Musical Prodigies: Grisha Goluboff (United States, 1919-2002)

Figure 1.--Grisha is seen here in 1934 on the "SS Breman" returning to New York from Europe. He wears a jacket over his sailor suit. It looks rather windy on the ship and next to him is Mischa Elman . Elman in his time was also a noted child prodigy. Image courtesy of Gladys Chase.

Grisha's career brought him in contact with the luminaries of the music world. Almost amazing as Grisha's music is the number of people whose lives have crossed his. He met and worked with many prominent musicians of the 20th century. But his life story is not only linked with the great figures of the music world, including conductors, fellow violinists, and others. Some took an interest in teaching Grisha and some performed with him. Others he simply shared the stage with at important concerts. There were memorable events both on and behind the stage with these many individuals.

Misha Elman

A Noted violin virtuoso of the 1920s and 30s was Misha Elman. A child prodigy of some note himself, he took a special interest in Grisha. Beside his own masterful playing, Elman had a significant influence on modern violin instruction as well that he never imagined while still alive. In Japan, Shinichi Suzuki listening to an Elman record was inspired to learn the instrument. He reportedly spent months studying Elman's recordings, attempting to imitate the sounds he heard. Suzuki of course went one to found a method of teaching children how to play the violin.

Ernestine Schuman-Heink

One of the American concerts that Grisha remembers most vividly was with the great conta-alto Ernestine Schuman-Heink. She was a warm hearted, motherly figure who had to endure the tragedy of sons fighting on both sides in World War I (1914-18). She was also a large, well endowed woman of considerable stature. Grisha remembers that after his performance in the early 1930s that she was so enthralled with his music that she seized him and wedged him securely between her amble bussoms in a tight bear hug. Grisha who was quite small felt totally enveloped. [Gold]

Jacques Thibaud (1880-1953)

After studying with his first teacher for a year, Grisha went on to study with more advanced teachers in the United States and throughout Europe. When concertising in Europe, he was also taking lessons from the greatest teachers of that time. One of these teachers and probably the most important was Jacques Thibaud--perhaps the most acclaimed French violinist of the 20th century and himself a child prodigy. Thibaud loved to teach and not only operated a school with associate and pianist Marguerite Long, but also taught during the summer at his St. Jean de Luz estate on the Bay of Biscay near Biarritz. Grisha studied there in the early 1930s while on his European concert tours. Grisha remembers studying the Bach A Major Concerto when famed pianist Alfred Cartot happened by and accompanied him. Thibaud probably affected Grisha's playing more than any other single individual. Like Grisha, Thibaud played with brilliance and warmth and not a "big sound". [Gold]

Bronislaw Huberman (1882-1947)

Another very famous violinist who helped teach Grisha was Bronislaw Huberman. Grisha studied with him in both Vienna and Salzburg. Huberman was one of the outstanding musical figures of the 20th century. Art was his god. Huberman was regarded throughout Central Europe, according to one music historian, "with an almost mystical reverence". He is not well known today because he did not record extensively. He was one of the German voices that opposed Hitler, taking out full page ads in newspapers rather like Zola's "J'Acuse" before the NAZIs seized control of the newspapers. Huberman then had to leave Germany. He founded the Palestine Symphony. [Gold]

Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962)

Fritz Kreisler was one of the most distinguished and best-loved violinists of all time. He was also a child prodigy. He was born in Vienna in 1875 and began performing in 1884 at age 9. Kreisler by 1910 was regarded as the leading young violin virtuoso of his day. He became a U.S. citizen in 1943. He wanted to teach Grisha. Kreisler's wife (who had as bad a reputation as Kreisler was loved), however, would not allow her husband to teach.

Lawrence Tibbett (1896-1960)

Lawrence Tibbett was the star of the Metropolitan Opera and one of the greatest baritones of the 20th century. The Met fell upon hard times in the Depression and staged a benefit concert in which both Grisha and Tibbit had pieces. The program was conducted by Wilfred Pelletier. Grisha had a playful side. After performing his piece he saw Tibbett waiting to go on. He knew that Tibbett had an eye for the ladies and told him he had a picture of a girl in a trinket viewer. It was in fact a novelty squeeze ball which Grisha pushed as soon as Tibbit held it up to his eye. Tibbett had to walk on stage wiping the water off his face. Tibbett took the joke in fine fashion. He walked onto the stage smiling.

Max Reinhardt (1873-1943)

Max Reinhardt began his career as an actor under Otto Brahm. He became one of the most accomplished German movie and theater producers. One of his best known films was "Midsummers Night Dream" (1935). He did an international broadcast from Paris in the 30s and Grisha was on the program. The pianist to accompany Grisha did not show up. In the audience was Tasso Janopulo, whom often accompanied Jacques Thibaud. He agreed to accompany Grisha and played flawlessly with out a practice. Reinhardt later emigrated to America in 1937 with Helene Thimig and became a U.S. citizen in 1940.

Hedy Lamarr

Sultry movie queen Hedy Lamarr writes about Grisha in her autobiography Extasy and Me.


Chase, Gladys. E-mail, July 27, 2002.

Gold, Joseph. Interview, August 15, 2002.

Lamarr, Hedy. Extasy and Me.

Lengyel, Cornel. Ed. 50 Local Prodigies: Prodigies in the Golden Gate (WPA, California, 1940), pp. 32-34.

Christopher Wagner

Navigate the Historic Boys' Clothing Web Site:
[Return to the Main Grisha Goluboff page]
[Return to the Main prodigy page]
[Introduction] [Activities] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Clothing styles] [Countries]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [Essays] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Satellites] [Tools]
[Boys' Clothing Home]

Related Chronolgy Pages in the Boys' Historical Web Site
[Main Chronology Page]
[The 1920s] [The 1930s] [The 1940s] [The 1950s]
[The 1960s] [The 1970s] [The 1980s]

Created: August 22, 2002
Last updated: August 22, 2002