Louis Kaufman was the walking definition of a Renaissance man. A violinist of prodigious skill, he could have made his way quite well in the classical music world, and, in fact, did so for many years; but Kaufman also kept active in the fields of popular music and jazz, as well as film music, working with such diverse figures as Duke Ellington, Nancy Wilson, Randy Newman, and Quincy Jones, as well as performing on many hundreds of film scores, all of this in addition to his work with the likes of Pablo Casals, Mischa Elman, Fritz Kreisler, Jascha Heifetz, and Gregor Piatigorsky. He was born in Portland, OR, in 1905 and later studied the violin at the Institute of Musical Art in New York, where his principal teacher was Franz Kneisl. At 21, he became a founding member of the Musical Art Quintet, and at 23 he received the Naumberg Award and made his recital debut at New York's Town Hall later that same year. It was his acceptance of an engagement to play the solos for an Ernst Lubitsch film version of The Merry Widow (1934) that brought him to the attention of Hollywood. The movie was a smashing success, and Kaufman's contribution was sufficiently visible to get him offers from every music department in the film mecca. The list of movies whose scores he subsequently played on reads like a best of Hollywood, including Gone with the Wind, Wuthering Heights, and The Grapes of Wrath, and that was just for 1939 and only a very partial list from that year. Kaufman's recording career was somewhat limited, owing to the fact that he'd started well before the LP era and that by the time classical releases were freed by the invention of the long-playing record, he was competing with a generation of younger musicians for recording time. In 1948, however, he did accept a commission to make a recording of a group of instrumental works by the then relatively obscure Baroque-era composer Antonio Vivaldi. That release ended up being the first complete, integral recording of the complete Four Seasons, which has since gone on to become one of the most popular classical works in the world, with hundreds of recordings over the ensuing decades. For that alone, he deserves recognition as one of the relatively few classical musicians ever to exert a major influence on popular culture. Kaufman remained busy well into the 1960s and 1970s, and his film work led to his being hired to work on recordings by Randy Newman, Nancy Wilson, and Quincy Jones, among others. He may not have been well known to the public, but he was almost an institution within the music industry. Late in his life, he began work on his autobiography, A Fiddler's Tale, in collaboration with his wife, Annette, which was later published by the University of Wisconsin Press. In 2004, a decade after Kaufman's death, those 1940s recordings of Vivaldi's Four Seasons were re-released on compact disc by Naxos Records to great critical acclaim, in the process putting Kaufman back into the pages of The New York Times and other publications of record.
© Bruce Eder /TiVo
© Bruce Eder /TiVo
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BENNETT, R.R.: Violin Concerto / A Song Sonata / HELM, E.: Comment on Two Spirituals / GUARNIERI, C.: Violin Sonata No. 2 (Kaufman) (1933-1947)
Classical - Released January 1, 1996 | Cambria
Violin Concert: Kaufman, Louis - MARTINU, B. / KHACHATURIAN, A.I. / ACHRON, J. / RIMSKY-KORSAKOV, N.A. / TCHAIKOVSKY, P.I. (1940-1955)
Classical - Released January 1, 1991 | Cambria
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