°1914 - †2004
Ricardo Odnoposoff was born to Russian immigrants in Buenos Aires. The young man's exceptional musical talent induced his parents to strive for a musical education for him in Europe. An attempt to study with Leopold Auer, was unsuccessful, as the legendary teacher of several generations of violinists who for decades dominated the international musical scene (among them Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, and Misha Elman), hesitated because of his advanced age to take on such a young pupil. Therefore, upon the recommendation of Erich Kleiber, Ricardo Odnoposoff studied with the concertmaster Rudolf Deman in Berlin, and after only a few months changed to the studio of Carl Flesch.
Ricardo Odnoposoff received his diploma in 1932 after four years of study, but there was another event in that year which had more decisive consequences for the young violinist. In June, the eighteen year old was awarded a prize at the First International Competition for Voice and Violin in Vienna, and the interest of those in influential musical circles was awakened, among them Vienna State Opera director Clemens Krauss. The concertmasters of the opera and of the Philharmonic at the time, Arnold Rosé, Julius Stwertka and Franz Mairecker, were on average over 60 years old. As far back as 1923, Richard Strauss had noted the difficulties of the long-time concertmaster Karl Prill, which led to the violin solo in Strauss' Bürger als Edelmann
being performed by Heinrich Schwarz. Prill retired in 1925, but the situation did not greatly improve. Clemens Krauss, who in many difficult situations in the history of the Philharmonic took decisive action, seized the opportunity and in 1933, without an audition, offered the 19 year old Odnoposoff a position as concertmaster.
Ricardo Odnoposoff's first performance at the concertmaster's desk was in Verdi's Othello
on December 25, 1933, and his first major Philharmonic test was a gala concert for Richard Strauss' 70th birthday on June 10, 1934. Wilhelm Furtwängler conducted Ein Heldenleben
and insisted that Odnoposoff perform the violin solo. Until 1937, he appeared seven times as a soloist with the Vienna Philharmonic, among them two performances of Mozart's Violin Concerto in A major, KV 219
. For the 100th birthday of Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921), he made his debut in the subscription concert series with that composer's Violin Concerto in B minor, op. 61
, on January 25 and 26, 1936, under Felix von Weingartner.
In Ricardo Odnoposoff's own words, it was necessary for a young Philharmonic concertmaster to present oneself even more prominently as a soloist, and he therefore performed a recital which included the violin concerti of Johannes Brahms and Antonín Dvorák, as well as the Mozart Concerto in D major, KV 218
, under the direction of Josef Krips and accompanied by the Philharmonic. In addition, he made numerous other solo appearances in Vienna and on tour, among these a sonata recital with Bruno Walter as pianist on December 2, 1935. This artistic collaboration extended to the Philharmonic concerts also, as Odnoposoff performed a major orchestral solo, the aria from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's opera Il re pastore
with Elisabeth Schumann during a Philharmonic tour to London under Walter's direction in June 1937. On this same tour, Odnoposoff represented the orchestra in a special way, performing violin compositions by Fritz Kreisler at a gala at the Austrian embassy.
Probably the most decisive event in Ricardo Odnoposoff's career occurred in 1937. The Ysaÿe Competition was characterized that year by the legendary artistic duel between Ricardo Odnoposoff, Second Prize, and David Oistrakh, First Prize. This sensational success drew considerable attention internationally, and led to a reordering of Odnoposoff's career. His numerous offers to perform as a soloist led him to relinquish his position as concertmaster and he left Austria in the autumn of 1938, with the political developments of the time also playing a role in this decision. Upon returning to Vienna from solo engagements in Italy, he was suddenly refused admission to the opera house. After Austria's annexation by Nazi Germany, Odnoposoff, who had taken on Austrian citizenship and became an enthusiastic Viennese, was, because of the Argentine citizenship which he still maintained, no longer welcome in his own land.
He travelled to Belgium, and subsequently returned to Argentina in 1940. In 1942 he debuted in New York, where he lived until 1956. In that year he returned to Vienna and became Professor at the Music Academy in 1957. He taught at that institution until 1973 and counted three future Vienna Philharmonic members, Paul Guggenberger (1941-2000), Ortwin Ottmaier and Edward Kudlak (retired September 2003), among his students. Odnoposoff's activities as a pedagogue were not limited to Vienna, as he taught in Stuttgart, and until 1994 in Zurich. Despite this extensive teaching work, the focal point of his career remained the concert stage, as thousands of public appearances and a notable number of recordings confirm. Many of those recordings have fortunately been re-released on CD.
After the Second World War, Ricardo Odnoposoff appeared six times with his former Viennese colleagues. On February 1 and 2, 1947 he performed the Brahms concerto with Josef Krips in the subscription concert series, and in 1961 played the Sinfonia concertante, KV 364
, with principal violist Rudolf Streng, conducted by Carl Schuricht, for the Mozart gala concert in Innsbruck, as well as for two concerts during Salzburg's Mozart Week. The last appearance of Ricardo Odnoposoff with the Vienna Philharmonic was on June 13, 1965, in the main auditorium of the Konzerthaus, when he played the premiere of the Violin Concerto
of Theodor Berger, with Eugene Ormandy conducting.
There was one last personal meeting at the Musikverein on February 25, 1994. Upon his 80th birthday, Ricardo Odnoposoff was awarded the honorary ring of the Vienna Philharmonic after a rehearsal on the podium of the Golden Hall. The ring, surely the orchestra's most personal decoration, was awarded in honor of an artist who, though only belonging to the Philharmonic for four years, remained his entire life a proponent of our orchestra. Until the end of his life he maintained close contact with the Vienna Philharmonic, not only through his former student Ortwin Ottmaier, but also by his personal interest and identification with the orchestra.