A studied re-creation of the life of a Polish-born Jewish violinist who founded the Palestine Symphony Orchestra and saved hundreds of lives from the Nazis.
Forged from filmmaker and concert pianist Aronson’s PBS documentary of the same name, this work presents a lively, episodic life of Bronislaw Huberman (1882-1947) in a dialogue-rich format that reads like fiction. Born to a hot-tempered tyrant in Silesia who pushed his son to become the musical prodigy he never could be, Huberman grew up practicing his violin constantly, forced to leave home at an early age to study in Warsaw and then Berlin. Enduring his “childhood denied,” he was performing onstage from an early age. In 1895, he received a rare Stradivarius violin from the emperor of Austria Franz Joseph, but he eventually grew to be depressive and miserably nervous. As the world edged into World War I, Huberman initially did not share the Zionist dream of separation; instead, he believed fervently in the value of Jewish assimilation in European culture and espoused liberalism, anti-communism, social responsibility, and pan-Europeanism. However, his views evolved with the increasing oppression of Germany’s Jews under Nazism and his trips to perform in Palestine, where, as evident in the pointedly re-created dialogue here, he was impressed by the intensity of the audience’s music appreciation. In brief chapters, Aronson and co-author George explore how the obsession to create an orchestra took hold of Huberman, prompting him to travel to the United States to ask his friend Albert Einstein to help raise funds while he delegated the work of finding auditoriums in Palestine. Running parallel with Huberman’s journey is the rise of Hitler and the moral collapse of other musicians in not withstanding Nazi racial pressure. The book concludes with a thorough “Rest of the Story” that follows the careers of tertiary characters and the fallout from the war.
A polished, quick-moving work of historical biography.