Jascha Heifetz

Jascha Heifetz

Early Years in Russia
Galina Kopytova, edited by Translated and edited by Dario Sarlo and Alexandra Sarlo. Galina Kopytova
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/13/2013
ISBN: 978-0-253-01089-6
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Winner, Best Historical Recorded Sound Research in Classical Music, 2015 ARSC Awards for Excellence

Notoriously reticent about his early years, violinist Jascha Heifetz famously reduced the story of his childhood to "Born in Russia. First lessons at 3. Debut in Russia at 7. Debut in Carnegie Hall at 17. That's all there is to say." Tracing his little-known upbringing, Jascha Heifetz: Early Years in Russia uncovers the events and experiences that shaped one of the modern era's most unique talents and enigmatic personalities. Using previously unstudied archival materials and interviews with family and friends, this biography explores Heifetz's meteoric rise in the Russian music world—from his first violin lessons with his father, to his studies at the St. Petersburg Conservatory with the well-known pedagogue Leopold Auer, to his tours throughout Russia and Europe. Spotlighting Auer’s close-knit circle of musicians, Galina Kopytova underscores the lives of artists in Russia’s "Silver Age"—an explosion of artistic activity amid the rapid social and political changes of the early 20th century.

Author Bio

Galina Kopytova is a scholar and archivist specializing in the history of Russian musical culture. She heads the Office of Manuscripts of the Russian Institute for the History of the Arts in Saint Petersburg and is author of The Society for Jewish Folk Music in St. Petersburg-Petrograd (in Russian) and coauthor of From the History of Jewish Music in Russia (in Russian).

Translator Alexandra Sarlo has studied and conducted research in Russia, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine.

Translator Dario Sarlo worked as a researcher on the documentary Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler by Peter Rosen Productions. He is a musicologist, violinist, and writer for The Strad.


“Tracing a little-known upbringing, this enlighting biography uncovers one of the modern era's most unique talents and enigmatic personalities.”

“As a young student of the violin, my hero was Jascha Heifetz. His tone quality, virtuosity, technical perfection, and his unmatched energy were enormously inspiring. I own numerous books, biographies, and articles on the life and times of Jascha Heifetz, but none focus in depth on his fascinating early years in Russia to the extent that this book does. I am so pleased to add this to my collection.”
 — Joshua Bell, Emmy-award winning violinist

“One of my lifetime heroes, Jascha Heifetz was a performer of unique perfection and beauty. This biography will be a happy discovery for the professional, the music lover, and students everywhere.”
 — Menahem Pressler, founding member and pianist for the Beaux Arts Trio and Distinguished Professor, Jacobs School of Mu

“Regrettably, a satisfactory, comprehensive biography of Heifetz has not appeared. However, Kopytova has filled the gap vis-a-vis Heifetz's childhood. . . Recommended. ”
 — Choice

“A fascinating account, giving a vivid view into a half-forgotten world.”
 — Classical Music

“This is a very valuable book, lovingly researched, well written and translated, and presented with many evocative photos. ”
 — The Strad

“No biography of Heifetz I have come across has dealt in detail with this period of his life, one which he viewed with discomfort and as having ‘a dark side’. This outstanding volume corrects that omission and provides us with an accurate and exhaustively researched narrative of how one of the most amazing musical prodigies became one of the greatest violinists in history.”
 — Gramophone

“Scholar and archivist Kopytova has filled this void [on Heifetz's Russian childhood] admirably...A fascinating look at the early career of a prodigy who fulfilled the promise of his early success, this book will appeal to musicians (violinists in particular), as well as those interested in the culture and history of the early 20th century, especially as it relates to Tsarist and World War I-era Russia.”

“Since Heifetz spoke little about his formative years in Russia, this wide-ranging study by Kopytova and her collaborators will be eagerly welcomed by Heifetz enthusiasts, violin aficionados, and those interested in Russian musical culture more generally.”
 — Oral History Review

“[T]his book is really about much more than the early life of this extraordinary musician: it is about the full tapestry of late Imperial Russian life, with its huge talents and personalities adding warmth to the mindless bureaucracy and anti-Semitism that dogged the Heifetz family. Alexandra Sarlo and Dario Sarlo have done a fine job of translating Kopytova's book, bringing to the English-speaking world a treasury of information about this fascinating historical figure about whom we previously knew so little. ”
 — Russian Review

“Galina Kopytova has performed an excellent job in researching numerous archives in order to piece together an account that was first published in St Petersburg in 2004, and now appears in English, somewhat expanded and refined, for the first time. This well-illustrated book should interest many musicians and music lovers as well as offering a detailed portrait of the cultural, especially Jewish, life of Russia in the early twentieth century. It is unlikely to be superseded in the foreseeable future.”
 — Slavonic and East European Review

“This wonderful book is a fascinating, well-written and well-presented history of one of the greatest violinists of the twentieth century – indeed, for many listeners, the greatest such practitioner of the art. It is a book which we have looked forward to for decades […] There have been conflicting early biographical claims regarding Heifetz […] but Galina Kopytova has delved deeply (often for the first time) into archives in Lithuania, Russia, Berlin and Warsaw […] Here is a compelling story about the early life of a musical genius threaded through with the artistic atmosphere and general milieu of the era in which he was born and brought up. It’s a great book, much of which will be a revelation to many.”
 — International Record Review

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Table of Contents

Author’s Preface
Editors’ Introduction
Foreign Words List
List of Abbreviations
1. Early Roots of the Heifetz Family
2. 1901-1906: Vilnius
3. 1906-1909: Music School
4. 1910: St. Petersburg Conservatory and Nalbandian
5. First Performances in St. Petersburg
6. Summer 1911: Concerts in Pavlovsk and Odessa
7. Fall 1911: In the Class of Professor Auer
8. The Beginning of 1912
9. 1912: First Trip to Germany
10. 1912: A German Tour
11. The Beginning of 1913
12. Summer-Fall 1913: Loschwitz
13. Winter 1913-1914: Bar Mitzvah
14. Spring 1914
15. Summer-Fall 1914: War
16. January-September 1915
17. The End of 1915
18. The First Half of 1916
19. The Second Half of 1916: Norway and Denmark
20. The First Half of 1917: February Revolution
21. Summer 1917: Departure for America
Appendix 1: Reviews of Jascha Heifetz’s Debut at Carnegie Hall, October 27, 1917
Appendix 2: Jascha Heifetz’s Repertoire in Russia
Selected Bibliography