Helmut Zacharias

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Helmut Zacharias
Zacharias in 1965
Zacharias in 1965
Background information
Also known asCharly Thomas[1]
Born(1920-01-27)27 January 1920
Berlin, Germany
Died28 February 2002(2002-02-28) (aged 82)
Brissago, Switzerland
GenresClassical, swing, jazz
Years active1931–1990s
LabelsLindström-Electrola, EMI

Helmut Zacharias (27 January 1920 – 28 February 2002) was a German violinist and composer who created over 400 works and sold 14 million records. He also appeared in a number of films, usually playing musicians.[2][3]

Early life[edit]

Helmut Zacharias was born in Berlin. His father Karl was a violinist and conductor, and his mother was a singer.[2] He started having lessons from his father at the age of 2 and a half and at 6 he played at the Faun club, a cabaret venue on the Friedrichstraße in Berlin.[4]

At the age of 8, Zacharias became the youngest student in Gustav Havemann's masterclass at the Berlin Academy of Music.[5] Aged 11, he played on radio for the first time with a performance of Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major and began touring in 1934 at the age of 14.[4] At this time, in the 1930s, the records of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli's all-string jazz band were available in Germany and they heavily influenced Zacharias's musical style.[6]

Musical career[edit]

In 1940, Zacharias was discovered by Lindström-Electrola[6] (then-name of the German branch of EMI) and in 1941 had his first mainstream success with Schönes Wetter Heute.[1] By the 1950s, he was considered to be one of the best jazz violinists of Europe and was dubbed "The Magic Violinist" and "Germany's Mr. Violin". In 1956 he achieved his greatest success in the United States with the release of "When the White Lilacs Bloom Again" which, on 22 September, reached number 12 on the Billboard Hot 100.[7][8] On 21 November 1964 he reached number 9 in the UK Singles Chart with Tokyo Melody following its use as theme music for the BBC's coverage of the 1964 Summer Olympics.[9][10] Zacharias moved to Switzerland in the late 1950s[10] and continued playing with many other famous artists, including Yehudi Menuhin. From 1968 to 1973 he appeared in his own television show. In 1985, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.[5]


Zacharias had been detected as suffering from Alzheimer's disease in 1995[2] and retired from public life in 1997[1] before the fact was publicly acknowledged on World Alzheimer's Day in 2000.[4] He died in 2002 in Brissago, Switzerland[2] and is buried in Ohlsdorf Cemetery in Hamburg.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Zacharias was married to Hella (née Konradat) from 1943 until his death. Together they had two sons, Stephan and Thomas, and a daughter, Sylvia.[2] Stephan, born in 1956, is a composer whose credits include the soundtrack to Academy Award-nominated film Downfall[12] while Thomas was an international athlete.


  • 12 Violin Sonatas, Op.2 (Vivaldi) (1953)
  • Ich liebe deinen Mund (1955)
  • Hello, Scandinavia (1958)
  • Holiday in Spain (1959)
  • Two Million Strings with Werner Müller (1959)
  • Songs of Old Russia (1959)
  • Candelight Serenade (1960)
  • The Best of Everything (1961)
  • A Violin Sings (1962)
  • On Lovers' Road (1963)
  • Candlelight Serenade (1965)
  • De Gouden Plaat Van Helmut Zacharias (1967)
  • Happy Strings Happy Hits (1967)
  • James Last Meets Helmut Zacharias (1967)
  • Happy Strings of Zacharias (1968)
  • Light My Fire (1968)
  • Mexico Melody (1968)
  • Zacharias Plays The Hits (1969)
  • Zacharias Plays Verdi & Puccini (1970)
  • Zacharias Plays Verdi & Bizet (1970)
  • Greatest Hits (1973)
  • Buenos Días (1974)
  • Swinging Hits (1977)
  • Les Belles Années (1978)


Year Film Role Notes
1949 Hallo, Fräulein! Musician
1952 Homesick for You Violinist
1952 Queen of the Arena Conductor
1952 Eine nette Bescherung TV movie
1953 Das singende Hotel Karli Alten
1954 An jedem Finger zehn Player
1955 Wie werde ich Filmstar?
1962 Toto's First Night
1963 Jolanthe lässt bitten.... Himself TV movie
1964 Silvester Show Instrumentalist TV movie
1966 Von uns – für Sie! TV movie
1981 So schön wie heut', so müßt' es bleiben Performer TV movie


  1. ^ a b c "German Composers Archive: Zacharias, Helmut" (in German). Das Deutsche Komponistenarchiv. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e Anderson, Martin (7 March 2002). "Obituaries: Helmut Zacharias". The Independent. London. Retrieved 11 August 2011.[dead link]
  3. ^ "Helmut Zacharias obituary". Rome News-Tribune. 2 March 2002. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
  4. ^ a b c Fordham, John (16 March 2002). "Jazz violinist who became German light music star". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Helmut Zacharias' website" (in German). Retrieved 9 August 2011.
  6. ^ a b Currid, Brian (2006). A National Acoustics: Music and Mass Publicity in Weimar and Nazi Germany. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. pp. 197–198. ISBN 978-0-8166-4042-3.
  7. ^ Lonergan, David F. (2005). Hit Records, 1950–1975. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 247. ISBN 0-8108-5129-6.
  8. ^ "Helmut Zacharias biography". Oldies.com. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  9. ^ Coe, Sebastian (9 November 2002). "More to a London Games than mere economic legacy". The Telegraph. London. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  10. ^ a b Musiker, Reuben; Musiker, Naomi (1998). Conductors and Composers of Popular Orchestral Music. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. p. 292. ISBN 0-313-30260-X.
  11. ^ "Tombs of famous personalities (selectable list)" (in German). Hamburg Cemetery. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 10 August 2011.
  12. ^ Schneider, Steven Jay (2008). 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (5th Anniversary ed.). Hauppauge, N.Y.: Barron's Educational Series. p. 921. ISBN 978-0-7641-6151-3.

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