph Achron, was a violin prodigy and was already collecting rave notices in the Polish press. Isidor, however, would prefer the piano, and the Achron brothers soon began to practice together under the watchful eye of their father, a music teacher. Isidor entered the St. Petersburg Conservatory to study piano with Nicolai Doubassov and Annette Essipov, rounding out his studies with Anatol Liadov in composition and Maximillian Steinberg in orchestration. Upon graduation in 1915, Achron went on a concert tour of Russia, which was a considerable success, but was unable to continue due to the outbreak of World War I.

After three years of service in the Russian army, Achron attempted to restart his interrupted concert career in Russia, but the country's cultural life lay in ruins from the war. Achron decided ot embark upon a voyage to America, arriving in 1922. On March 21, 1923 a telegram from violinist Jascha Heifetz changed his luck; "I am offering you a position as accompanist for tour beginning May 1, 1923 terminating May 1, 1924 including tour of the orient." Achron happily accepted, and he and Heifetz would go on to collaborate for a full decade, concertizing all over the world, and making scores of records for Victor during its early "orthophonic" period. After leaving Heifetz, Achron resumed his career as soloist, and married the young Finnish soprano Lea Karina in 1935.

At this rather late point in his life, Achron began to take composition seriously as an avocation. On December 9, 1937, Achron premiered his First Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic under Barbirolli. The concerto initiated a great deal of excitement among publishers, with C. F. Fischer winning out in the end. In 1938, Achron added a Second Concerto to his book, but it was the first one that he primarily played in concert; he did so very successfully until the Second World War rendered international travel impossible. The rest of his 18 known compositions are generally short, and many are, not surprisingly, for violin and piano. In 1945, Achron briefly branched into electronic music, arranging his violin work Improvisation Op. 12 for thereminist Lucie Bigelow Rosen. At war's end, Achron performed his final solo recital at Carnegie Hall, presenting a program of his own works played alongside those of Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, and Ravel. Achron's death from a heart attack at age 55 came as a complete surprise. Upon the death of his widow in 1988, his personal papers, music and significant memorabilia were donated to the archives at Yale University.

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