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Life And Legacy Of Violin Virtuoso Jascha Heifetz

The magnificent, wild and difficult genius of violin virtuoso Jascha Heifetz. A new documentary takes us in.

Violinist Jascha Heifetz. (Library of Congress)

Violinist Jascha Heifetz. (Library of Congress)


The great violinst Jascha Heifetz was great early.  A prodigy.  At five, studying with Russia’s best.  At ten, mobbed at a concert in St. Petersburg.  Needing police to hold off the crowd.  At sixteen, in 1917, escaping revolutionary Russia on the Trans-Siberian to take up life and art in America.

His precision and passion were legendary.  So was his toughness.

This hour, On Point:  the great Itzhak Perlman and more join us to look at the life and genius of Jascha Heifetz.

-Tom Ashbrook


Peter Rosen, Filmmaker and documentarian, director of: “Jascha Heifetz: God’s Fiddler.”

Arthur Vered, Biographer, Psychologist, and Jascha Heifetz scholar, author of “Jascha Heifetz.”

Itzhak Perlman, Emmy and Grammy-award winning virtuoso violinist and conductor.

From Tom’s Reading List

Violinist.com “In her 2001 book Heifetz As I Knew Him, Ayke Agus writes, “Jascha Heifetz didn’t seem to be as proud of his artistic achievements as of the fact that he was a difficult person. The ultimate paradox was that this person who could not live without company eventually did everything in his power to get rid of people.”"

Hollywood Reporter “An informative if uninvigorating look at the violinist Itzhak Perlman calls “the first true modern virtuoso player,” Peter Rosen’s God’s Fiddler: Jascha Heifetz will draw only the most ardent classical fans to its niche theatrical run but should please a wider audience after making its way to educational TV.”


Suite in A Minor: Presto (Heifetz with Donald Voorhees and the Bell Telephone Hour Orchestra, 1940s)

Caprice # 13 in B-Flat (with Brooks Smith, 1960)

Rondo from Serenade # 7 (with Brooks Smith, LIVE, Paris, 1970)

Violin Concerto in D Major, Mvmt. #1 (with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, 1955)

Caprice # 24 in A minor (with Arpad Sandor, 1934)

Romance, Opus 4 (Live, St. Petersburg, 1911)

Violin Concerto #4 in D minor; Mvmt. 1 (with Brooks Smith, 1962)

“When You Make Love To Me” (1943)

“When You Make Love To Me” by Bing Crosby (with Victor Young and his orchestra, 1946)

Serenata Napoletana #2 (with Brooks Smith, 1954)

Piano Trio #1; Mvmt. 1 (with Arthur Rubinstein and Gregor Piatigorsky, 1950)

Violin Concerto #1; Mvmt. 2 (with Alfred Wallenstein and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, 1953)

“Sea Murmurs” (with Brooks Smith, LIVE, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Los Angeles, 1972)

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

    Does he play Bach?

  • Anonymous

    Does Jascha Heifetz play Bach? Wow, what a question.

    Heifetz was one of the greatest violinist to grace the earth, and he has played some of the defining performances of Bach on the violin. So yes Jascha Heifetz played a lot of Bach. I recommend the Sonatas & Partitas by Heifetz.



    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C2STBLZJK4VKQBV27DVQX3I6CU FAX68

      Simple question simple answer? I never heard of this guy so you don’t have to so A hole to answer me back.

      it reflects how you teach your kids with their home work “YOU insult them first then teach them”. Thank God I don’t do that to my daughter.

      • Anonymous

        Boy are you a real piece of work.
        Instead of doing a Google search, which would have told you everything you needed to know about one of the greatest violinist in history, you ask a dumb question.
        You blame me for you ignorance.    

  • Assen

    I most remember taking my grandmother to his concert at Powell Hall in St. Louis.  After the concert he made himself available and my grandmother told him how much she enjoyed his playing the last time she saw him in Stockholm.

    • Williamgraddy

      When did you see Heifetz in St. Louis?  My father took me to hear him play the Brahms Concerto in December, 1955.  The hall, since demolished, was then called Kiel Auditorium.  The conductor, though I may be misspelling his name, was Vladimir Golschmann.

  • Drew You Too

    Have always been blown away by Jascha Heifetz’s talent, definately worthy of a documentary.

    As impressive as Jascha Heifetz was, I would have been more impressed if Hour 2 had been a continuation of Hour 1′s topic. Sometimes breaking with convention should bare greater consideration. Just my opinion.

  • Nicholas Chowske

    My wife and I were walking through the Saratoga Spa State Park one day a few years ago, and we stumbled onto Itzhak Perlman rehearsing with the orchestra at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). We chose some seats we could never afford and watched intently as they played. It was one of the greatest musical moments of my life and I’ll never forget it. Perlman was truly masterful – even in rehearsal.

  • Jim

    Hey Tom and On Point Gang,
    Thanks.  Where else can I listen about MF Global and be so disappointed about some then listen and learn about Jascha Heifetz and be reminded that there is beauty in this world.  Thank you for hitting it hard everyday, and if not out of the park, swinging for it.  awesome.  Jim

  • LaCresha

    My boyfriend owns Nashville Violins and we are sitting here surrounded by beautiful violins listening to this fascinating story!

  • Lora

    Fabulous show. Where can I see God’s Fiddler in the Boston area?

    • Anonymous

      He’s dead. You can buy CD’s or find footage of him on You Tube.

      • CT

        Is that supposed to be funny?

        • Anonymous

          No, but seriously the film is not being screened in this area yet.

          I’m really getting pretty tired of how lazy people are. Your on a computer and online and yet you can’t take a few minutes to do a search instead of asking a question that one could answer for themselves.
          Such as did Heifetz play Bach.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Miriam-Goldstein/730212836 Miriam Goldstein

    My step-father was a contemporary of Jascha Heifitz and the two of them somehow met up and became great friends.  My step-father’s name was Vito W. Chiaverini.  We asked about the spelling of our brother’s name, JASCHA, and the answer was that it was to honor his “good friend”, Jascha Heifitz.  My step-father was also a violinist in the Toledo Orchestra and also a avid violin maker from Toledo, Ohio.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film clip from You Tube and look forward to having the opportunity to view Mr. Rosen’s entire production sometime in the near future.  

  • Alan in NH


    The vituperative nature, and lack of civility at a minimum, with respect to some of the responses on this site to something as non-controversial as Jascha Heifitz’s abilities, discourages me from continuing to read the postings on this site. The reason for this is one I can not fathom. What is gained?

  • EMH

    If he lived in the US today, he would have been a From the Top kid for sure. Do you know From the Top? Great NPR show, based in your backyard in Boston.

  • hugh briss

    You twice misspelled his name.  It is and was, HEIFETZ

  • Sfordnyc

    Fan of the show.  Looking forward to hearing the Heifetz segment (my public radio station airs only 1st hour so I’ll have to listen on line).  I have a comment about the website. At the time of writing this message (Monday, 12/12 at 8:03 p.m.), the date at the top of the home page says: Today is Tuesday, December 13, 2011.  Which it is not — it’s still Monday 12/12.  Below the date on the home page, the two featured programs are Monday’s programs which makes sense. It wouldn’t matter except that it’s confusing.  It’s been this way for as long as I’ve been checking the site.  Can’t you fix that?

  • AA

    Will a list of the music played during this segment be provided?  Please!

  • Anonymous

    Tom and the producers of On Point, this was truly one of the the most enjoyable episodes in recent memory. Thank you all. Now, if you’d all be good enough to do a show on Carlos Kleiber, it’ll be greatly appreciated. 

  • Colwell Todd

    i am pretty sure this is going to be another case of never being able to actually see an amazing film.  is it being screened anywhere in the boston area?

  • Michele

     This music makes me smile but also brings tears to my eyes as I remember sitting in my childhood living room with my father on many a-Saturday, listening to the TSCHAIKOWSKY: VIOLIN CONCERTO. A 1957 recording that my father had acquired as a teenager and a student of the violin.  I also studied the violin and could only dream of entering the same universe of virtuosity that Heifetz inhabited.  His playing is timeless and still sounds so contemporary which is not true of all historical recordings of classical and jazz pieces.

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