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Huberman and the Divine: letters from listeners

In the follwing post I explore some of the letters listeners wrote to Bronislaw Huberman. This is a continuation of the theme of the Divine that I wrote about with relation to a concert review by Max Brod and  a report by Edmondo De Amicis. These two posts and the following were written, more or less, as notes that I plan to use in a future article on this subject.

Eugenie Tulakova wrote to Huberman on 30.4.1929 (The Listner Speaks, p. 36 X A):
 
            Yesterday, listening to your sounds, the soul has trembled like a chord;
 
It has included everything: enthusiasm and suffering, and a wild wave of happiness. 
 
However, more than the sounds it was astonishing, that You, playing like a God, You, the exuberant genius, conqueror of nations, at whose feet the crowd is lying, richness and glory – You did not forget … of old little friends.
 
Here too, Huberman’s music signifies suffering and ‘wild’ emotions. The capital ‘Y’ in the word ‘You’ and the direct reference to God, clearly show a perceived relation of the violinist to the divine.
 
The following is a letter from Mrs R.B. dated 24 March 1932 (p. 56):
 
            Last evening for one blissful half hour I (an invalid) lay back on my pillows entranced, pain forgotten, everything forgotten but the one lovely picture which you were weaving with those unspeakable beautiful notes – a picture of the future of our weary world when the Divine promises are fulfilled and out Lord reigns, and all is harmony and beauty.
            I hope in the next world to be permitted to thank you adequately; I cannot find words here, but can only pour out my soul to God in hearty thanksgiving for such beaty as He has given us through you, and also in a prayer that He will reachly [sic.] bless you.
 
On 26 January 1933 she wrote to Huberman thanking his again for his concert from the Queen’s Hall. She wrote:
 
Music of that kind is beyond words, and converys Divine truths that can hardly be spoken, but if I may try to tell you how I read God’s message to me though you, it was this: - if God’s love gives us such beaty as that, then we can trust Him for all the rest, and need fear nothing, and we can face life with a good courage.
 
מה הוא כתב לה????
 
C. E. wrote to Huberman from Hague, 24 April 1932 (p. 58). He wrote that he enjoyed the ‘great Soul’, with a capital S, ‘who spoke straight to my heart.’ He described Huberman’s playing as ’sublime’. It is interesting that the writer of the letter confesses that he doubts ‘whether really was conscious of the gem he composed, but then he knew no Huberman to play it and show him what it contained.’ In other words, the performer may present something divine that the composer was not aware of while composing.
 
Neville Cardus, a noted music critic from Manchester wrote on 17 January 1936 to Huberman: ‘You purified me with your own suffering.’ (p. 77). I will elaborate on two concert reviews by Nevill Cardus in one of the following posts. The theme of suffering is discussed in my post on the review by Max Brod.
 
A letter from San Fransisco, California, dated 22 March 1936 contained a song from which the following lines were taken:
 
I listened in raptures as his every note
            Thrilled me like a song from a Nightingale’s throat.
It was Wonderful, Godlike, Exquisite, Grand;…
 
I do not wish to argue that all people have experienced music in general or Huberman’s concerts in particular, as a religious experience. Yet even some of the most restraint listeners could have been carried away by Huberman’s music, as is evident from the following letter. M. S., a noted music critic, writes on 28 Mach 1937 from Boston Mass. that he cannot find words to describe the spiritual quality of the experience of hearing Huberman and Schnabel play together in a concert. The critic confessed that he does not see himself as ‘a sentimentalist’, and he even regards with ‘a little skepticism or contempt … those who could partake of music as of a religious experience.’ (p. 89). Yet during the concert, only the intermission could help him re-gather his ‘forces so as to be able to listen to more.’ After listening to a piece by Mozart, it ‘finished’ him and he had to go out and miss the piece by Schubert. The writer of the letter admits listening to music as something ’self-sufficient … discoursing in its own language about matters entirely within itself.’ Nevertheless, in the Huberman-Schnabel concert, ‘perhaps for the first time, it began to take on a meaning outside itself and somehow more lofty.’      
 
A similar letter was written by a women living in Sydney, confessing on 3 July 1937 that her ‘friends have all called [her a] cold and heartless’ person. However, she realized ‘that "Only the Perfect is Real" and that "God is Perfection and Love", also that one must love the Highest when one "sees" it.’ She immediately confessed that she acknowledges ‘the final sense of liberation and ecstasy your music has inspired me with.’ (p. 90).  
 
L. R. from Camberwell, Victoria (Australia) wrote on 12 July 1937 that a radio broadcast of Huberman had awakened something in her. She confessed the following:
 
Have you gone to church often, because it made you strong and good? – You love kneeling before God and listening to the words of good counsel and kindliness. And then there comes a day when you realise, that you never really knew God at all. You just worshipped blindly. Of a sudden your eyes and heart are opened, and you see and feel God as He really is. Such a revelation was your music to me. (p. 92).  
 
L.R. admitted in the letter that she could not afford to but a concert ticket, so Huberman had sent her two tickets. After attending the concert she wrote to him another letter dated 16 July 1937: ‘That concert was the most wonderful thing in my life… Brahms Sonata … was played with God in your fingers.’
 
A letter from an admirer from New York dated 10 December 1942 (p. 112) argues that Huberman performance is ‘great’ in the sense that it is more than perfectly performed with ‘faultless intonation and with complete sincerity. The letter argues that this what makes Huberman’s performance ‘great is not descended from anything on earth at all but that it is a Chelek Eloha Mimaal – [in Hebrew:] a portion from God on High. It is a mysterious blended and glorious whole which is greater than the sum of its parts.’ The writer continued to argue that there ‘was a noble partnership in action on the stage of the Town Hall. The result was a great collaboration of the soul of Huberman, the genius of Bach and the mercy and loving kindness of God.’
 
Mysticism is not unapparent in the following letter by Samuel R. Wachtell from 17 January 1943 (Ibid.):
 
            Here is a dash of Nostradamus:
 
                        ( Bach
                        ( Beethoven
                        ( Brahms
 
            What had they in common last evening? Let us see:
 
                        ( Bach         
                        ( Beethoven       B. H. = Bronislaw Huberman
                        ( Brahms
 
The artistic solvent which sublimated these three different geniuses – the encompassing genius of – Bronislaw Huberman
 
The metaphysical connection between Huberman’s performance and the spirits of composers is present also in a letter by the conductor Wheeler Beckett dated 31 October 1944. He wrote to Huberman that during the performance of Brahms G major sonata, he ‘felt that the spirit of Brahms himself hung over you as you played and if so he must have been pleased to hear his inmost thought and feeling expressed.’ (p. 115)
 
A couple wrote to Huberman on 17 December 1944 that they try to attend as many concert of his as they can. They ended the letter with the following words: ‘God Bless you this season, Mr. Huberman, and may He deem it wise to give you years of further expression of His glory through your art.’ (p. 119).   


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