Ephraim Kurtz Can’t Count Orchestras He’s Conducted
Menu JTA Search

Ephraim Kurtz Can’t Count Orchestras He’s Conducted

Download PDF for this date

From Melbourne to London and from Rio to New York, Ephraim Kurtz has conducted perhaps more orchestras than any man in the world. How many, he doesn’t know wouldn’t even guess, in fact. “They run into the hundred,” he said in an interview with the Jewish Daily Bulletin.”

Tall, willowy, and with a professorial air of abstraction about him, Ephaim Kurtz wears his laurels modestly. Modesty, it may be said, constitutes one of his greatest virtues. His greatest prejudice is jazz; and his ideal is elizabeth Bergner, petite German Jewish star of Catherine The Great, for which Kurtz composed the musical score.

Born in Russia, Kurtz has been forced far afield in his work. He conducted the Berlin Philharmonic at tewenty-one, which lent him a distinction enjoyed by few of the great condcutors of the world. At the same time he conducted the orchestras of Warsaw and Turin; and he worked with the composer of “Kol Nidre,” and with the German composer Humperidinck.


In Germany he gained his first recognition and his most cherished successes. In Germany he met such personages as Elman and Pavlowa, with whom he later worked in concert. In Germany he is known for his outstanding work as conductor of the Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra and as guest conductor of trhe philharmonic orchestras of approximately fifty cities.

But he is not returning to Germany. Why, he will not specifically say other than the announcement “I could work in Germany today.” He is quite sensitive when questioned about his status in Germany. “One newspaper described me as being an expelled Jew, which was news to me but which may have caused me to be ranked among expatriated greulpropagandists in the eyes of New Germany’s officials,” he said.

But Ephraim Kurtz need not worry about his fatherland, for three continents seek his dervices. During his ten weeks in New York he has received flatering offers from a number of orchestras in this country; he has a standing invitation to retrurn to Australia and he can hang his hat on the cobnductor’s book in many theatres in Europe, Germany, Russia, and Latvia noted; Russia, because his his grandfather was one of the guards of Czar Nicholas I; and Latvia, because aqt one time he took out citizenship papers and he may still be pressed into compulsory military service.


Kurtz goes far back in his family genealogy for his talent. His father was a business man, his mother a good wife and little interested in the arts. “But my grandmother’s cousin’s son,” he said, “now, there was a musician. There is the source of my talent. My grandmother’s cousin’s son was none other than Felix Mendelssohn. And from him the pressent generation of my family gets its musical talent.”

Kurtz peaks proudly of his brother Edmund, who is now in the Prague Academy of Music, of Abraham, who is a wll known violinist in Holland, and of his sister Mary, who played the violin in Berlin.

Throughout his career, the stage door has been Kurtz’ trysting place with fate. Mme. Pavlowa awaited him at the stage door in Stuttgart after his performance and arranged for his to conduct # in London and later in South America. elman met him at the same place, and he conducted for the celebrated violinist. When he went to London as conductor of the Russian Ballet of Monte Carlo, it was Elizabeth Bergner, star of “Catherine The Great,” who wainted at the stage door.


“When she demanded that I compose and couduct the score for her picture, my heart flew up in my throat,” he said. “I was so excited, I forgot my contract with the Russian Ballet, and I prompt{SPAN}#{/SPAN} accepted. I had ot pay for this later, when I stayed up nights with my friend Ernst Toch, another German Jew in Loudon, writing the compositions. Just before I left for the United States, I learned that I had thirty hours in which to synchronize my music to the picture. The director said it couldn’t be done, but I worked myself and the orchestra from seven o’clock one morning to three the next morning, and I found I just had time to run home, shave, pack, and get aboard the ship.”

Among other things, Kurtz had this to say about Elizabeth Bergner, “she really doesn’t need accompainment. Her voice is music, in itself ranging from painissimo to forte. She is marvellous, beautiful, wunderber.”

Kurtz, now stopping at 120 West 57th Street, said that he intends returning to London shortly, but that he will return next year to spend many months in concert and probably film work. He is accompanied by his wife, whom he married two months ago in Paris. Mrs. Kurtz is the grand-daughter of Carl Furstenburg, owner of the Berliner Handelgeschaets Bank.

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund