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Oscar Shumsky (1917 - 2000)

Oscar Shumsky was born in an era when very young violinists were often proclaimed as prodigies. Leopold Stokowski called him ‘the most astounding genius I have ever heard’ and invited him at the age of seven to play Mozart’s Violin Concerto K. 219 with the Philadelphia Orchestra. The same year, Shumsky became Leopold Auer’s youngest-ever student. His early concert career was a busy one, including a performance for Fritz Kreisler in which he played Kreisler’s unpublished Beethoven cadenzas from memory, having heard them only twice before. Kreisler predicted that he would become one of the finest violinists of the century.

Shumsky performed widely as a youthful virtuoso, often with the Philadelphia Orchestra, but tired of repetition and advocated imaginative programming. After his studies at the Curtis Institute and some time as a staff musician with the National Broadcasting Company he was invited by Toscanini to join the NBC Symphony, where he became acquainted with violist William Primrose and violinist Josef Gingold; he thus joined the Primrose Quartet as first violinist. The quartet’s success was considerable, with many concerts and recordings. In 1942 Shumsky left the NBC Orchestra to concentrate on his solo career and to begin teaching, about which he already had firm ideas.




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