Julius Conus

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Julius Conus (Russian: Ю́лий Эдуа́рдович Коню́с, Yúlij Eduárdovič Konyús; 1 February 1869 – 3 January, 1942; better known by the above French name, sometimes rendered Jules or Julien) was a Russian Empire and Soviet violinist and composer.

Conus was born in Moscow on 1 February [O.S. 20 January] 1869 to a distinguished musical family of French extraction who had migrated to Russia at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. His father was the piano teacher Eduard Conus (ru), and his brothers were the composer and music teacher Georgi Conus and pianist Lev Conus. All three studied at Moscow Conservatory under Sergei Taneyev and Anton Arensky, and all three stayed on to teach there.

In 1888 he won the Gold Medal at the Moscow Conservatory. He then studied in Paris, where he played the violin in the Opera orchestra and was a virtuoso in his own right for several years. In 1891, he became a concertmaster in New York City. From 1893 to 1901, he taught violin at the Moscow Conservatory and formed a close friendship with Sergei Rachmaninoff. One of his notable students was violinist, composer, and conductor Alexander Chuhaldin. He also gave concerts, both as a soloist and as a chamber musician, appearing sometimes in a Trio or other ensemble with Rachmaninoff to play the latter's works. (Rachmaninoff dedicated his Two Pieces for Violin and Piano, op. 6, to Julius, and the two men remained close friends throughout their lives.)

Conus had two sons, Serge and Boris. (Boris married Rachmaninoff's daughter Tatiana in 1932, and together they had a son the following year.) After the October Revolution, Conus moved to Paris in 1919 with his brother Lev, and began to teach at the Russian Conservatory there in 1921. However as the Nazi threat spread across Europe, Lev emigrated to the US in 1935, and in 1939 Julius returned to Russia. Julius Conus died in Moscow, at Melenki on 3 January 1942.

Besides pedagogical works, Conus was known for his adeptness at long-lined melody, as shown particularly in his Violin Concerto in E minor which he premiered in Moscow in 1898 when he was 29 years old. An effective showpiece, it became a repertoire staple in Russia and was long popular with audiences, although it was dismissed by critics. Conus, a violinist himself, wrote no other major work, although he did produce several shorter pieces for violin, which are mostly unplayed today.

In the early 1900s Fritz Kreisler championed the concerto, giving its first performance in London (1904). However it was Jascha Heifetz who was to become the Concerto's true champion. He included it in his worldwide concert repertoire, and from 1920 played it many times in Carnegie Hall. He also recorded it with the RCA Symphony Orchestra under Izler Solomon in 1952.

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