Roman Totenberg

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Roman Totenberg
Totenberg Roman przy Atmie.jpg
Background information
Born (1911-01-01)1 January 1911
Łódź, Poland
Died 8 May 2012(2012-05-08) (aged 101)
Genres Classical music
Instruments Violin
Years active 1923–2012

Roman Totenberg (1 January 1911 – 8 May 2012) was a Polish-American violinist and educator.[1][2]

Early life[edit]

Born in Łódź in a Jewish family, the son of Slanislava (Vinaver) and Adam Totenberg,[3] Totenberg was a child prodigy, studied with Michalowicz in Warsaw, and made his debut at the age of eleven as soloist with the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra. He was also awarded the gold medal at the Chopin Conservatory/Warsaw and continued his studies with Carl Flesch in Berlin, where he won the International Mendelssohn Prize in 1931,[4] and later with George Enescu and Pierre Monteux in Paris. In 1935 he made his British debut in London and his American debut in Washington, D. C. Three years later, he formally immigrated to the U.S. under the distinguished artist visa program.

Professional life[edit]

Totenberg toured South America with Artur Rubinstein, and gave joint recitals with Karol Szymanowski. He gave many concerts comprising the complete cycle of Beethoven sonatas and all Bach Brandenburg concertos. His diversified repertoire included more than thirty concerti. Among the many contemporary works he introduced are the Darius Milhaud Violin Concerto No. 2, the William Schuman Concerto, and the Krzysztof Penderecki Capriccio. He also premiered Paul Hindemith's Sonata in E (1935), the Samuel Barber Concerto (new version) and the Bohuslav Martinů Sonata, as well as giving the American premiere of Arthur Honegger's Sonate for violin solo. Under the patronage of the eminent violinist Yehudi Menuhin, and along with pianist Adolph Baller and cellist Gabor Rejto, Totenberg formed the Alma Trio in 1942–43 at Menuhin's Alma estate in California.

Totenberg appeared with numerous American orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony, the Cleveland, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Washington Symphonies. In Europe he performed with all major orchestras such as the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. He played under eminent conductors including Stokowski, Kubelik, Szell, Rodzinski, Fitelberg, Jochum, Rowicki, Krenz, Monteux, Wit, Steinberg and Golschmann. In recital he appeared at the White House, Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and in every major American and European city. He was featured with the most important music festivals of the world, notably at Salzburg's Mozarteum, the Aspen Music Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival and the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, where he was appointed chairman of the string department in 1947.


In addition to his concert activities, Totenberg held the position of Professor of Music at Boston University, where he headed the string department from 1961 to 1978. He also taught at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, the Music Academy of the West, the Aspen School of Music, the Mannes College of Music and the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which he directed from 1978 to 1985. Notable pupils of his include Yevgeny Kutik,[5] Mira Wang, Daniel Han, Rachel Vetter Huang, Na Sun, Ikuko Mizuno and Mari Kimura.

In 2000, he was awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland.


In 1983 he was named Artist Teacher of the Year by the American String Teachers Association, and in April 2007 he was honored with the New England String Ensemble's Muses & Mentors Award for his great artistry and significant contributions to string education.

In 1988, he was awarded the highest Medal of Merit by the Polish government for lifelong contributions to Polish society.


Roman Totenberg was the father of National Public Radio journalist Nina Totenberg, judge Amy Totenberg and businesswoman Jill Totenberg. His wife, Melanie (Shroder) Totenberg (1917–1996), was his business manager for 50 years.[6]

Recording career[edit]

Totenberg recorded for many labels, including Deutsche Grammophon, Telefunken, Philips, Vanguard, Musical Heritage Society, Heliodor, Remington, Da Camera, Dover, Titanic and VQR.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Eichler, Jeremy (8 May 2012). "Roman Totenberg, renowned violinist, dies at 101". Boston Globe. Retrieved 8 May 2012.
  2. ^ Weber, Bruce (8 May 2012) '"Roman Totenberg, Violinist and Teacher, Dies at 101". 'New York Times Retrieved 9 May 2012.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Schenk, Dietmar (2004). Die Hochschule für Musik zu Berlin: Preussens Konservatorium zwischen romantischem Klassizismus und neuer Musik, 1869–1932/33. Pallas Athene. Beitrage zur Universitats- und Wissenschaftsgeschichte (in German). Franz Steiner Verlag. p. 318. ISBN 978-3-515-08328-7. Retrieved 14 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Yevgeny
  6. ^ "Melanie Totenberg, 79, Violinist's Wife and Manager". The New York Times. 5 September 1996.