Berlin Gushed over Boy Prodigy, Cuts Concert, Demands Violin
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Berlin Gushed over Boy Prodigy, Cuts Concert, Demands Violin

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Grisha Goluboff, 10-year-old concert violinist, is sad. He must part with his violin, an original Guarnarius, which was lent to him by the German firm of Wilhelm H. Hammig. For two years he has used it in all his performances. It is priced at $25,000, but to young Grisha it is priceless. “It took me a year to break it in, to get the feeling of the instrument and to be able to render every intonation as I wanted to. To give it back means the loss of a year’s hard work!”

Grisha at ten is well-poised, charmingly mannered and wholly unspoiled by the adulation he has received since infancy. He is a robust youngster, with brown wavy hair and large eyes, and his physical development is amazing. Grisha has been reared in an atmosphere of peace and wholesomeness, but his ability to converse, his knowledge of many subjects is striking. The results of his uphringing are evident in his reaction to the bitter blow he has just received. He is not bitter against the Nazi government, although many credit it with having instigated the request for the return of the violin.


“I love the German people,” he said, earnestly. “They love and appreciate music.” He mourns only the impending loss of his beloved violin. He is sad too that he will not be able to appear with the Berlin Symphony, as he had been scheduled to, this summer, For that engagement has been cancelled. Grisha, you see, besides being a genius is a Jew. And Jews are not performing in Germany this season although last September they may, as Grisha did, have deserved an official reception with government officials and their wives falling all over themselves in their eagerness to tell him how much pleasure his playing gave them.

Dr. Hans Borchers, acting consul for Germany here, has denied that the Berlin firm requested the return of the violin. He declared that all the firm wished was assurance that the violin was being cared for and was properly insured. “Ridiculous,” said I. M. Noble, Grisha’s manager. “Why did they wait two years? In the first instance they gave the violin to Grisha without even demanding that a paper be signed showing that we acknowledged the loan of the instrument. I voluntarily spoke to the owners, telling them that we would sign such a paper and would insure the instrument against theft or fire. For our protection I would have done so. We could not afford to incur such a loss. Young genius needs care and tending. Grisha comes from poor people. To have to pay put such a sum of money in case of loss would have been impossible. How would we have dared travel with an instrument of such value if it were uninsured?”


Grisha was anxious to be off. The young prodigy, whose playing has moved critics to bursts of rapture, has a passion for roller-skating. He bowed charmingly and unaffectedly and went off for a few hours of fun such as any child of his age would enjoy. But young Goluboff has another side, a terrific urge for perfection in whatever he undertakes. He practices without being urged. Before making a public appearance he has, in fact, to be persuaded not to overtax himself. He is meticulous and exacting about his performances. Unless his playing is satisfactory to himself he hates to appear before an audience.

“The boy’s going to suffer from the loss of the Guarnarius,” Mr. Noble said, after seeing Grisha out. “He is scheduled to appear at concerts in London, Paris, Vienna and other European cities. But he will have to appear without the instrument to which he has become attached. I tell you that is a severe loss to a musician of worth.”

The firm which is demanding the return of the instrument, at first became interested in Grisha through Baron von Schlippenbach, who admired Grisha and realized what a genius he was. “No violin is too good for that boy to use,” he told the firm’s representatives.

“We do not care, however, to enter into any controversy about the violin’s return,” Mr. Noble stated. “I am taking steps to have it returned at once. As for Grisha, who knows? There may be another rare old violin which he will learn to use and love as he has learned to use and love his Guarnarius.”

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