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Leopold Auer (1845 - 1930)

Hungarian-born Leopold Auer will always be associated with St Petersburg and the last years of the Tsarist regime in Russia (under which he worked for more than half a century), although he was equally influential upon his arrival in the USA. He is known chiefly as a pedagogue, Elman, Heifetz and Zimbalist heading a long list of eminent and celebrated pupils. His famously flexible attitude to style and the need to adapt this to each individual pupil made him a great teacher and, in this respect perhaps, the obverse of Joachim, who taught mainly by example and instilled a regime at the Berlin Hochschule in which all players and teachers were created in his own aesthetic image—a matter criticised by Carl Flesch.

In teaching, Auer was a paradox. His own views on matters of style were deeply entrenched, as many of his writings display, and incline towards established central-European attitudes very similar to the classical ideals of Spohr, David and Joachim. In his Violin Playing as I Teach It (1921) Auer is particularly outspoken regarding overuse of vibrato at a time when this was becoming all-pervasive. His pupils, however, came to epitomise the modern age and the new twentieth-century sound. Heifetz in particular set new standards of virtuosity and immaculate execution wedded inextricably to this new style: continuous vibrato, economical use of portamento and a general strictness in rhythm and tempo.




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